5 Reasons for Almsgiving

With Lent comes an emphasis on prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The rice bowls or other ministry containers come home and we are reminded to take the money we save from fasting and give to the poor. Some people take this seriously and some people don’t. Sadly, for a long time I was one of those who basically ignored the almsgiving portion of Lent.

Image by niekverlaan (2014) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Money can be a touchy subject and there are those who think that the Church is all about money. Yes, the Church needs money to run but almsgiving is (and should be) a deeply spiritual act. And, it doesn’t always mean money. If you have limited funds, you can give some of your time or talents or prayers. With a little creativity, there is no doubt that the Holy Spirit will inspire you with ideas for almsgiving.

If you need a little nudge, here are three reasons you should start a regular almsgiving regimen:

It’s Biblical

Tithing goes way back to the Old Testament and Jesus mentions the importance of giving several times, including:

Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” Matthew 8:10

Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.” Matthew 5:42

I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” Luke 21: 3-4

It is an Act of Mercy

Feeding the hungry, give to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned, visiting the sick, sheltering the homeless, and burying the dead are all corporal works of mercy. Therefore, donating (almsgiving) to organizations that provide these services is, by extension, an act of mercy.

Better yet, you can give the alms of yourself by volunteering at an organization that provide these services. Or, just take some time to visit the elderly in a nursing home or a shut in. I worked with the elderly for a long time and I can assure you, it would be a great gift to them and incredibly rewarding for you! God is enormously generous and we always get more than we give.

It Fosters Gratitude

We all go through different struggles in our lives, some times can be worse than other times. When this happens, it is easy to get tunnel vision which makes past our little world a challenge. When we give to those who are less fortunate than ourselves, it can open our eyes and our hearts to the suffering of others. This is especially true if the almsgiving is from our necessities (think of the widow’s mite) and not an afterthought of our surplus.

It Can Help Form a Habit

Hopefully when we start almsgiving at Lent (or any time of the year), it will become a habit of giving and generosity. There are a lot of people who give (especially to food banks) during the Advent/Christmas season but than that falls off. The needy aren’t just needy during the winter holidays (although it is most noticeable then). There are people who need help all through the year.

Therefore, starting to do almsgiving at another time of the year, such as Lent, may help you get you into the spirit of giving on a regular basis.

It Can Strengthen and Enrich our Prayer Life

Or, rather, it should. When we pray, and enter into the heart of God, it is natural to want to spread His love to others, thus making almsgiving an overflow of our prayer life. And when we give alms, it can open our hearts to others and to God in a circle of blessing and grace, thus enriching our prayer life.

There is a reason prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is the trio focus of Lent. All of them, including almsgiving, work together to convert our hearts and our minds to God. If you focus on one or two and ignore the other(s). then you miss out on the fullness of grace that could be yours.

So, I encourage you to prayerfully discern what alms the Lord is asking you to give, be it money, time or talent. And once discerned, have courage to give without cost because, believe me, you will receive so much more than you could ever receive.

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REMINDER: I go live in my Facebook group every Monday at 10:35 am EST and every Thursday at 1:30 pm EST. I hope you will join me!

PSST: If you are looking for accountability or focused encouragement in growing your spiritual life, I’d love to chat with you and see if we would be a fit for working together. Book a call with me here.

3 Life Lessons from the Olympic Athletes

The Olympics are here! Have you been watching? I’ve watched some: snow boarding, a little of the sking, and my favorite, figure skating.

Life Lessons from Olympic Athletes

Image by PublicDomainPictures (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

I am always amazed at the level of talent and effort put in by the Olympic athletes, and all serious athletes, really. There’s a reason St. Paul often used the analogy of athletes for the spiritual life. They are a great example of what we need to succeed in the spiritual life and in life in general. Here’s three of them:

Lesson One: Consistency

Serious athletes, like those participating in the Olympics, practice rigorously, on an ongoing basis. They set up a schedule and follow through. If they are serious about getting a medal, they are going to practice almost everyday without fail – often several hours a day. They don’t flip-flop, procrastinate or take days off because they feel like it.

If we are going to be successful in our spiritual life, personal life, or even our business life, we must be consistent. We must take steps going forward, no matter how little those steps are. And I have to admit, I struggle with that. I’ll go a week or month where I’ll pray everyday and make it to daily Mass and then I’ll have an “off” day and I won’t take the time to pray or make it to Mass. Then I miss the next day and the next day. Then before I realize it, I haven’t said my rosary in 4 days.

 Take time to reflect:  How consistent are you?

Lesson Two: Perseverance

One of my favorite things about watching the Olympics is hearing about the background stories of many of the athletes. So many of them have had difficulties and obstacles to overcome just to practice and succeed in their particular sports. Sometimes they fall and they fail but they pick themselves back up again. Whether it’s financial difficulties, injuries, failing, or opposition from other people, these athletes have gone against the odds and conquered.

