National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Lenten Finances

Family Matters - Financial Life

BY Phil Lenahan

February 24-March 1, 2008 Issue | Posted 2/19/08 at 2:57 PM


Since your area of expertise is stewardship and personal finance, could you offer any suggestions on how we can grow closer to God in these areas during Lent?

It’s not uncommon for us to reduce the Lenten season to the “little sacrifices” the Church encourages us to make. It’s easy for us to miss the bigger picture: Our sacrifices are just an avenue to help us with the greater objective for the season, which is to grow in love and imitation of the Lord.

It’s clear that our economy is in the midst of a substantial slowdown. It may already be in a recession, although we’ll have to wait for the economists to make that call. In addition to the housing correction we are now experiencing, consumer spending is also under a great deal of pressure — with potentially significant ramifications on the ability of the economy to maintain a healthy jobs environment. The Federal Reserve has made substantial interest rate cuts, and Congress has passed a stimulus package with the hope of minimizing any slowdown.

Many Americans have fallen into bad financial habits. They’ve funded these habits with all sorts of financial mechanisms, from using their home as an ATM to running up their credit cards and only making the minimum payments. As a result, many families are at a breaking point and won’t have the option of making sacrifices. Instead, sacrifice will be thrust upon them.

Rather than bemoaning such a situation, you might use this Lenten time as an opportunity to complete a good examination of conscience — with a special focus on how well you have been fulfilling your call as a “Steward of Providence” (Catechism, No. 2404).

If you’ve fallen into some bad habits, make a “firm purpose of amendment” to make changes for the better — for you, your family and for your relationship with the Lord.

What are some changes you could try to make? First of all, recognize that all you have is a gift from God. He expects our cooperation, but he is the ultimate owner. We are his manager. Make a decision to live within your means. No more using the equity in your home as an ATM.

No more making purchases on credit cards that can’t be paid off in full when the bill arrives. Build giving and saving into your financial plan; don’t leave them as an afterthought. Reaching these goals is largely a function of setting priorities and sticking to your plan.

With the objective of growing as a steward of Providence during Lent, we can more effectively apply the suggestions the Church gives us in No. 1438 of the Catechism: “The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate 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).”

God love you!

Phil Lenahan is president

of Veritas Financial Ministries