Last Sunday was Septuagesima Sunday, which means Lent will be here in about 2 weeks or so, and that we should start preparing for Lent. I'm actually glad that this past Sunday reminded me that I should be getting my spiritual life ready for whatever Lenten devotions I decide upon, because things like Lent and Advent always seem to creep up on me, and I usually find myself scrounging around the day after the season begins to find proper devotions and special acts of love for Christ! So, this year, I am going to try and *GASP*....get ready ahead of time!!! Amazing, I know, since I tend to be the queen of procrastination. Now, the Church asks us to prepare for the Resurrection of our Lord through extraordinary acts of prayer, fasting, and alms giving. Normally, I do ok with the acts of prayer and fasting, because we have such great Lenten practices given to us, such as fasting and abstinence on Fridays, and the Stations of the Cross....and, of course, I usually try and do some extra self-denial in the way of sweets/soda/coffee, or any other luxury that I am blessed with. The alms giving part is where I always fall short. Not that I am perfect at the prayer and fasting aspects, it's just that I don't think I have ever made much of an effort at doing extra acts of alms giving. I don't really know why I never have, but as embarrassing as that is, I just haven't. Anyway, I have often found myself praying to Christ and asking him to help me find ways to be more generous with my abundance, and to show me ways I can aide the poor in a real, concrete way. I mean, we tithe and all that, and I teach the kids that we should always help those in need, but it's pretty rare that they get to see that kind of thing in action. Let's face it...putting an envelope in a basket every week at Mass doesn't exactly scream "corporal work of mercy" from a practical, hands-on example kind of way. I just feel like it's too abstract for them to really get that there are people out there who are really suffering from poverty, and those people need our help, support, and prayer. Our children will only learn generosity through giving. They have no idea what real hunger is, despite the fact that they come to me a hundred times a day and saying "Mooommmmm, I'm huuuungrrrrry!" Well, yesterday, I think I finally got an answer to my prayers. A friend of mine told me that instead of giving money to homeless people when they encounter them, she has a box of pre-packaged bags with essential items in it that she keeps in her car, and she gives them that. I've always struggled with how to handle the beggar on the street corner, because I don't feel comfortable giving them money, but I want to do something, and when my friend told me about what she does, I thought, "that is so perfect!" So, this year, that is what our family alms giving will be. The great part about it is that it can be a project that the whole family can participate and benefit from, and the kids will be able to see first hand how to serve those who are not as blessed as we are. Especially since I'm not really at that stage where the kids and I can serve at soup kitchens, or attend rallies, or spend time with lots of hands-on giving. One day, when they are older, I hope I engage them in that form of charity, but for now, I am kind of limited as to what I can do with 4 very young children. But, this they can do! They can come with me to the store to pick out the items, help us put the items in the bag, and when we come across a beggar on the street corner, which is often when we go to Mass in New Orleans, they can actually see us giving things to help those in need. We can teach them along the way about why we are doing it, and how it will help the poor. I think some of the things I want to put in our bags are: travel size toothbrush and toothpaste, a bottle of water, non-perishable food items (canned items that have a pop top would probably be best), hand sanitizing wipes, etc... Also, serving the poor should go deeper than just the material aspect, so to tie that in with prayer and fasting, for each person we give a bag to, we can offer up sacrifices for them, offer up our family Rosary and Stations of the Cross that we say during Lent, and I would also like to put either a prayer card or Rosary in the bag with their other items. Our homily at Mass this past Sunday dealt with serving the poor, and Father told us that we can give as much as we want to help the less fortunate, but unless we show them Christ as well, then it's useless. The whole point of this life is allowing Christ into our hearts, so that we can all get to Heaven. And who knows...that one little Rosary could change a person's life forever.
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