The season of Lent is truly a gift from the Church — especially in this Year of Mercy! It’s a time we are asked to take a step back and consider what is truly important in our lives. And that’s how money comes into play during this season.
The Scriptures are clear that God is not only the creator of all that exists, but that everything in the universe ultimately belongs to him (Dt 10:14). Our role is described as a “steward of providence” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2404). A steward is a manager or caretaker. Lent offers a great opportunity to renew our understanding of what it means to be a steward of providence. This call is transforming, as we recognize that the resources we have aren’t mine, his or hers. They are the Lord’s, and he calls us to use them in ways pleasing to him.
With the influence of the consumer society in which we live, it’s easy to get these roles mixed up. Lent helps bring this call to stewardship back into focus. We fulfill that call by growing in holiness. I remember being on a Lenten retreat where the retreat master pointed out that for most of us, one of the capital sins will be our predominant fault. Let’s consider them: pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony and sloth. Just look at how many of those in one way or another relate to our attitude toward money. The priest reminded us that the way to overcome our predominant fault was to grow in its opposing virtue. That is where the disciplines the Church proposes to us during Lent come in.
“The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works)” (CCC, No. 1438).
Lent is a time to live out our faith and our call to be a steward of providence more deeply, more intensely. What steps can you take to develop a more Godly attitude toward money and possessions? Let’s consider two.
First, this is a time to grow in generosity. Make an effort to increase your charitable giving (almsgiving), and watch how it positively impacts your relationship with the Lord and with those around you.
Second, deny yourself some of your regular pleasures. This certainly includes fasting and abstaining on the days assigned by the Church, but it can also be done in other simple ways. Periodically avoid using salt or pepper at a meal. Don’t use cream or sugar in your next cup of coffee or tea. These little disciplines help us grow in temperance, which is “the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable” (CCC, No. 1809). Done with the right attitude, these practices help us grow closer to the Lord.
They also help us build better habits in managing our finances, including living within our means, avoiding unproductive debt, saving for future obligations, being generous and spending on things that really matter. When we grow as stewards of providence, we do our part to transform society from a culture of consumerism to a culture of stewardship.
God love you.
Phil Lenahan is the president of Veritas Financial Ministries (VeritasFinancialMinistries.com) and the author of “7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free” (OSV, $19.95). Submit questions for columns to email@example.com.
A version of this story appears in the March 20, 2016, issue of OSV Newsweekly on page 21.