Keep it simple: Lenten giving made easy

Aaron Lambert

We have officially entered the season of Lent, which can only mean one thing: For the next 40 days, willful suffering, deprivation and self-denial are the name of the game.

It sounds worse than it is. While Lenten sacrifices aren’t necessarily required, they are strongly encouraged. After all, these 40 days leading up to Easter are intended as a spiritual marathon of sorts where the finish line is Christ’s triumphant conquering of death. But, as we know, Christ suffered immensely to win this victory, and we can partake in that suffering and unite our own to his throughout this penitential season.

Of course, this begs the question: Do we put too much unnecessary pressure on ourselves during Lent? How many of us have stressed about what we’re going to give up, and whether or not it’s adequate enough? Is it enough to just give up sweets or chocolate or late-night Netflix binges, or should we be doing more? Well, firstly, the Lord delights in our intentionality during Lent, no matter how big or small it may be, so we needn’t fret too much about that. Secondly, perhaps if Lenten sacrifices were viewed more as acts of giving something rather than taking something away, they would be undertaken with greater enthusiasm and ease.

Here are four types of Lenten “giving” that can ultimately help to facilitate the goal of Lent: a deeper friendship with Jesus Christ.

Give up something

This is a good starting point, simply because this is a basic form of penance, which is what Lent is really all about. In the simple act of giving something up for Lent, no matter how big or small, our priorities become known. We are conveying to ourselves and to the world that Christ is worth the sacrifice. Of course, in doing so, we would do well to heed the words of Matthew 6, which was read on Ash Wednesday: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them…” There’s no need to flaunt or boast about what we’re giving up. Do it humbly and in secret, only for yourself and for the Lord, and as Scripture says, “your Father who sees in secret with repay you.”

Give of your time

Another way to give during Lent is to be more intentional with your time. Perhaps instead of watching TV, pick up a spiritual book or even that novel you’ve been meaning to read but never got around to. Instead of family movie night on the couch, sit at the table and play a game of cards. Of course, there are other ways to give of your time. Does your parish have a food bank? Do you live near a soup kitchen or homeless shelter? Odds are, places like that are always welcoming volunteers. Why not go give a helping hand and meet some new people in the process? To help point you in the right direction, Catholic Charities keeps an updated list of volunteer opportunities within each of their ministries at

Give of your talents

This can almost go hand-in-hand with giving of your time but is more specific to the gifts and talents each of us have individually. Are you a tech whiz? Your parish could probably use your help running sound or video during Mass. Love baking? Nothing puts a smile on someone’s face like freshly baked cookies, whether it’s the neighbors or pastor (of course, if they gave up sweets for Lent, you could make something else – homemade bread, perhaps?). God created each one of us unique with different gifts and talents, and Lent affords a great opportunity to figure out how we can use these talents in service of him and others. There are a million ways to do this; don’t be afraid to get creative!

Give of your resources

Last but not least, you can give in the most traditional sense, which is also a pillar of the Lenten season known as almsgiving. As the USCCB puts it, “During Lent, we are asked to focus more intently on almsgiving, which means donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity.” Lent provides a chance to do a “spring cleaning” and give all of that excess to people who could really benefit from it. From a financial perspective, there are countless charities to give to who do really great work. In fact, the Archdiocese of Denver Office of Development can connect you to the ministries and charities closest to your heart and help you make a special Lenten gift. For more information about sacrificial giving, call 303-867-0614.

COMING UP: Five Colorado places named after Catholic saints

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On Aug. 1, Colorado will have made it way over the hill at a ripe 144 years old. Better known as Colorado Day, the day commemorates the founding of our great Centennial State in 1876.

The Catholic Church has a rich history in Colorado, and believe it or not, various regions, geographic landmarks and places in the state are named after Catholic saints. The San Juan Mountain Range, the San Miguel River and the San Luis Valley are but a few examples.

In honor of Colorado Day, here are five places within “Colorful Colorado” that take their namesake from a Catholic saint. You probably already know a couple of them, but the other three are real “diamonds in the rough” that are worth making the trek; in fact, two of them were built and founded before Colorado was even Colorado.

