Helping others teaches us compassion Print
Living and Learning
Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009 -- 1:00 AM
Living and Learning column by Msgr. Daniel T. Ganshert

Lent presents us with an opportunity if we choose to take it. Just like God has given us people in our lives to help us if we take the opportunity and let them: family, parish, community, among others. However, to ask others for help can be humbling. Yet, knowing that we all need help can teach us compassion for others.

Lenten fasting, prayer, and almsgiving remind us of this. It is a special time and opportunity for us to ask for help and to ask out loud. When God hears our prayers, sees our fasting, and almsgiving, that's one thing. But when we hear and see one another praying, fasting and giving to others in our families, parishes, and communities, it amplifies the impact. All of a sudden we can be moved by the example of those who recognize not only their need for help, but also their need to help others.

Operation Rice Bowl is a familiar Lenten program. If you have not been part of it lately, I encourage you to check it out this year. It is a ready-made opportunity for us to make the most of Lent.

How do we know what to do? Operation Rice Bowl shows us. When should we make someone else's need our business? Operation Rice Bowl offers answers for this. The Lord will always invite us to begin where we live. First, work on our own personal poverty and that of our families and communities whether it be spiritual or material. Then, he will open our ears to the cries of the needy in far-flung corners of the world. He will open our eyes to the plight of the victims of oppression and war. He will call us from complacency to help others whose lives are being destroyed by sin.

This approach is not new. Lent has always been about ongoing conversion. This year, I invite individuals and families to take advantage of the opportunity provided by Operation Rice Bowl to help make the most of our preparation for Easter. Feel free to contact the Office of Justice and Pastoral Outreach, 608-821-3086 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , for more information.

Msgr. Daniel Ganshert is the vicar general of the Diocese of Madison.