It’s OK to Play with Matches – Making Sure You Have What is Needed for Missionary Zeal – A Spiritual Supply List for your Pilgrim Path – Part 5


What camping adventure worth its name wouldn’t include a bonfire?  I think about miles of hot dogs and s’mores that were roasted not to mention the number of stories that were told around roaring campfires that I have attended throughout the years.  Those memories are embedded in my mind along with the people who were with me.  The common denominator that brought these memories together was the bonfire itself.  What was the catalyst that ignited wood, kindling and fuel into a roaring flame?  It was the intentional action of someone who created a spark that took all these random materials and caused a radical change to take place: a bonfire.

Think about the bonfire as your local parish or our diocesan Church.

  • Some of us are the pieces of wood.  There are large pieces that will be used to form the outside of the structure while the smaller pieces are piled up inside.  Some of the wood may be wet or have moss growing on it.  For whatever reason each piece of wood was brought to this place and for a specific purpose.
  • Some of us are kindling.  When compared to the larger pieces of wood, it doesn’t seem like we measure up. Most of the time kindling is something that seems disposable: paper towels, an old newspaper or magazine, or dry brittle twigs.  From the perspective of the kindling elements, life among the larger pieces of wood may seem intimidating.
  • Some of us are fuel. This material is used to produce heat or power.  Unlike the other materials that can be used in multiple ways, there are few ways to use fuel.  Furthermore, for the heat or power to be produced requires some action beyond its ability.
  • For the bonfire that is the Church to become what it was created to be requires the spark of faith given to it by the Holy Spirit.  For the pyre to become a bonfire requires the action of the one who creates the spark. For us to continually be able to spread the Gospel requires that we provide the Holy Spirit good material to fan our spark of faith into a large flame.

Sometimes we talk ourselves out of becoming an evangelist because we think we are too small, our faith isn’t strong enough, or we are not ordained, But evangelization doesn’t come from us, it comes from Jesus.  Joe Paprocki and Julianne Stanz write in their book The Catechist’s Backpack, “The Good News we bring to the world when we evangelize is not only the message of Jesus Christ but the person of Jesus Christ, who desires a personal relationship with each one of us” (page 66).

When I was a baby youth minister I had a volunteer who didn’t think she was qualified to do anything else but welcome teens to our programming.  Although she was every bit as qualified to lead programming, she was outstanding at welcoming people into youth ministry and encouraging those who felt they weren’t faithful enough to give it a try.  Pope Francis would call her an “agent of evangelization.”  In Joy of the Gospel Pope Francis writes, “All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients.  The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized.  Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love” (paragraph #120).

Families today more than ever need to be evangelized by you and I that Christ’s Gospel has much to offer them as spouses along with their children.  Isn’t there somebody today that you and I will encounter that is in need of Christ’s mercy?  Having the opportunity to be open to this and to share the love that God has shown us is what it means to be someone on mission.  The real question for each of us is if we are open to offering the materials God has given so that He can fan the spark of faith into a large bonfire?  Below is one of my favorite parts of the movie Prince of Egypt about another person who wasn’t sure he had what it took to be on mission. Look at what God accomplished through him.

Reflection written by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director for Evangelization & Catechesis.

Julianne Stanz will present a workshop for catechetical leaders in the Diocese of Des Moines on March 3, 2016.


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Quest for the Real Thing – The Need for the Right Clothing and Footwear – A Spiritual Supply List for your Pilgrim Path – Part 4


In September, 2013, Pope Francis was asked by a reporter from America Magazine to describe who he is at the core.  Pope Francis described himself in these words, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?  I am a sinner. This the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”  When young adults are asked about adults who made a difference in their lives as a teen, most point to adults who possess the traits of authenticity and consistency.  Think about your childhood and teen years, besides your parents who helped shape you into the person you are today?

For me, it was a family friend named Marietta.  Marietta was one of the most joyful people I have ever met. She lit up a room with her laughter and you felt like you were the only person in the room when you were having a conversation with her.  God was central to Marietta’s life because she had a relationship with God. God worked through her, I believe, because she rarely saw the dark side of others, but only who God created them to be and the infinite possibility of goodness they could achieve.  It was years later that I discovered that Marietta’s only child and husband were killed by a drunk driver right in front of her: her son died immediately and her husband passed away months later after lying in a coma.  Years after that I finally had the courage to ask how she come through it to be the person she was.  Marietta said, “First I told God, I don’t understand this. Over time that moved into I can’t understand this.  Eventually, I came to the understanding that I didn’t need to understand.”  I never had the courage to ask how long it took for Marietta to move through each stage.  She was a very private person and I felt fortunate that she shared this much with me.

