WASHINGTON (CNS) –When it comes to the three pillars of Lent, almsgiving is a little bit like the middle child, not always getting the attention that prayer and fasting do.

The word hardly rolls off the tongue and people don’t talk about it as they might discuss what they are giving up for Lent or how they might be praying more or reading spiritual books during the 40 days before Easter.

Christians might have good reason not to talk about their almsgiving practices since biblical warnings are pretty clear on guidelines of keeping this practice quiet.

For example, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others.”

Jesuit Father Bruce Morrill, the Edward A. Malloy professor of Catholic studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee, said so much of the religious practice of Lent is shaped by images that represent what people are trying to do with their faith – ashes, for example, or fish on Fridays.

“Almsgiving is not easily recognizable, nor does it necessarily demonstrate religious devotion as prayer and fasting do with their focus on personal holiness,” he said.

Since the Second Vatican Council, Father Morrill said, the church has made more of an effort to connect worship and prayer to moral activity, and many Catholics have made the connection that fasting is not just to be pious but should have practical measures: taking the money that would have been spent on food or drink, for example, and setting that aside to give to the poor.

Father Morrill stressed that when rooted in faith, the practice of caring and providing for those in need is a way of “knowing this is how you encounter and know God.”