Catechism of the Council of Trent


Almsdeeds Enjoined

"This Commandment [the seventh] also implies an obligation to sympathise with the poor and needy, and to relieve their difficulties and distresses by our means and good offices. Concerning this subject, which cannot be insisted on too often or too strongly, the pastor will find abundant matter to enrich his discourses in the works of St. Cyprian, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and other eminent writers on almsdeeds.


Inducements To Practice Almsgiving


The pastor, therefore, should encourage the faithful to be willing and anxious to assist those who have to depend on charity, and should make them realise the great necessity of giving alms and of being really and practically liberal to the poor, by reminding them that on the last day God will condemn and consign to eternal fires those who have omitted and neglected the duty of almsgiving, while on the contrary He will praise and introduce into His heavenly country those who have exercised mercy towards the poor. These two sentences have been already pronounced by the lips of Christ the Lord: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you; and: Depart front me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.

Priests should also cite those texts which are calculated to persuade (to the performance of this important duty): Give and it shall be given to you. They should dwell on the promise of God, the richest and most abundant that can be conceived: There is no man who hath left house, or brethren, etc., that shall not receive an hundred times as much now in this time and in the world to come life everlasting; and he should add these words of our Lord: Make unto yourselves friends of the mammon of iniquity, that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings.


Ways Of Giving Alms


They should also explain the parts of this necessary duty, so that whoever is unable to give may at least lend to the poor what they need to sustain life, according to the command of Christ our Lord: Lend, hoping for nothing thereby. The happiness of doing this is thus expressed by holy David: Acceptable is the man that showeth mercy and lendeth.

But if we are not able to give to those who must depend on the charity of others for their sustenance, it is an act of Christian piety, as well as a means of avoiding idleness, to procure by our labor and industry what is necessary for the relief of the poor. To this the Apostle exhorts all by his own example. For yourselves, he says to the Thessalonians, know how you ought to imitate us; and again, writing to the same people: Use your endeavour to be quiet, and that you do your own business, and work with your own, hands, as we commanded you; and to the Ephesians: He that stole, let him steal no more; but rather let him labour working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have something to give to him that suffereth need.'


Frugality Is Enjoined


We should also practice frugality and draw sparingly on the kindness of others, that we may not be burden or a trouble to them. The exercise of considerateness is conspicuous in all the Apostles, but preeminently so in St. Paul. Writing to the Thessalonians he says: You remember, brethren, our labour and toil; working night and day lest we should be chargeable to any of you, we preached amongst you the gospel of God. And in another place the same Apostle says: In labour and in toil, we worked night and day, lest we should be burdensome to any of you.


Sanction Of This Commandment

The Punishment Of Its Violation


To inspire the faithful with an abhorrence of all infamous sins against this Commandment, the pastor should have recourse to the Prophets and the other inspired writers, to show the detestation in which God holds the crimes of theft and robbery, and the awful threats which He denounces against their perpetrators. Hear this, exclaims the Prophet Amos, you that crush the poor, and make the needy of the land to fail, saying: "When will the month be over, and we shall sell our wares, and the sabbath, and we shall open the corn; that we may lessen the measure, and increase the sickle, and may convey in deceitful balances? Many passages of the same kind may be found in Jeremias, Proverbs,' and Ecclesiasticus. Indeed it cannot be doubted that such crimes are the seeds from which have sprung in great part the evils which in our times oppress society.


The Reward Of Observing This Commandment


That Christians may accustom themselves to those acts of generosity and kindness towards the poor and the needy which are inculcated by the second part of this Commandment, the pastor should place before them those ample rewards which God promises in this life and in the next to the beneficent and the bountiful."

For the entire text that explains our duty under the seventh commandment, in the catechism of Trent, click here.

"Almsgiving" in the current Catholic Catechism
and Scripture passages on almsgiving.
See also A Plea for the Poor and
a theological explanation of the command to give alms.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church
Awaken to Prayer
Index of all parish pages