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



Do All Catholics Go To Hell?

Her catechist was worried.  The normally cheerful and bright eyed little 8 year old (who we’ll call Ella) entered her Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium with a decidedly different aspect this particular Wednesday.  When the catechist went over to check in as she was doing her individual work later in the session, Ella looked even more upset and gave her worry words:

“Do all Catholics go to hell?”

Her well-trained catechist may not have been quite ready for that question, but she knew better than to answer right away and instead prompted her for more information and why she was asking.

Ella responded, “My neighbor came over to play last night and she told me that I was going to hell because I was a Catholic. Is it true?”

As a young child, this particular catechist had experienced the exact heartbreaking accusation from well-meaning friends, so poor Ella’s worry hit a chord with her.  She quietly said a prayer and responded carefully, “What do you think? Do you think it is true?”


“I don’t either. You know, sometimes it is hard to know what to do in a situation like that.  What do you think you can do for your friend?”

“Pray for her?” Ella responded, her eyes softening.

“That’s a good idea.  Maybe we could go to the prayer table and pray right now.”  Ella and her catechist prayed intently for Ella’s little friend, and she was able to go back to her work with a lighter heart and her joyful eyes were alight again as her catechist blessed her as she left the atrium that day.

Not the First, Not the Last

When the catechist finished restoring her atrium that night, she came to me and shared the story. This was not the first time nor probably the last that I would hear of something like this that one of our parish children had to experience.

For the most part, I have not had to deal with too many people who have been so confident as to pronounce that kind of judgement on others, but I have had people exclaim in surprise, “Wow. I’ve never met a Catholic like you.”  (Really? I wondered. What does that even mean?) “You know, a Catholic who is a Christian!”

While this may sound kind of bizarre to Catholics who consider the word “Catholic” to automatically imply and be synonymous to the word “Christian”, there is a very important lesson to be taken from this constant mistake on the part of so many of our Christian brothers and sisters.  They are so concerned about us that they even tell their children that we aren’t Christian, and that if we don’t get “saved” we are going to hell. Putting their judgement of our eternal damnation aside (if we can), we ought to confront their main evidence:

We don’t talk about Jesus enough.  

Sure, we imply it all the time. We talk about “getting the Sacraments,” we talk about going to Mass, we talk about Mary, we make the Sign of the Cross when we pray.  But what is the result of this witness we give to our neighbors?  They don’t know what a Sacrament is. They don’t understand the historical and theological significance of the Mass. Transubstanti-what? They take our veneration of the Blessed Mother–which is nothing more than giving her the same honor that her own Son gives her–as idol worship.  They even see the Sign of the Cross which we make to remind ourselves of the armor of God that we received when Christ saved us in our Baptism as some sort of weird thing that might actually be condemned in the Book of Revelation!

Sure, we can get angry at someone who would presume to judge our or our children’s final destination, but there is a bigger opportunity here: an opportunity for evangelization. The only thing I suggested the catechist add to her conversation with Ella is to encourage her to say the thing that is so obvious that we as Catholics miss it.

Ella should say to her friend the thing that most truly represents her relationship with God: “I love Jesus more than anything.  He is my God and He saves me and protects me. He is my best friend and I love Him with all of my heart! And I know He loves me because He gives all of Himself to me and doesn’t hold anything back!”

The First Principle 

If Catholics start talking like that, our non-Catholic neighbors and friends will far more easily see their own Jesus reflected in our hearts. They may even start asking us about what it is we mean by Baptism, or Eucharist, or why we make the Sign of the Cross or pray on those beads. We must remember that what is obvious to us, is not so obvious to others. We need to proclaim Jesus Christ as the first principle from which everything we believe flows, and we need to say it out loud to our children so that they may be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks them one day if they are a Christian.

“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence…” 1 Peter 3:15b-16a.

Divine Mercy Sunday reflection by Mandie DeVries, Director of Religious Education at All Saints parish in Des Moines.
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Posted by on April 13, 2015 in Apologetics



Passion Sunday – An Opportunity to Share in Jesus’ Passion


Passion (Palm) Sunday is one of the most powerful liturgies the Church offers to the the faithful.  We begin with Jesus’ triumphant arrival in Jerusalem through the East Gate on the foal of a donkey.  This is prophesied by Ezekiel (chapter 43) and Zechariah (Chapter 9).  The Responsorial Psalm asks the question “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  Saint Paul teaches us that Jesus’ love for humanity and his obedience to the point of death are core to our understanding of who this Jesus is?  Finally there is the powerful passion narrative, this year focused on Mark’s Gospel which tells the story that will unfold during our observance this week prior to Easter.