Marietta was authentic and consistent.  She didn’t just practice her religion on Sundays but lived it every day. Somewhere along the way she invited Jesus to walk with her through the good times and the bad times. Instead of pushing Jesus away during her time of crisis, she stayed in relationship with Him.  She realized being a Christian meant she needed to also carry her cross and walk with Jesus on the pathway to Calvary. Marietta showed me what hope looked like with skin on and I have never forgot.

Julianne Stanz explained during her NCCL keynote and in the book, The Catechist’s Backpack, that to possess the correct clothing and footwear is to remember that we put Christ on when we were baptized.  As we get older and “wear Christ” we grow in intimacy with Him.  Each of us, just like Marietta and those who touched you in your life, have shared this intimacy with us.  This is evangelization.  Julianne also shared that those who are authentic share “H.O.P.E.” to those in front of them.

  • H – Healing – recognizing the need to be healed and being open to be a healer
  • O – Opportunities to be in relationship with God and others
  • P – Possibilities that God has in store for you and me
  • E – Eucharist – Receiving the intimacy of God through His body, blood, soul and divinity

As we encounter each person in our lives today, may we be an authentic witness of Christ’s love for humanity. Let us pray for the grace for a change of heart to practice what we preach.

Reflection written by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director for Evangelization & Catechesis.

Julianne Stanz will present a workshop for catechetical leaders in the Diocese of Des Moines on March 3, 2016.

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Posted by on July 27, 2015 in Julianne Stanz, Spirituality



Where are you going? The need for a solid topographical map – A Spiritual Supply List for Your Pilgrim Path – Part 3


When I began this series of reflections it was in response to some of the events of this summer which has been challenging to those who are Christian.  How are we to witness our faith to those around us?  The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity from Vatican Council II proposes this vision to Catholics, “Our own times require of the laity no less zeal, in fact, modern conditions demand that their apostolate be broadened and intensified…Since the laity, in accordance with their state in life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ” (The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, #1 & #2).  St. Paul wrote about this too shortly before his martyrdom in Rome, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2).  Perhaps the Vatican II fathers, St. Paul and those of us who love to back pack have something in common; we need a good map and compass to avoid pointless wandering.

Joe Paprocki and Julianne Stanz consider this same point as they ponder our role as Christians regarding openness to the world.  “We need to familiarize ourselves to the ‘terrain’ of this world.  The Holy Spirit was poured forth so that we could proclaim the gospel to all nations.  This serves as our map, compass, and ultimately our GPSS – our global positioning spiritual system.  Without such a system we would wander aimlessly, without direction, With it we can stay in touch with the field in which the seeds of the gospel are to be sown: the world.  We are called, however, not simply to immerse ourselves in the world but to survey it, engage it, and challenge it so that it may be transformed in and through Christ” (The Catechist’s Backpack, XIII in Introduction).

So let’s test our map.  You and I spend our days with our spouses and children, at work with colleagues and customers, in the ball parks and auditoriums.  We live our life primarily outside of our local parish’s walls and away from the priests and religious whose work shows us how God’s love story includes each of us.  Although every day can be, and many times is, a new adventure we know our terrain pretty well.  The question for you and me is how well do we experience God’s movement in our lives?  How do we know what these seeds look like to sow them into the fields in which we find ourselves?  Why not try the process below which a Benedictine monk outlined years ago to help me experience God’s movement in my life (it works really well with what Joe and Julianne wrote above):

  • Survey the soil (world) – Listen to the hopes and concerns of those around you paying special attention to those who are marginalized in your local community, around the nation and the world.  How do the hopes and dreams measure up to the standard set by the Gospel; for example the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10) or the Judgment of Nations (Matthew 25:31-46)?
  • Work the soil (engage the world) – How are the hopes and concerns of those around me when viewed with the gospel calling me to conversion of heart?  Is there a possible action found within the corporeal works of mercy that will help me respond as a Christian disciple to the person or situation that is immediately in front of me?
  • Tend the garden (challenge the world) – What care needs to be done to my heart so that I cultivate the fruits of the Spirit?  Before responding to the challenges of the secular society, have I checked my pride at the door and entered into dialogue with humility?  (Although my friend is a Benedictine, he finds the Jesuit practice of the Daily Examen very helpful.)

Perhaps the prayer below, attributed to Brother Lawrence, may be a fitting conclusion to this reflection:

Lord of all pots and pans and things,
since I’ve no time to be a great saint
by doing lovely things,
or watching late with Thee,
or dreaming in the dawnlight,
or storming heaven’s gates,
make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.

Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
and light it with Thy peace;
forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.

Thou who didst love to give men food,
in room, or by the sea,
accept the service that I do,
I do it unto Thee.


Reflection written by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director for Evangelization & Catechesis.

Julianne Stanz will present a workshop for catechetical leaders in the Diocese of Des Moines on March 3, 2016.



Food & Shelter for the Journey – A Spiritual Supply List for Your Pilgrim Path – Part 2


What pilgrimage of length could be successfully accomplished without the need of adequate food and shelter? Julianne Stanz and Joe Paprocki focus on our need for the Church and Eucharist as essential not only for journeying the Christian life, but also inviting others to journey with us.

You may be thinking to yourself, I am not a priest, a nun, or a catechist: I’m not comfortable with asking others to join the Church or be in a relationship with Christ.  Don’t worry, this is not a reflection about asking you to consider evangelizing on the street corner.  The thoughts today focus on practices that are fundamental in witnessing to the Catholic faith wherever you find yourself: at home with your family and friends, at work with colleagues and customers, while participating in sports, politics and even your selection of entertainment. Blessed Pope Paul VI taught “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (Evangelii Nuntiandi).  Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, O.P. expanded on this when he wrote, “Even when one is not involved in pastoral ministry or culture and does not know how to speak, every Christian evangelizes if he bears witness to what he believes.”

Shelter is essential to our pilgrim journey for two protective reasons: it nurtures and supports us as we form our identity AND it shelters us from the storms that impact our lives at certain moments.  The Church, both domestic and ecclesial, is where we learn to love and be loved, forgive and be forgiven and form lifelong relationships with God as well as our sisters and brothers.  We learn what it means to be a Christian by putting our faith in action.  You and I are able to experience God’s loving embrace.  Our hearts are opened wider when we freely give ourselves as an extension of God’s salvific action to the one who is immediately in front of us. We know we are living in the Spirit when we experience: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22.)  The Church and her saints who sheltered each of us during the storms we experienced, is now the same Church who shelters others through us.  We discover that none of us can live a “lone ranger” existence.  Our shelter is the Church.  Blessed Pope Paul VI expressed this beautifully when he wrote, ” She (the Church) exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to teach and preach, to be a channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners to God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, #2).

For us to have the spiritual strength needed for this life, Jesus gives us His body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist: the ultimate food for the journey.  Think about any long journey you have taken lately.  At some point you know you have hit the wall and can’t go much further.  If you are like me, sometimes your body is deprived of nourishment to the level that it affects your strength and vitality.  Concentration, presence and making good decisions is compromised.  Think perhaps about your own life or those who you love, isn’t it true that when we most need Jesus in the Eucharist many of us run the other direction.  To be agents of evangelization we need to have a healthy Eucharistic spirituality and practice.   The Eucharist not only is the Body of Christ for us, but it also challenges us to become His voice, His ears, His compassion and His touch on our pilgrim path.

Reflection written by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director for Evangelization & Catechesis.

Julianne Stanz will present a workshop for catechetical leaders in the Diocese of Des Moines on March 3, 2016.

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Posted by on July 13, 2015 in Catholic Identity, Eucharist



Spiritual Supply List for Your Pilgrim Path


Recent events in our community, our nation and the world have not only been the fodder for broadcast news organizations and social media sites, it has also been the catalyst for conversations among friends and family on what it means to be a just society, compassionate and a faithful Christian disciple.  Our questions and concerns are immense.  Many of the events of the last five weeks have touched each one of us in a very personal way.  It is easy to see this when we read or hear the tenor in each other’s communications.  As I have pondered the events of the last few weeks and listened to people of good will be very hard on each other, I have asked myself the question, “How does a Christian disciple navigate oneself through the wilderness of our secular world?”  God answered this, I think, while on a short hike I took on Saturday.  God showed me that the environment can be both beautiful and challenging at the same time: flowers alongside poison ivy, birds singing a short distance away from a snake sunning himself on a rock, and a terrain changing from mild to rugged.  The lesson I believe God had in store for me is if I had packed everything I needed to encounter the fullness of the environment I found myself.  Perhaps this is the question God has in store for me and you as we navigate our way through our world which is both beautiful and challenging at the same time?

In May I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 79th Annual National Conference for Catechetical Leadership (NCCL) Exposition and Conference.   On the last day the keynote was provided by Julianne Stanz and Joe Paprocki titled “The Catechist’s Backpack: Spiritual Essentials for the Journey” (Loyola Press).  It was a wonderful presentation and I ordered the book as soon as I returned home.  However, after my revelation, I realized that the lessons Julianne and Joe had for catechists, to make sure they are equipped for the task of helping children and teens form a personal relationship with Jesus and learn about our faith, were lessons for all of us too.

