March 12, 2021


Can you increase your almsgiving this Lent?

It might be hard to believe, but we are already halfway through Lent. It’s time to examine our consciences to see how well we are practicing the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

In his Lenten message this year, Pope Francis emphasized that our Lenten practices should not only promote individual conversion, but also should have an impact on others. An important way for this to happen is through our almsgiving.

Of the three Lenten practices, almsgiving might be the one many of us have the hardest time with. We find it relatively easier to, for example, add the saying of the Stations of the Cross to our regular prayer life, or give up alcohol or chocolate and abstain from meat on Fridays.

This year, in particular, is difficult because our lives are so controlled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, though, when it comes to personal finances, people have been affected differently.

On one hand, many people are struggling badly because they have been unable to work. This probably isn’t the year when they can, or should, be thinking about ways to increase their almsgiving. It’s time for them to accept help wherever they can find it.

On the other hand, many other people have seen their personal finances improve, mainly because they have been unable to spend money as they did before the pandemic. We have been staying at home. Travel is down, eating out is rarer, and theaters and sports arenas have been closed—until recently. People who have been able to work at home haven’t had commuting or outside-the-home meal expenses.

Then there are also those stimulus checks, or COVID relief checks. They were vitally important for some people, but we have heard of cases where recipients of the checks immediately sent the money to their favorite charities because they didn’t think they had done anything to deserve the money.

If you are able to increase your almsgiving, where should you start? We suggest looking at your local parish first. Its expenses continue during the pandemic, but contributions often do not. If you haven’t contributed to your parish while you were unable to attend Mass there, perhaps you could now make up for that.

Next, we believe, should be organizations that help those who are hurting so badly. The agencies and offices of Catholic Charities would be at the top of that list. Among people served are the poor, the hungry, the homeless, pregnant women, the elderly, neglected children, and anyone else in need. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis has offices in Bloomington, Terre Haute, Tell City, New Albany and Indianapolis. David Bethuram, executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities, keeps us informed about what some of the agencies are accomplishing in his monthly column on our “Perspectives” page.

There is also the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which provides food, clothing and furniture to individuals and families in need as well as training to help them break the cycle of poverty. The council in Indianapolis operates the largest food pantry in the Midwest. As reported on page 6 of last week’s issue, councils in Bloomington, Brown County and Indianapolis are in great need of donated furniture and funds.

At the international level, we suggest beginning with Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ official international humanitarian agency that serves the poor and suffering people in countries throughout the world, or private organizations such as Food for the Poor and Cross Catholic Outreach, which are accomplishing so much in the fight against poverty.

We suggest that our readers take the pope’s words to heart this Lent, prayerfully discover something they can give up, and contribute what they would have spent to a charity that serves the poor.

As Pope Francis has said on many occasions, we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. Through our almsgiving, may we use Lent to demonstrate our love for them.

—John F. Fink

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