In this reflection I would like to examine the actions of the woman who anointed Jesus in comparison to the complaints of the disciples.  As a lay ecclesial minister, a husband and a step parent I really am drawn to the Passion narrative and the Responsorial Psalm.  Think about your ministry when I share some of my disappointments below:

  • Have you ever planned what you thought was going to be a wonderful in-service, lesson plan or retreat only to have those who participated respond that it didn’t meet their expectations?
  • Have you planned a wonderful formation event for the parish only to have a small turnout when you were expecting a large crowd?
  • Have you had to explain to the Finance Council or the School Board the reasons the parish should continue to support comprehensive youth ministry when it seems they are more concerned about numbers than trying to grow discipleship in youth?
  • Has a sporting event or competitive dance ever trumped your 1st Eucharist learning stations or the Confirmation Retreat?
  • I can only imagine the disappointment that our pastors experience when people do not show up for Sunday Eucharist or the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • Parents who try to raise their children in the faith but have many challenges, especially those whose marriages have been broken and the ex-spouse refuses to cooperate.

It is during these times that I think of the Responsorial Psalm that we sang today, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  We try so hard to share God’s love by teaching and witnessing to the Catholic faith and yet it seems it is one step forward and two steps back.  “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

But we can’t allow ourselves to stay rooted in this responsorial.  Psalm 22 may begin by questioning where God is in the midst of our suffering but it ends with the psalmist praising God and becoming a witness to the entire community.  This is also where I am reminded annually that the woman who anoints Jesus with expensive oil is remembered throughout history: her compassion for Jesus, her recognizing him as Messiah and her anointing him in advance of his death are honored 2000 years later.  There are lessons for me as a lay ecclesial minister from this woman’s courageous action:

  • Will I be a disciple who continually recognizes Christ’s presence in those I encounter every day?
  • Will I be a disciple who ignores current culture and reaches out to those who are in need: the orphan, the stranger and the widow?
  • Will I be a disciple who looks through the difficulties of participating in Christ’s mission and share the joy found in His Gospel?

Much has changed since Jesus endured his passion out of love for you and me; and yet much hasn’t changed.  May you and I encounter this week the spark that initially lead each of us to give our lives to Christ.  Below are a few wonderful videos that you can share about Passion Sunday from two perspectives: Father Barron gives us a textured scriptural accounting while the Skit Guys provide some humor with a point.

May you and your family have a blessed Holy Week.

Passion Sunday reflection by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Diocese of Des Moines.

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Posted by on March 30, 2015 in Passion Sunday



“Lord, if you had been here, my brother (Lazarus) would not have died.” – 3rd Scrutiny


The 5th Sunday of Lent brings us to the tomb of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, and the good friend of Jesus.  This Sunday, for all intents and purposes is the last Sunday of Lent.  Next week when we gather we celebrate the beginning of the end, or should I say the beginning of the beginning, as Jesus rides triumphantly into Jerusalem amidst great cries of “Hosanna, Son of David!”

…but for now, our mood is confused.  Jesus is told of the serious illness of his good friend, yet he waits two days before leaving for Bethany.  Jesus tells the disciples that Lazarus has died and they are going to be with Martha and Mary.  Martha and Mary are sure that Jesus could have assisted their brother Lazarus, and yet, Jesus has another plan for us…to know the truth that he has come to bring us new life.  This concept and idea is difficult for us to grasp.  New life!  How?  Through faith in Jesus and the power of his word, we too can and do know the gift of resurrection. [Click here to read the readings intended for use with the Scrutiny today.]

I invite you to reread the passage and put yourself in the position of Mary, Martha, Lazarus, the apostles, as well as those who witness the scene. Having done so, take some time to ponder the prayers below, inserting your name and situation where appropriate.

As we draw nearer to the week we call Holy, let us be reminded again of the life-giving power that comes to us through the Paschal Mystery in our lives…and so, let us pray:

  • For each of us that life be renewed in us; that we see and know the gift of living and being in and with our God…We Pray to the Lord
  • For those who have fallen asleep in Christ, that they may know the fullness of life with him forever…We Pray to the Lord
  • For those who have lost heart; the discouraged, the marginalized, the hopeless, that they may know a renewed spirit within them through our prayer, support and love of them…We Pray to the Lord
  • For all within us that needs to be buried; sin, hurt, pride, choices that have led us away from our true selves, that when we hear the voice of God, we too may rise and leave behind those things that have kept us bound tightly…We Pray to the Lord

There is a lot in the story of the raising of Lazarus.  Sometimes when we listen to the gospel proclaimed at Mass we miss the fullness of the story.  Perhaps you might enjoy watching this video yourself or you may want to share it with the others in your life.  I have posted it below.  The video tells the story in a different way and perhaps, drives the central message home in a new or renewed way.

Fifth Sunday in Lent reflection by Dr. Cheryl Fournier, Diocesan Director of Adult Faith Formation and Lay Ecclesial Formation

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Posted by on March 23, 2015 in Lent



REJOICE! – Laetare Sunday


The vestment colors this weekend are different. Our presider and deacon, should there be a deacon, will be dressed in some shade of rose. Why? Because this is the Fourth Sunday of Lent, also known as “Rose Sunday “or Laetare Sunday…REJOICE! It takes its name from the introduction to the liturgy this weekend, as we encounter the Introit, that is, the Entrance Antiphon, which echoes the prophet, Isaiah in chapter 66:10-11:  (click the link to listen to it in chanted in Latin)

Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her,
all you who love her;
Rejoice with her in her joy,
all you who mourn over her
So that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
That you may drink with delight
at her abundant breasts!

