Written by Mary Frances Myler
Once more, we embark on this journey through Lent towards the glory of Easter. The central focus of this season of Lent is encounter with Christ. This is the essence of our faith in every liturgical season, but the call to pray, fast, and give alms during Lent especially awakens our hearts to encounter Jesus. These three components of Lent invite us to develop our spiritual life, to sacrifice, and to open our hearts to the needs of others. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving provide unique ways to encounter Christ and better prepare for the coming Easter season.
At the Northern Michigan Catholic Foundation, almsgiving particularly resonates with the mission of our organization. We respond to the financial needs of our regional Catholic community by providing resources, expertise, and opportunities for financial growth. Through partnership with Catholic schools, parishes, and charitable organizations, we assist the missions of our partners as they seek to spread the message of Christ and his love. In turn, our partners engage in the critical work of pastoral care, education, and ministry within our communities.
Generosity with time, treasure, and talent remains an enduring aspect of Christian life. This is the means by which we build up the Church and her presence in our communities. Almsgiving is often associated with charity to the poor or donating to a food pantry. These are good and worthwhile examples of almsgiving, but a wider understanding of the term invites even more goodness.
St. John Chrysostom spoke two altars within the Church: the physical altar for the celebration of the Eucharist, and the altar of the poor. He warned against neglect for the altar of the poor and encouraged Christians to seek out those experiencing both physical and spiritual poverty. Almsgiving does not only address the materially poor, but also the spiritually poor. Generosity towards both altars — towards both parish life and individual lives — enriches the definition of almsgiving.
Almsgiving is not merely giving to the Church or giving to the poor — almsgiving is a generous affirmation of Christian life. It is a sacrifice, but one made for a worthy cause. Almsgiving involves giving something up so that another person might benefit from your generosity. In giving to the poor, you affirm their dignity and right to fullness of life. In giving to parishes, you recognize their vital, sacramental role in our lives. In giving to Catholic schools, you acknowledge the value of faith-based education for the future of our Church.
At the Northern Michigan Catholic Foundation, we are proud to assist these organizations as they continue to build the Kingdom of God, and we are blessed to partner with generous donors who, through their gifts, continually reaffirm the presence and value of our Catholic community.