The season of Lent is marked by many traditions among Catholics in the United States. Symbolized by its ubiquitous card board box, CRS Rice Bowl has been a tradition for generations of Catholics.
Beginning in 1975 as a response to a growing famine in Africa, CRS Rice Bowl today shines a light on the Catholic community’s commitment to poor and vulnerable families – our brothers and sisters. Their lives are improving in meaningful, measurable ways through the humanitarian programs and services provided by Catholic Relief Services and the Church around the world.
This year, CRS Rice Bowl provides a path for Catholics in the United States to build, what Pope Francis calls “a culture of encounter.” By following the daily Lenten calendar, sharing the weekly stories of hope, and making the meatless meals, participants will follow a personal journey that leads to us seeing ourselves in the faces of our neighbors, cultivating a spirit of global solidarity and encountering God’s love anew.
Pope Francis told Catholic leaders that the “ability to see yourselves in the faces of others, this daily proximity to their share of troubles and their little acts of heroism: this is what enables you to practice the commandment of love, not on the basis of ideas or concepts, but rather on the basis of genuine interpersonal encounter.”
“We do not love concepts or ideas,” the pope said. “We love people.”
“CRS Rice Bowl is about people and the hope we have for each other. It’s about our ability to encounter our neighbors no matter where they live, to love them as God loves us,” said Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S. Operations for CRS. “At a time when there is so much conflict in the world, this Lenten program gives people of all ages a way to respond to human suffering with compassion and action. To learn the names and stories of our brothers and sisters, to include them in our prayers, to contribute our Lenten sacrifices so they can live better, healthier lives; this is the way we deepen our faith, building a culture of encounter and holding up the dignity of each and every one of us.”
For more than 40 years, CRS Rice Bowl has provided an inspired collection of resources for families, parishes and Catholic schools to incorporate into their Lenten season. With CRS Rice Bowl, each week of Lent is a new opportunity to meet a family from a different country overseas, hear their personal stories, learn about their culture and experience a meatless meal they serve at home. Each Lenten story illustrates a principal of Catholic social teaching – an essential element of Catholic faith that says every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore is invaluable and worthy of respect as a member of the human family.
“We want to meet people where they are in their day-to-day lives, in schools, in parishes and on the go. CRS Rice Bowl is an easy to use tool that helps people deepen their Lenten journey by participating in our Lenten traditions – prayer, fasting and alms giving – in a time and way that suits them best. For some families this means following the Lenten calendar at home, for others it means downloading the App, or making the Lenten recipes, or watching the Lenten stories of hope on their tablets – any way people choose is a good way to make this Lent a season to encounter ourselves, our neighbors and our God and serve the poor around the world,” said Beth Martin, program director for U.S. Operations.
CRS Rice Bowl is global in its reach, bringing tangible goods and services to people in need around the world. Twenty-five percent of all contributions stay in local dioceses to support hunger and poverty prevention programs such as community gardens, food pantries, soup kitchens, support groups and job centers. The remaining 75 percent goes to support CRS’ humanitarian and development pro-grams overseas, providing life-saving assistance and hope to impoverished and vulnerable communities.
Resources available online
Catholic Relief Services has a lot of resources for you and your family this Lenten season. Besides the traditional CRS Rice Bowl cardboard bowl kit you can download online, there is a free mobile app, daily Lenten reflections, “Stories of Hope” from people who have been aided by CRS, a video series exploring the meaning of Lent, and meatless recipes from the countries featured each Lent. All materials are available in English and Spanish.
FAMILY LENTEN KITS
Fasting from meat on Fridays during Lent helps us “acquire a mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2043). Fasting is meant to free us. It helps us feel our physical hunger, and in turn, our spiritual hunger for the infinite love found only in God. When you’ve cleaned your plate, put the money you saved by not buying meat – an average of $3 per person per meal – into your CRS Rice Bowl to feed our brothers and sisters in need around the world. It takes just $1 per day ($40) to provide a family with food for one month.
Go to www.crsricebowl.org/families for prayer resources and activities to use during dinner, in the car on the way to school or whenever you have just a few moments to gather together, pause and pray. Download a family kit to make your own CRS Rice Bowl, print Lenten-themed placemats, activity sheets and coloring pages, a Lenten calendar, prayer cards and more.
FREE MOBILE APP
Bring Lent into your life anytime, anywhere with CRS’ free Rice Bowl app for both Android and Apple devices. It features videos, recipes, reflections and a collection of “Stories of Hope” from people around the world helped by CRS. Join the conversation on social media, receive daily Lenten reflections on your device, set and track progress towards a personal Lenten goal, and use a variety of simple, meatless recipes to prepare and share on Fridays throughout Lent.
Go to www.crsricebowl.org or download the free app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
STORIES OF HOPE
For each of the six weeks of Lent, download a recipe and read a story from a different country, focusing on a family or individual – lives that are being changed for the better by a CRS program. Each story illustrates a principle of Catholic Social Teaching and makes the connection between the gift of service and our faith – the “what” with the “why” of charity.
CRS Rice Bowl will offer daily reflections for each day of Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. Go to www.crsricebowl.org/daily-reflections.
STATIONS OF THE CROSS DIGITAL RETREAT
One-minute video reflections immerse you in Jesus’ walk to Calvary.
VIDEO SERIES: ‘HOW TO PRACTICE LENT’
So, what is Lent? A series of videos featuring Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Jesuit Father James Martin, Christopher West, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, CRS staffer Thomas Awaipo, Kerry Weber of America Magazine, CRS President/CEO Dr. Carolyn Woo and others seek to answer this question from different angles. Go to www.crsricebowl.org/about/how-to-practice-lent to watch the entire series.
How to give
If your parish or school participates in the CRS Rice Bowl campaign, giving guidelines are provided. You can also give directly to CRS Rice Bowl securely online at www.crsricebowl.org; by phone at 1-877-435-7277; or mail to CRS Rice Bowl, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21297-0303.