Q I remember reading that the Church encourages us to give alms in a more sacrificial way during Lent. Is this still true and why is this? How do you recommend I implement this practice?
Three Rivers, Michigan
A Section 1438 of the Catechism calls Lent a time “for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).”
I have always promoted tithing as the best way to fulfill our obligation to support the Church and its works. Since most American Catholics give only 1% of their income to charity, the thought of giving away 10% represents a radical approach.
Yet, Lent provides the perfect opportunity to stretch your faith by increasing your charitable giving. Malachi 3:10 says, “Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.”
When counseling couples on how they can integrate tithing into their financial plan, a frequently asked question is how they can increase their giving from 1% to 10% when they're already swimming in credit card debt. A key is to have a long-term goal of becoming debt-free and tithing. In the short term, your budget may only allow an increase to 3% of your income, but, as you become a better steward, you'll find the ability and desire to reach a full tithe (10%).
One of the beautiful and often unmentioned fruits of tithing and almsgiving comes from its sacrificial nature. God is pleased when we are able to overcome the materialism so prevalent in our society and show our love for him in such a tangible way as tithing. He accepts our sacrifices and uses them to accomplish good things, many of which we will never know about.
This Lent, in addition to other steps you take to deepen your spiritual walk, increase your charitable giving as an offering to our Lord. Your gifts can be offered for such purposes as the Pope's general intentions, those of your parish priests, or for the suffering people of the world. Or, you may have specific family intentions or burdens on your heart, such as a family member who has left the faith, a troubled child or problems in your marriage. Uniting your sacrifice to Christ's perfect sacrifice on the cross, ask our Lord for his help and guidance with your intentions.
God love you!
Phil Lenahan is vice president of Catholic Answers.
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