If we are going to succeed in our spiritual lives, we will need to persevere. Times are hard. We all struggle. Some people struggle more than others but we all have our crosses to bear. Therefore it is important that you trust in God and persist so you can get through the hard times. And don’t forget, God will give us all the grace we need – but we have to Ask him more it!

Take time to reflect: How persistent are you?

Lesson Three: Focus

Most serious athletes focus all their attention and effort on one sport; and with good reason. By focusing on just one sport, the athlete can put all his or her time, resources, attention and physical abilities into being the best he or she can be. And it is easy to see that dedication and focus when you watch them perform. When I am watching the Olympic athletes, it seems as if nothing exists except them and their sport. The athlete blocks out everything that can potentially get between them and achieving their goals.

This is how it needs to be for us. In order for us to succeed in our spiritual life we need to focus on GOD. Does that mean we sit and pray all day? Of course not. But like the athletes who think about their sport or talk about their sport even when they are doing other things, we can train ourselves to think about God and talk to God no matter what we are doing. We can train ourselves to “never cease praying” (I Thessalonians 5:17), if we focus and practice.

Staying focused on Jesus isn’t easy. We are pulled in many directions and bombarded with distractions that do their best to keep us scattered. Therefore, we have to often take time apart to remind ourselves of what we are aiming for. That is why we have Advent and Lent and feast days to guide us and remind us of what we are aiming for: God and heaven. And that is why it is important to make a point of scheduling time for God in our life every day until it almost becomes a habit for us.

Take time to reflect: Are you focused?

Bonus Lesson: Accountability

There is one more lesson I want to mention because it ties all the other lessons together. All of the athletes, especially the most successful, don’t do it alone. They have coaches and cheerleaders and others who help them stay on track. They have people on their side to encourage them and support them and to guide them to victory.

It should be the same for us. In order to grow in our spiritual life, it would be very advantageous to have a spiritual director, life coach, or accountability partner to help us is setting our goals and achieving their goals. They can be there to help you stay consistent, to pick you up when you fail and help your persevere, and help keep you focused when distractions come. Getting a coach or accountability partner is definitely something worth thinking and praying about.

Take time to reflect: Do I have a spiritual director, life coach or accountability partner? Is it time to get one?

Now it’s your turn. What life lessons have you garnered (or are garnering) from watching the Olympics? Do share in the comments.

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Psst. If you are ready for accountability and support in growing your spiritual life, maybe I can help. Let’s chat and see if working together would make sense.

Book Review: Navigating the Interior Life, Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God

Navigating the Interior Life

From the Description:

“…this book will serve the souls of those who are seeking to deepen their relationship with God and find their spiritual direction. Whether you are at the beginning of the process, a veteran of spiritual direction, or struggling outside of spiritual direction, this book will help you uncover a map of success for your journey.”

My Comments:

I first discovered spiritual direction way back when I was discerning a vocation to religious life. Once a month I met with my then Mother Superior, and a few times a year I would meet with the Mother Provincial. It didn’t take long before I realized how important spiritual direction is for living out our Christian vocation. My faith and growth in the spiritual life soared under the direction of my superiors. After leaving the order, I went for a period of time without spiritual direction until I discovered Opus Dei. When I became a “Cooperator” I was able to meet with a member once a month and again, I saw my spiritual life grow. I now life too far away to have an active part with Opus Dei but I have someone else that I go to for spiritual direction.

I share my experience because I want to urge you to read Navigating the Interior Life and consider finding a spiritual director for yourself. If you give it a chance, I am sure you will find spiritual direction invaluable, too.

Navigating the Spiritual Life:

Navigating the Spiritual Life starts out as a basic “how-to.” It answers the typical questions about spiritual direction: “What is spiritual direction?” “Am I ready for spiritual direction?” “How do I find a spiritual director?” It even answers the question, “I can’t find one. Now what?”  The book also discusses the challenges of spiritual direction and the responsibilities of the spiritual director and the responsibilities.

I already have a good understanding of spiritual direction so, to be honest, I read through this part pretty quickly. Having said that, I think the author, Daniel Burke, does a great job explaining spiritual direction to those unfamiliar with it.

After those questions are answered, then begins my favorite part of the book. There is a chapter on spiritual self-evaluation that is very enlightening. Even if you decide not to find a spiritual director, this chapter would be worth the cost of the book! There are exercises to help you discover your “root sin” and how to battle against it.

The book even has a short chapter about developing a rule of life. It is a very practical chapter that quickly shows you how to use a plan a life to help yourself overcome a fault or grow in a particular virtue.

In short, this book is a “must read” for anyone looking to take their spiritual life to the next level. I give it 4 (four) stars.

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Book review: Navigating the Interior Life

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I received this book free from the publisher through the Catholic Company <http://catholiccompany.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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