Godzdogz

Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Praying with Almsgiving in Lent

Thursday, March 08, 2018
Here at Blackfriars, the other student brothers and I have chosen to blog about some of the ways our prayer can be aided during Lent. Given that almsgiving is one of the classic three pillars of Lenten observance, the other two being prayer and fasting, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on the full meaning of almsgiving. Generally, it has been traditional to think of almsgiving primarily as the giving of material goods to the needy as an act of Christian charity. However, Saint Thomas Aquinas, one of the most influential minds on our Catholic tradition, conceives of almsgiving as something broader, pertaining to a wide range of ways our fellow human beings can be needy. 

The word “alms” comes from the Greek word “eleemosyne,” meaning “mercy,” and Saint Thomas identifies the various kinds of almsgiving as the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, all of which are rooted in scripture. The corporal works of mercy, aimed at material neediness, are feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, and burying the dead. The spiritual works of mercy, directed toward spiritual neediness, are admonishing sinners, instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving offenses willingly, comforting the afflicted, and praying for the dead and living.

Obviously, we can engage in many of the corporal works of mercy through financial donations. However, once we have determined prudently how much money we can donate during Lent, if any, we should not assume our almsgiving must stop there. I recommend we make lists of both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, examine our schedules, and assess where and how we might grow in them during this liturgical season. The goal would be that they become more regular parts of our lives once Lent is finished. Through growing in mercy animated by our love of God, we come increasingly to imitate our Savior whose loving mercy on the cross opened for us a path to a transformed life in which every need will be met, every tear wiped dry. This eternal bliss to which we look forward will be characterized by perfect worship, a goal we work toward in our prayer lives now. Authentic growth in mercy during Lent can only quicken us along our path to that Heavenly goal.

Br Andy Opsahl O.P.

Br Andy Opsahl O.P.


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