Mother Cabrini Shrine, Golden, CO


One of Colorado’s most popular pilgrimage sites, it’s hard not to be enamored by Mother Cabrini Shrine. Originally founded as a girls’ summer camp by St. Frances Cabrini in 1910, the shrine overlooks the I-70 corridor heading into the mountains and is as charming as it is relaxing. In addition to the praying in the chapel, visitors can stay in the old Stone House that was built in 1914 or one of the various retreat houses that have been added over the years. Aside from being a wonderful space to pray, Mother Cabrini Shrine doubles as a sort of natural Stairmaster to get those steps in with the 373-step staircase leading up to the shrine, affectionately known as the Stairway of Prayer.

St. Catherine of Siena Chapel, Allenspark, CO

Photo by Andrew Wright

Better known as the Chapel on the Rock, this functioning Catholic chapel is perhaps one of Colorado’s most iconic landmarks. As the story goes, in the early 20th century, a man by the name of William McPhee owned the land where the chapel stands, known as Camp St. Malo. McPhee was a parishioner of the Cathedral in Denver, and he often allowed the parish to take kids hiking and camping on his property. During one of those trips, several campers saw a meteorite or shooting star that had appeared to hit the earth. They went looking for it and came upon the Rock that now stands as the foundation of St. Catherine of Siena Chapel. Completed in 1936, the chapel’s official namesake is fitting, as both it and St. Catherine of Siena share a common thread of mystical experiences facilitated by the Lord. It has had many visitors over the years, but perhaps none so famous as St. John Paul II who, ever the outdoorsman, just had to make a stop while in Denver for World Youth Day in 1993.

Abbey of St. Walburga, Virginia Dale, CO


Photo courtesy of the Abbey of St. Walburga

Located in the picturesque Virginia Dale, a small community just south of the Wyoming border, the Abbey of St. Walburga is a place where the voice of the Lord lives in the mountains, plains and rivers surrounding it. Named for the patroness of the Benedictine nuns, the abbey was founded in 1935 when three sisters from the Abbey of St. Walburg in Eichstätt, Bavaria were sent to a remote farm in what was Boulder. There, they built a strong foundation for the future of the abbey through hard work, poverty and an immovable trust in God’s providence. Today, the Benedictine nuns of Walburga humbly carry out the good works of the Benedictine order and carry on the legacy started nearly a millennium ago in 1035, when the original Walburg abbey in Eichstätt was founded.

San Luis, CO

Photo by Jeremy Elliot

Moving into the southern most regions of the State of Colorado, the Catholic roots of the region become much more evident. The oldest town in Colorado, San Luis, was founded in 1851 on the Feast of St. Louis, and predates the official founding of Colorado as a state by 25 years. The town is located along the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, which translates to “Blood of Christ.” One of the main attractions of the small town of just over 600 is a shrine at the town’s local Catholic parish. The Shrine of the Stations of the Cross was built by the parishioners of Sangre de Cristo Parish and the beautiful stations were designed and sculpted by native San Luis sculptor Huberto Maesta.

Capilla de Viejo San Acacio, Costilla County, CO

Photo from Wikicommons

Just to the west of the town of San Luis lies one of Colorado’s oldest gems. The Chapel of Old St. Acacius, or Capilla de Viejo San Acacio as it’s known to the locals, is the oldest non-Native American religious site in Colorado that’s still active today. While the building of the church cannot be dated precisely, it was likely completed sometime in the 1860s. The namesake of the church comes from St. Acacius of Byzantium, a third century martyr. Near the church is the small village of San Acacio, which a local tradition holds got its name after one of the earliest San Luis Valley settlements, originally called Culebra Abajo, was attacked by a band of Ute in 1853. As the Ute attackers approached, the villagers asked for the intercession of St Acacius, a popular saint among their people. The Ute suddenly halted and fled before they reached the town, scared off by a vision of well-armed warriors defending it. In gratitude for this salvation, the village was renamed San Acacio, and the villagers built a mission church in honor of the saint.