Lent Helps Us Help Others

Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent is approaching quickly.
To help us along in our preparation, Lay Canossians Chris and Patrick share their reflection with us today (Thanks guys!):

Lent is fast upon us.

It is a time of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. Our Lord instructing

the multitude in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapter 6) told us how to behave.

Jesus said:

“1 (But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see

them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. 2

When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in

the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to

you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your

left hand know what your right is doing, 4 so that your almsgiving may be

secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

5 “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in

the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I

say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go to your

inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father

who sees in secret will repay you. 7 In praying, do not babble like the pagans,

who think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like

them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 “This is how

you are to pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your

kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. 11 Give us today our

daily bread; 12 and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; 13 and do

not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.

16 “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their

appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to

you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head

and wash your face, 18 so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to

your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay


It is also a time when we journey with our brothers and sisters in the Rite of Christian

Initiation for Adults as they prepare for reception into the Church. It is a time designated

as Purification and Enlightenment. It is a time when we prepare our hearts and minds to

renew our Baptismal vows. And so, we find something to give up, which helps us to

remember this journey of faith, and perhaps stretches us in our obedience to Christ.

At our last local Lay Canossian meeting here in Sacramento, an idea began to take

form that would be something for us to do as a community during Lent. Here is a brief

recounting of how that idea come about.

As Lent was approaching, Patrick was pondering what he could do for a personal

sacrifice. The idea came to him while driving, and he and Amy discussed it on the way

to Mass one Sunday morning. They agreed that it was a good idea. It covers 2 of the

main activities of Lent, fasting & almsgiving.

Once a week, Patrick and Amy go out to have a nice dinner. So for Lent, the idea was to

forgo the dinner, and set aside the money for almsgiving. One suggestion is to create a

Lenten piggy bank. During Lent, you could place the money in the piggy bank, and at

the end of Lent count it up and write a check to whomever. Originally, Patrick was

thinking about donating the money to the Catholic Appeal, but another destination for

the money soon presented itself.

Every summer, we Northern California Lay Canossians hold a retreat at Christ the King

Retreat Center in Fair Oaks, Ca. It is a time of learning , prayer, self-reflection, the

renewal of promises, and the reception of new members. We are housed, fed, and offered

full access to the Center. But, it is not free. This year the price has been increased to

$200.00 per person. It would be unfortunate if someone would be unable to attend due

to the price. At our February local Lay Canossian meeting at the Cathedral of the

Blessed Sacrament, it was suggested by Brenda Adams that perhaps a Scholarship

Fund could be created to help with the expense of the retreat.

So, the idea is to use the money set aside during Lent to assist those who need it to

attend our annual summer retreat. It would be a way to support our brothers and sisters,

and thereby create an even greater sense of solidarity. And, it would be a way to fulfill

our mandate to minister to those in need even when we don’t know who they are, and

give in secret.

Of course, almsgiving is not a seasonal activity, and we should always be alert as to

how God would want to use our resources for the benefit of all. But, this is a special

time, and a special opportunity to show our love for others within our own community.

However you plan to practice your faith this Lent, this could be a wonderful way to

contribute to the spiritual growth of our charism. May our gift of almsgiving, prayer, and

fasting begin at the foot of the cross, and spread to the whole world.

Continuing our dialogue, we’ve concluded it’s not just about what we will give up during Lent, but begs the question, what will you also DO this Lent that helps our brothers and sisters know we love them? Join the conversation in the comments section! Blessed journey!


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