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Ash Wednesday: Almsgiving as a Pathway to Peace

February 15, 2024

The history of Ash Wednesday and Lent are seen as more solemn times during the Liturgical year, as during this time many Catholics give up things or activities in an effort to emulate the sacrifices Jesus made during his 40-day fast. However, this season’s true purpose is not abstinence for the sake of self denial alone.

“Of course, the big question always seems to be “what are you giving up for Lent?”  While sacrifice plays an important role in the spiritual life, I think the Gospels calls us to go further. Lent is more than giving up things and doing things. Cardinal Roche, the Vatican liturgist, said in an interview that “we need to look at things more carefully. And particularly look at [myself] personally and see where I am going: What am I doing; am I becoming more of a Christian on my journey through life? Am I becoming more of a witness or am I just drifting along and taking things really for granted – and not really looking quite seriously?”

– Mitchell Dowalgo, CSB

These questions shift our attention to the way in which we have chosen to live our lives, the things we value and whether this life is reflects the relationship we want to have with God.

What guides us back to the path if we would like to improve our relationship with God and others?

Among prayer and fasting, almsgiving stands out as an act that involves others specifically. This is intentionally so, as this activity helps us realize that we are not the center of the world, and that other people exist in it, who may be victims of violence and injustice.

Peace in society it is not the absence of conflict, but rather a dynamic, ongoing process. When conflict arises, we are inclined to ignore it because it does not seem to affect us or seek the ones responsible to demand reprimands. The best way, however, is to face it head on.

This can only be achieved by those who are willing to go beyond the conflict and, regard others with dignity, to see that others matter. Such a feat requires acknowledging that unity is greater than conflict, and such knowledge is obtained through the Gospels, which remind us that Christ “is our peace” (Eph 2:14), because he overcame the world’s conflicts “by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col 1:20). Thus, peace is built upon the Holy Spirit, and its power to reconcile every conflict.

“Ashes! They remind us of our mortality. They also remind us of our grief. Grief for our own personal failings but also grief for the ashes of the ongoing wars and degradation of our planet. This Ash Wednesday I am especially grieving for the ashes of Gaza and the thousands who have died in the rubble. The Ash Wednesday Gospel calls us to celebrate Lent with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This Lent let’s all become peacemakers – beseeching our God to change the hearts of warmakers, letting go of our uncaring for the poor and suffering victims of war, and giving of our time and energy to advocate for justice and peace in the Holy land and indeed for the healthy future of our planet earth.”

– Robert Holmes CSB

By observing Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, we become more in touch with the crucial questions that define our lives and the lives of others. Our spirituality does not exist in a vacuum, it reflects the actions we take towards the wellbeing of not just ourselves, but others.

Pattern on Lenten Fabric Made by Jim Farge, CSB


Confreres in Colombia Celebrate Ash Wednesday



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