The General Directory for Catechesis tells us that there are three dimensions for formation in helping prepare a person to be a catechist: knowing about the faith, learning to teach the faith and being in love with Christ.  However the being dimension is the most neglected and yet the most critical when it comes to evangelization.  Being in love with Christ brings joy even in the midst of great persecution and suffering.  Pope Francis has said the “joy is a pilgrim virtue: one that moves Christians to journey out into the world preaching the Gospel and proclaiming Christ” (Catholic News Service, May 10, 2013).  So how do we prepare a supply list for this journey of faith in helping each of us grow in love with Christ?  Over the next 6 reflections we will be exploring together what should be on our spiritual supply list for this faith journey.

“Item #1 – Radical Reliance on God”

Joe and Julianne shared that on any journey it is essential to have an abundant supply of water.  Water is used in many ways in our faith beginning with the waters of Baptism and refreshed often when we bless ourselves with holy water.  There are so many powerful actions that happen in baptism that when reflected upon provide a lifetime of sustenance for each of us on our journey.

Prayer over the water: “You have called your children to this cleansing water, that they may share in the faith of your Church and have eternal life.  By the mystery of this consecrated water lead them to a new and spiritual birth.”

Anointing after Baptism:  “The God of power and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin and brought you to new life through water and the Holy Spirit.  He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation, so that, united with his people, you may remain for ever a member of Christ who is Priest, Prophet and King.”

Clothing with a Baptismal Garment:  “You have become a new creation and have clothed yourself in Christ.  Receive this baptismal garment and bring it unstained to the judgment seat of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that you may have everlasting life.”

Presentation of a Lighted Candle:  “You have been enlightened by Christ.  Walk always as children of the light and keep the flame of faith alive in your hearts.  When the Lord comes, may you go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.”

Pope Francis, in his Angelus address, said, “Faith is not something decorative, or ornamental, it is not there to decorate your life with a little of religion.  No, faith involves choosing God as the center of one’s life” (Vatican News, August 18, 2013).  May you and I respond to the abundant waters of grace in our baptism by choosing Christ as the center of our life today.

Reflection written by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director for Evangelization & Catechesis.

Julianne Stanz will present a workshop for catechetical leaders in the Diocese of Des Moines on March 3, 2016.

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Posted by on July 6, 2015 in Spirituality



The Spirituality of Summer = How to Intentionally Insert the “Son of God” into Your Summer


The Easter Season is behind us.  The special liturgical celebrations post Easter such as the the Solemnities of the Most Holy Trinity and the The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ have occurred.  Temperatures and humidity are rising.  Farmer’s markets are firmly in place in neighborhoods each week.  The academic year is complete and school is dismissed.  Although we are in the final few weeks of spring it sure seems as though summer is upon us.  Summer has its own special flavors and smells as we navigate its many opportunities and challenges; especially for expressing our faith.  What ways can you and I be more intentional about including the Son of God into our summer season?

The first challenge to overcome is to recognize that schedules are radically different than the rest of the calendar year.  We travel more whether into different neighborhoods or towns around where we live as well as throughout the state, country and perhaps the world.  We spend more time outdoors and weekends bringing the possibilities of many new adventures.  Summer time is also particularly suited to reconnect families, friends, classmates and former co-workers when the normal routine doesn’t allow the time to do so.  The goal for you and I this summer is to savor God’s presence in the many unique situations you find yourself.  Father James Martin, S.J. provides great insight when he writes, “If you always imagine God in the same ways, you will not be ready for the new ways He has in store for you.”  Below are just a few possibilities:

1 – Walk for God’s Glory – Make an intention that the next walk you take outside in nature will be dedicated to the praise of God. Walk slowly, keeping your senses attuned to the wonders that surround you. In appreciation, pray this mantra: “Glory be to God.“  An alternative can be to pray a Rosary, especially the Luminous Mysteries.  Continue to stay focused on the wonders and those whom you encounter.

2 – Waste some time – Not on mindless surfing the web, video games or binge TV watching but on just relaxing and being, “It does no good to think moralistically about how much time we waste. Wasted time is usually good soul time,” Saint Thomas Moore has observed. Summer is just the right season for idleness and just messing around with things. Quit doing and revel in just being.

3 – Read the Bible Outdoors – Think of how many times Jesus taught while outdoors or how often the Psalmists use images of the natural world. Read some of your favorite scripture passages while you are out in nature, and see how the setting enriches the experience. Variation – Bibles & Bikes or Connecting with Scripture and Canoeing.

