Is almsgiving something you practice seasonally during Advent and Lent? Is almsgiving something you give more thought to when the priest reminds you of the needs of the parish and greater community? Or is it a regular habit that you maintain?
Wherever you fall in the action of almsgiving, it is important to take a moment to reflect upon why you give, how you give, or why you don’t. If you need some guidance, read this post about becoming interiorly poor. Our external way of giving is often reflective of our interior poverty.
Giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God. // Catechism of the Catholic Church, no 2462
Creative Ways to Give Alms this Lent (and Beyond)
Understanding what drives our motives towards almsgiving can help us increase our desire to be charitable, or derail it completely if our intention(s) is mostly out of obligation. Spend some time thinking about these questions before you commit to the way you will give alms this Lenten season. It will make a difference in how you give and what you receive.
Remember when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received, only what you have given: a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage. // Saint Francis of Assisi
Going on a grocery run? Perhaps add a thoughtful meal for someone else in your cart. If you are already at the store, maybe double up on the recipe you are making to bless another family or someone in your circle of friends.
We can accept the invitation to be charitable without needing to wait for a crisis. Being open to demonstrating love isn’t exclusive to a person who is grieving, recovering from surgery, experiencing job loss, or welcoming a brand new baby.
Our day-to-day lives can be a bit mundane and the thoughtfulness we can offer to one another can change our attitude of complacency to a more joyful disposition.
Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. // Saint Francis of Assisi
This is a hard one for me. I love my book stacks. I have stacks on my nightstand and on the floor in the living room. (No wonder my kids don’t understand why they have to put theirs away.) Some of them have accrued dust and some of them I rotate depending on the season I am in.
There are so many books sitting on my shelf that I take more pride in owning them than in reading them at this point. All of those book recommendations from Instagram accounts I follow are waiting to be broken open. If I’m being radically honest, I probably won’t read them anytime soon and could pass them on to someone else who would benefit from reading them.
If letting go of your precious books is too much to ask, then maybe consider lending them out so they aren’t just accumulating dust. This is a good way to ease into getting a feel for what it would be like to live without them. If, in a week or so, you don’t miss them, you can slowly make your way through other titles that you can donate.
Almsgiving isn’t merely about giving; it helps cultivate a proper detachment. Even something as inconsequential as giving away books can properly order our desires and help us create more space in our lives.
What Is Your Treasure?
Books may not be your treasure, but what is it that you are attached to that makes you feel like you could never give it away?
Sometimes we are attached to things because we were at a point in our lives where we had to really work hard for that item and, as a result, won’t give it away even if we no longer have any use for it.
Almsgiving is a great way to invite Jesus into those areas of our lives that we cling onto stuff knowing it doesn’t do anything for us anymore.
Give away those shoes that you are never going to wear again. I know you paid for them with your hard-earned money; but imagine what it will be like when you detach yourself from them. Imagine the freedom that will come with it.
If it's not shoes, maybe it's your purse collection, clothes that may still have tags on them, or maybe clothes that you are holding onto from your 20s that you are hoping to fit into someday.
Almsgiving doesn’t just serve our neighbor, it frees us from the bondage that can take root when we own too many things.
Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt. // Pope Francis
Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt. // Pope Francis #BISblog //Click to tweet
Time and Talent
Giving of our time is probably one of the best ways to give generously, especially if money is tight or is something that you are still figuring out how to give on a regular basis if you don’t do so already.
Time and talent offerings are usually spoken about separately, but technically, if you have time, then it may be a good way to put your talents to use as well.
Is there a nursing home nearby? If you are good with technology maybe you could offer a Spotify list for the home. Perhaps the staff could take song requests and the gift of your time and knowledge of using Sound Cloud, Spotify, or other music hub will gift others with nostalgia, comfort, promote memories, and give joy to any otherwise regular day at the nursing home.
If your computer skills are more than just connecting to WiFi then maybe consider offering your help to someone who doesn’t know how to clear cookies or other potential viruses on their computer.
Sometimes the time and patience we offer to our elderly through our talents is a way for them to feel important. If you aren’t sure where to begin, ask your parents or grandparents if they know of anyone who could use some tech help.
Tutor at No Cost
Are you good at math? English? A foreign language? Another subject? Offering your skills at no cost is another way to give freely and meaningfully.
Perhaps there is a middle schooler in your neighborhood that could use help in math. Use the Lenten season to give of yourself in a way you have never done before. Take the time to pour yourself into someone who is behind in a certain subject or could use the nudge that only you know how to give in a certain subject.
Do you play the piano, guitar, or another instrument? Offer your gift to someone with kids. Music lessons can be really expensive and most parents don’t always want to play taxi. You may not be a good babysitter but having a jam session with someone else’s kids can give you the opportunity to share music while giving a mama a break.
If that’s not your thing, consider helping out at the parish as the Lenten season is busy and sometimes a backup pianist or cantor is a luxury.
Local School Help
Maybe you are part of a moms' group and understand the power of women on a mission. Call a local inner-city school and identify what the needs are. Maybe they could really use some new titles in their class library, fresh pencils, or notebooks. Something that would be financially feasible for a majority of us may not be when you are living below poverty. Sometimes one phone is all that it takes to open the door to help others.
After you coordinate school supply donations, remember the teachers by baking them a fresh batch of cookies. Kind acts like these make almsgiving less of an obligation and more of a way for joy to overflow from us because of our love for our neighbor.
Thoughtfulness is never restricted to one way of doing something for someone else or a group of people.
The Giving of Your Presence
What is one thing that only you can do? Not in a way that’s prideful, but in a way that is meaningful to your own unique identity that the Father has given you.
We see in Scripture that Jesus offered His own presence. He didn’t offer monetary donations to the poor. Instead He would offer a word, eat with sinners, heal the outcast with just one touch of His Hand, etc. I know we aren’t Jesus, but what we learn from Him is the gift that we are to others. Can we offer our presence as a lasting form of almsgiving to someone close to us?
It's easy to send flowers or an Amazon care package in the mail, but what about our presence? The presence of a lengthy phone call or video call or the presence of committing to something you have to show up to rather than writing a check (although the Church needs both).
If you need other ideas on ways to give practically during Lent scroll down to read ideas to get out of your comfort zone.
Use that coffee, boba tea, or other treat money towards a meaningful non-profit. Denying yourself that $6 beverage for forty days is $240 that could benefit one of these worthy causes:
However you decide to give alms this Lent, let it be from a place of detachment and a sincere desire to do a “work of justice that is pleasing to God.”