The Church during the Lenten season calls our attention to spiritual exercises and disciplines such as prayer, good works and sacrifice to help us turn away from sin and to incline our hearts to God. Pope Francis offers us suggestions to focus on Christ and on our brothers and sisters, especially those who are in need. He exhorts us to be a church of mercy and compassion, and calls us to develop a culture of inclusion where everyone counts and is a part of our faith family. He challenges us to look beyond ourselves and encounter the needs of others by going to the peripheries to feel the pain and suffering of the poor and those marginalized by our society. Our Holy Father reiterates that our Church is missionary by nature, so parishes should not remain enclosed but instead go out to every nation and people and establish “islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference.”
There are many ministries in our Church to respond to the call of Pope Francis and help us pursue this noble and sacred task. One of these ministries is CRS Rice Bowl, which provides an opportunity to pray with our families and faith communities, to fast in solidarity with the hungry, to learn about our global community and the challenges of poverty, and most importantly, to give sacrificial contributions to the needy.
CRS Rice Bowl is Catholic Relief Services’ Lenten faith-in-action program that leads us to a spiritual journey through the desert toward Christ’s death and resurrection. CRS Rice Bowl provides resources to bring Lenten spirituality to life for families and parish communities, while continuing to connect Catholics in our diocese with our brothers and sisters in need around the world. While many of us are familiar with the cardboard boxes, CRS Rice Bowl is more than just a way to collect alms during Lent, it is a formation opportunity for each of us to share in and more fully experience our Gospel call to global solidarity.
For a second year, CRS Rice Bowl also provides an opportunity to connect with Pope Francis’ global migration campaign, “Share the Journey.” Through stories, videos and lesson plans, we can include migrants and refugees in our Lenten prayers and remember families who have been through so much as we fast from food and other activities.
Weekly reflections for CRS Rice Bowl also provide concrete experiences of Catholic social teaching. Week One focuses on the Dignity of Life, sharing the story of Norma and her son in Guatemala, who are thriving thanks to nutrition and health classes. Week Two reflects on our belief in providing Preferential Option to the Poor through the story of Annet and her three siblings, who fled violence in South Sudan and now reside in one of the world’s largest refugee settlements. Week Three reminds us that we are Called to Family, Community and Participation through the story of the Dhadcroos family rebuilding their community in Sri Lanka. Week Four looks at Rights and Responsibilities and Kumba’s quest for education in Sierra Leone so she can make a positive difference. Finally, Week Five addresses the Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers, reflecting on Ona’s search for work and eventual entrepreneurship in Gaza.
As we journey through Lent with CRS, we not only build our own faith, we also provide much needed resources for people overseas and within our community. The funds collected in those little cardboard boxes add up to millions in donations for CRS programs. Twenty-five percent of the total collected in our diocese also remains in the diocese to help parishes and Catholic Community Services of Utah respond to local needs for food and other basic necessities.
Deepen your Lenten journey by visiting crsricebowl.org or crsplatodearroz.org to find additional resources, including:
• Lenten devotions and prayers
• Lesson plans, videos and activity sheets for Catholic school teachers and religious educators
• Ideas for community gatherings and simple Lenten meal events
• A Lenten app that delivers prayers and resources directly to your mobile device
I call on all God’s faithful in our Diocese of Salt Lake City to join together in a spiritual Lenten journey as one faith community and help create in our parish communities and other parts of the world “islands of God’s mercy” for the least of our brothers and sisters. Let us enrich our Lenten journey through the support of CRS Rice Bowl. Together, let us respond to Christ’s call to build a culture of encounter through prayer and works of charity to transform our hearts, our society and the world.