 As Laetare Sunday dawns, we find ourselves just past the half-way point in the season of Lent, and this day is intended to encourage us as we continue our Lenten journey. We are reminded that our God wishes to be with us as we continue this journey, and we are to remember with great rejoicing the presence of God in the midst of all that we are and do.

How appropriate that the Gospel reading for this Sunday , which will be proclaimed when we celebrate the Scrutiny with those preparing for the Easter sacraments, reminds us of the man born blind (JN 9:1-41) 

Jesus and the disciples are passing along and encounter a man born blind.
One of them asks whose sin caused the man to be blind; his own sin or the
sin of his parents. Jesus responds by telling them that neither had sinned, but
that the man was born blind in order to let the works of God shine through him.

 I invite you to reread the passage and put yourself in the position of the man born blind, his parents, and the apostles as well as the on-lookers. Having done so, take some time to ponder the prayers below, inserting your name and situation where appropriate.

We rejoice that the Light of the world has come in and through the person of Jesus. We rejoice that blindness of our hearts has been erased. We rejoice that the darkness of sin has been lifted from our eyes.

And so, together, let us pray:

  • That our eyes may be opened to see God’s presence and love active and alive in our lives and in our world;  We Pray to the Lord…
  • We pray for the clarity of vision, to see who we are called to be and what we are called to do; We Pray to the Lord…
  • For the courage and faith to ask God to open our eyes to the poor, suffering, lonely, alienated and forgotten; We Pray to the Lord…
  • That the Lord may remove the blindness from our hearts that we may love others with the love that comes from God;  We pray to the Lord…
  • That we may become in Christ, the light to our world;  We pray to the Lord…

Forth Sunday of Lent reflection by Dr. Cheryl Fournier, Diocesan Director of Adult Faith Formation and Lay Ecclesial Formation

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Posted by on March 16, 2015 in Lent



A Lenten Time of Scrutiny


The third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent call us to step into the experience of continuing conversion with the elect of our parish families (those preparing to celebrate the Easter Sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Holy Eucharist) through the celebration of the SCRUTINIES.

What are the scrutinies?  What is their purpose?  When we think of someone being under “scrutiny” we think they are being watched closely-observed keenly, watching for faults in their behavior or personality.  When we consider scrutinizing someone, we expose the individual to massive questioning, almost interrogation style.

…but that is not what the Church intends.

For the elect, the scrutinies, rooted in the Cycle A readings, are to be moments of strengthening.  The scrutinies focus on the needs of the elect and are offered in the style of prayers of petition.  At times, the prayers may be very personal, reflecting the journey of individuals in specific ways, while at other times, the needs are named in a more general fashion.  The elect stand before us at the Sunday Celebration and present themselves asking for greater clarity and needing the witness of the assembly to carry them forward in their journeys.  Thus, the whole community surrounds them and prays with and for them (and for ourselves) that thirst be satisfied (week three; John 4:5-52), vision be restored (week four; John 9:1-41) and life be renewed (week five; John 11:1-45).

Beginning this week and continuing in the fourth and fifth weeks of Lent, a simple Scrutiny will be offered here for all of us to pray.  May we together, with our elect, come to greater readiness for the mysteries of Holy Week and the celebration of Resurrection on Easter.

Scrutiny One: John 4:5-52 The Woman at the Well

Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob and asks her for a drink.  The disciples have gone into town for supplies. Jesus and the woman engage in conversation about living water, which leads also to some discussion of the woman’s life and all she has experienced. That conversation leads to her confession of belief in Jesus.                                                                                         

[I invite you to reread the passage and put yourself in the position of the woman, then, take some time to ponder the prayers below, inserting your name and situation where appropriate.]

  • We pray for all who thirst for the presence of God in their lives.  May they come to know the God’s presence in all they are and do.  We pray to the Lord.
  • For those whose lives seem cracked and void of life flowing within them, may they know the refreshing touch of God.  We pray to the Lord.
  • We pray for those whose faith is stagnant; may the community surround them with the witness of living faith that bubbles up from deep within.  We pray to the Lord.
  • For all who are judged by how they look, what they wear, where they live, how they speak, where they have come from; may they experience acceptance, support, encouragement and care from a community that is willing to be like Jesus, and meet them where they are.  We pray to the Lord.
  • That we, who have been called by God and baptized into his Son, may continue to long with our whole hearts for the living water that brings eternal life, we pray to the Lord.

Third Sunday of Lent reflection by Dr. Cheryl Fournier, Diocesan Director of Adult Faith Formation and Lay Ecclesial Formation in the Department of Evangelization and Catechesis

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Posted by on March 9, 2015 in Lent




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