Love for the poor is one of the Church’s constant traditions and a command from Christ Himself (Matthew 25). And as the saying goes, charity begins at home. Part of building a Catholic culture in your family involves almsgiving and taking care of the poor. But how can you make almsgiving a part of your family culture when your kid won’t even share his toys?
Angela Erickson, a pro-life activist and stay-at-home mom of four, stopped by Morning Air® to discuss how families can integrate almsgiving into their day during Lent.
Angela said, “I think Lent is a really good time to teach about almsgiving. I know a lot of us think about Christmastime as a time to go out and do good works for the poor and needy, which is really what almsgiving is all about. But Lent is a great time for that, as well as prayer and fasting of course.”
Almsgiving is always going to require some kind of sacrifice, and that can be a hurdle to overcome in getting your kids on board. Angela shared what her family does during Lent to help her kids see the value of sacrifice.
“We talk a lot about making little sacrifices for Jesus,” she said. “I know a lot of parents do this where they have a jar of dry beans and a plate on the table. And every time their children make a sacrifice for the Lord and pray they’ll take one of those dry beans and put it on a plate. Then on Easter, that plate magically turns into jellybeans. So all of those sacrifices are turned into something very sweet. ”
“That’s a good way, and a visual way, to show the power of sacrifices and how sweet it truly is,” Angela pointed out. “The saints know this well, that offering sacrifices to the Lord for the benefit of souls really is sanctifying and glorifies God in a great way.”
Angela noted that Lent is a particularly good time to teach children about sacrificial giving, because it is a way we can partake in Christ’s suffering on the Cross. Teaching children to do things out of their comfort zone, like volunteer at a food pantry, is a way to set them up at an early age for a lifetime of serving and loving the poor.
Another hurdle to overcome when it comes to almsgiving is our mentality about what we have. It’s pretty typical for a toddler to yell “Mine!” when she doesn’t want to share a toy. But how often do we as adults have the same mentality when it comes to almsgiving? We are reluctant to give our time and money because we have the same mentality. “Mine!”
But as Catholics we need to look at what we have in a different way. St. John Chrysostom said, “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.” Angela shared that her family adopted this mindset by moving away from the language of sharing toys and instead ask their children to be generous with their toys.
“What I have found is approaching it from a place of generosity instead of sharing really changes the paradigm for children,” she said. “Because they seem to understand generosity better and understand that it’s a sacrifice for themselves. I noticed especially with my oldest that when we moved from the language of sharing her toys to being generous and giving selflessly she was more willing to do that than to share.”
During Lent we contemplate the great sacrifice Christ made for us, which is why it’s the perfect time to instill a culture of generosity and sacrifice in our families. Without cost we have received, without cost we are to give.
Listen to the full conversation below: