Lent and Easter
in the Domestic Church

Craft: Alms Boxes

Peter Fournier and Catherine Fournier

Page 63 in "Lent and Easter in the Domestic Church"

Some families collect money all through Lent to bring as their Lenten offering to Easter Mass. (See CCC 1434.) They collect these alms from the money they would have spent on candy, dessert, or cigarettes, choosing to give it to the poor instead.

A special alms box can make collecting alms throughout Lent more interesting for the family. It can be made in a wide variety of ways. Your family alms box, once completed, can be placed on the family altar, in the center of the family table during meals, or in some other prominent place where it will be easy to put coins into it every day.

Lent and Easter in the Domestic Church

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Papier-Mâché Alms Box

Follow the papier-mâché directions from page 59, covering a balloon blown to its biggest with at least four layers of papier-mâché. When you remove the balloon and cover the knot hole with more papier-mâché, cut a slit on the opposite side wide enough and long enough for a coin or a folded bill.

Cover the alms box with a few more layers of papier-mâché, then allow it to dry well. Decorate with paint, markers, torn scraps of tissue paper, or whatever else you like. Consider adding the words "We share with our neighbors" or some other expression of charity to the box.

You might want to make an alms box for every member of the family, or you may prefer to make one large one, showing that your community of love (your family) acts together to take care of others.

Mosaic Alms Box

Find a suitably sized cardboard box: a square tissue box, a small cereal box, or a table salt box. Tape thin cardboard over the dispenser opening of the tissue box; tape the end of the cereal box closed; or pry the pour-spout off the salt box.

Cut a slit wide enough and long enough for a coin or a folded bill on the top or side of your prepared container. Glue pasta shapes, small shells, colored sand, or small eggshell pieces into patterns on the top and sides of the box, and allow the glue to dry well. If you want, you can shake the pasta shapes, sand, or eggshells in (water-soluble) poster paint or food coloring before you glue them onto your box.

Otherwise, you can paint the box and its glued-on decorations as you wish or spray-paint your box with gold spray paint. Set aside and allow to dry well before using.

Tin Can Alms Box

A one-pound coffee can with a reusable plastic lid makes a sturdy alms box.

Cut a strip of paper the height of the can, and wrap the paper around the can to figure out how long to cut it. Be sure to allow enough overlap to be able to fasten it securely. Remove the paper.

Let the children decorate the paper with scenes of poverty, of almsgiving, or other acts of charity, a prayer, or whatever comes from their imagination and understanding of almsgiving. You can discuss ideas with them first, to explore and expand their knowledge of this devotional practice. Decorations can be made with paint, crayons, markers, stickers, or colored pencils. If no one is feeling inspired, you can cut out pictures and letters from a magazine or parish bulletin about Lenten offerings and glue them in place.

When the paper is ready, tape it around the can and replace the plastic lid.

Preparing Your Alms

Counting and rolling coins is great counting and calculating practice for children. Making the little piles of coins, then rolling them in the papers is also good dexterity practice.

Ask for coin-rolling papers at your local bank. Most banks will be happy to give them to you for free, along with any special instructions for exchanging them. Your parish office will thank you for saving them this work!