Almsgiving is arguably the “ugly step-brother” of the three spiritual practices of Lent. It’s the discipline least talked about and often the least practiced in this season.
Megan Black is taking over Grotto Network’s Instagram Story today to talk about how almsgiving is actually a super-deep and transformative action to take on.
She starts out by sharing how that even as a cradle Catholic, this has been a really weird Lent.
Megan has been feeling pretty disenfranchised from the Church right now as she’s trying to make sense of what’s going on with the recent scandals.
She admits that she’s really struggled with prayer and fasting this Lent.
She realized that she still needed a practice that would help her feel connected to a community and would take her outside of herself.
That’s where almsgiving came in. And she actually found it to be exactly what she needed in her spiritual life right now (and what we can all get out of it).
Almsgiving orients us outward. It reminds us that we find God in the people around us as much as we find God in ourselves.
Almsgiving is creative. It creatives not only spiritual fruit but also social good.
The early Christians who left the cities to seek wisdom and holiness in the desert knew this. One of those desert fathers, Abba Poeman, wrote: “The old man replied, ‘As far as you can, do some manual work in order to be able to give alms, for it is written that alms and faith purify from sin.’ The brother said, ‘What is faith?’ The old man said, ‘Faith is to live humbly and to give alms.’”
This quote reminds us that labor and work and effort and creation are part of the spiritual practice of almsgiving.
Almsgiving is a practice that creates mutuality.
“The riches of the man who gives fully do not run out, but the miser finds no one with sympathy.” —Rig Veda, ‘In Praise of Generosity’
What Megan loves about the mutuality in almsgiving is that it takes the penitential aspect of Lent and flips it on its head to remind us that giving actually leads to abundance.
Megan explains that the rich man in the quote isn’t rich because he doesn’t have money to give away. He’s rich because he pours what he does have into the community around him and they invest back in him. Almsgiving ensures abundance, not scarcity. Almsgiving is how we grow wealthy in love. We give up what is inconsequential in order to receive that which matters in abundance.
Almsgiving is relational. You don’t give to a void — you give to a person or community whom you have a relationship with and care about.
So if you’ve been trying to figure out how to feel connected to your faith or to a community this Lent, Megan suggests trying almsgiving.
This year Megan focused on being more generous and intentional with her time. She took her neighbors out to dinner, she volunteered to babysit, and she signed up to be a Big Sister.
All these things have made her feel more grounded and connected to God this Lent. What about you? Let us know on social media what almsgiving has meant to you this year.