4 – Savor Summer Sounds – Summer has sounds of its own, whether the laughter of kids playing at the pool or the serenade of crickets at night. Lie on the ground for 15 minutes without saying anything. Pay attention to what your mind is doing. Then notice what you hear around you. This exercise helps you get better at two spiritual practices — silence and listening.

St. Ignatius of Loyola teaches us that every moment of our lives is an invitation to experience God.  Let’s take up this spiritual challenge and be attentive of God’s presence in our lives this summer.

Summer Spirituality reflection by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director of Evangelization & Catechesis.


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May the Spirit be with You…and your Confirmation Questions Too…


The confirmation questions are pouring in.  ‘Tis the season! Bishop Pates has about 55 confirmation liturgies scheduled in the next several months. I’ll try to post some of the questions that come to the office for the benefit of all our parishes:

How do we handle the name tags for our candidates when they choose a saint’s name as their confirmation name? 

Some of the names are easy: Paul, Peter, Mary, Cecilia. You just have to print that in larger print than the rest of their name.

Some of them are a little more difficult, or there are duplicate names: Catherine (Siena or Alexandria?), John (Evanglist, Vianney, John of the Cross?), Padre Pio (calling a teen “Padre Pio,” or would anyone know who Pio of Pietrelcina is?).

There are a couple of ways you could approach this:

  • For example, with Catherine of Alexandria, print the “of Alexandria” in smaller print, below the saint’s name. The bishop then would only say “Catherine,” but the confirmand and the bishop would know who was being referenced.
  • With someone like Padre Pio, whose name has been popularized, the formal name of “Pio” is just fine. His formal name is “St. Pio of Pietrelcina” and, again, it is a name that the confirmand and the bishop will both recognize.

How do we handle the Profession of Faith/Renewal of Baptismal Promises? Do the candidates only say it, do we repeat it for all the assembly, do the members of the assembly join with the Candidates?

In short, the profession of faith by all the assembly is omitted because the Candidates have made their profession of faith and all the people have responded “Amen” to the bishop’s proclamation at the end of the candidates’ renewal of their baptismal promises.

To elaborate, there are a couple of ways to approach this. As you’ll see in the Rite of Confirmation from the Roman Pontifical (the bishop’s liturgical book), it is noted that the Candidates stand and respond, “I do,” to the Renunciation of Sin and the Profession of Faith. At this liturgy of Christian initiation, it is an important part of their recalling and connecting with their own baptism. So, only the candidates stand and respond.

At the end of it, the Bishop says, “This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord,” and the assembly should respond “Amen.” to that. It is how the assembly makes the profession of faith its own.

The Rite as outlined in the Pontifical allows a bit of flexibility:

  • Another formula may be used for the bishop’s proclamation “This is our faith…”; perhaps as the RCIA does, the assembly could then be invited to stand and renew their own baptismal promises.
  • In keeping with the allowance of “another formula,” you could add a simple sentence to the end of the bishop’s proclamation: “Let the assembly say Amen.”  Either the bishop or the deacon could make this instruction.
  • A song may be sung in its place. There is a simple musical acclamation by David Haas that many parishes have used during the RCIA. It is found in the collection Who Calls You By Name and is a call-and-response setting of the text of the bishop’s proclamation. You could also have the people sing one refrain of a song of faith like Kevin Keil’s “One Spirit, One Church,” or a verse of Bob Frenzel and Kevin Keil’s song, “One Love Released,” or a song of faith familiar to your parish community.

When does the bishop wear the miter (bishop’s hat) and when does he take the crosier (staff)?

At a confirmation the bishop will wear the miter:

  • During the entrance procession (handing it to a server before bowing to the altar)
  • When seated during the Liturgy of the Word
  • After the prayer of laying on of hands, when anointing confirmandi with Chrism
  • After the Communion prayer and any announcements are made; just before the dialogue “The Lord be with you,” which precedes the final blessing” and through the recessional procession

At a confirmation liturgy, the bishop will take the crosier:

  • During the entrance procession (handing it to a server before bowing to the altar)
  • At the Gospel proclamation (after the greeting by the deacon or priest)
  • After the solemn blessing/prayer over the people and just before the final blessing “May almighty God bless you…” and through the recessional procession

As always, please contact the Worship Office at 515.237.5046 with questions that arise!  Confirmation liturgy question reflection by Kyle Lechtenberg, Diocesan Director of Worship in the Diocese of Des Moines.

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Posted by on April 24, 2015 in Confirmation




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