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My CRS Rice Bowl has arrived! Lent now feels official.

Every year our family looks forward to participating in the CRS Rice Bowl program, but for the past couple of years our local parish hasn’t made the cardboard bowls and accompanying calendar available to parishioners. So I have to get creative to get my Rice Bowl. One year I called CRS directly and had some shipped to our home in record time. This year I found a friend (Thanks, Theresa!) in a nearby parish and had her bring some Rice Bowls across county lines. Contraband Rice Bowls. That’s how we roll at the Poust House.

Why do I try so hard to get a Rice Bowl when it would be easier to throw a check in the almsgiving collection on Holy Thursday in my home parish? Because Rice Bowl supports the amazing programs of Catholic Relief Services around the world while it educates my family about how much we have, how little others have, and how easy it is for us to make a difference. On top of that, we get great meatless recipes for Lent and a helpful calendar to remind us to keep refocusing our attention on the important stuff over the course of these 40 days.

This year CRS is making the Rice Bowl even more Screenshot 2015-02-20 09.30.49enticing and more accessible. In addition to the app, which you can download HERE, CRS is posting powerful videos about the meaning of Lent (click HERE for those). You can also follow CRS Rice Bowl on Facebook and Twitter (@CRSRiceBowl), where you’ll get daily reminders to motivate you throughout Lent.

So even if you can’t find someone to sneak a Rice Bowl into your house, or even if you got a Rice Bowl but lost it in the clutter on your counter, you can still participate in this program that has become synonymous with Lent in Catholic households. Get the app, go to the website, follow CRS on social media. It’s never been easier to participate in Rice Bowl. As it says on the top of the Rice Bowl, “What you give up for Lent changes lives?” Collect your spare change, your money saved from buying meat or chocolate or beer, or whatever you gave up this season, and you can make such  difference.

If you gave just $1 per day to the Rice Bowl you could provide one month of food for a family, or two years of seeds for a farmer, or three months of clean water for four families. That’s not a lot of money for most of us, $1 dollar a day, but it in places like Tanzania or Nicaragua or Lebanon or even some neighborhoods right here in my home diocese of Albany, it can change a life.

Here’s one of my favorite CRS “What is Lent?” videos, featuring Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York talking about Lent, Rome, getting lost, and coming home — some of my favorite topics. It’s so worth a few minutes of your time.

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