Lent and Easter
in the Domestic Church

Almsgiving and Charity

Peter Fournier and Catherine Fournier

Page 5 in "Lent and Easter in the Domestic Church"

Collecting money for the poor is another traditional Lenten activity, one that (for a variety of reasons) has not fallen into the same disfavor as fasting in modern times. What is not well understood is that in addition to the vital aspect of almsgiving—helping the poor—there is an equally important aspect that concerns helping ourselves. When we share, we all benefit in more than just feeling good. Almsgiving is an act of penance, a reparation for our sins and the sins of the world. Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about almsgiving and charity.

Lent and Easter in the Domestic Church

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"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 [cf. SC 109-10; CIC, cann. 1249-53; CCEO, cann. 880-83]. 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)" (CCC 1438).

"The theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity inform and give life to the moral virtues. Thus charity leads us to render to God what we as creatures owe him in all justice. The virtue of religion disposes us to have this attitude" (CCC 2095).

"The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead [cf. Mt 25:31-46]. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God [cf. Tob 4:5-11; Sir 17:22; Mt 6:2-4]:

'He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food must do likewise' [Lk 3:11]. `But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you' [Lk 11:41]. `If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?' [Jas 2:15-16; cf. 1 Jn 3:17]". (CCC 2447.)