The Diocese of Des Moines
December 2012

December 21, 2012
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

During a recent homily about Advent being a time of preparation, Msgr. Stephen Orr happened to mention that there are those practical preparations, too, like baking cookies. And when you do, he told his parishioners, save three for Father. The following weekend, his parishioners at Our Lady's Immaculate Heart in Ankeny surprised him with a large basket filled with baggies -- each containing three cookies.


"I will sure look like the Cookie Monster before long after eating all those wonderful cookies you brought last weekend!" he said in a weekly note to parishioners. "What an amazing variety. While I will enjoy many of them and fill my freezer for enjoyment for weeks to come, I hope you don't mind if I share them as well. As we remember some of our families most in need this Christmas time, they will find a few little 'cookie treats' in their packages. In that way, we will spread the joy!"

December 20, 2012
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

The Catholic Pastoral Center is closed today, Thursday Dec. 20, due to blizzard conditions. This includes Bishop Richard Pates's office, Catholic Charities and diocesan offices.

December 19, 2012
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

Last week, Bishop Stephen Blaire, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Bishop Richard Pates, in his role as chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, wrote to Congress calling on it to avoid the "fiscal cliff" with a bipartisan and balanced agreement that raises adequate revenue and protects programs that serve families living in poverty. You can read the letter here. The letter explains our Church's budget advocacy in light of Catholic teaching on taxation and the economy.


And this week, on Dec. 18, Bishop Pates sent a letter to National Security Advisory Thomas Donilon expressing concern about Iran and nuclear weapons. Bishop Pates said, "A diplomatic solution is preferable to military action which could have unpredictable and dramatic repercussions for the region."  Check out the letter here.

December 18, 2012
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

Franciscan Father Tom Kunnel, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Red Oak and St. Patrick Parish in Imogene, recently wrote a column for his parish bulletins that addressed the Mayan calendar's claim that the world will end this Friday. He explains the end-of-the-world questions using a Catholic perspective.


Will the world end on Dec. 21, 2012?


By Father Tom Kunnel, TOR


On Dec. 21, the Mayan calendar comes to an end and so, some fear, do we. Little is known of the Mayans -- a Central American civiliation skilled in mathematics and astronomy -- but many believe this ancient culture had secret knowledge that enabled them to predict when the world would end. The question we need to ask is, will the world end on Dec. 21?


The foundation of our Christian life is always focused towards our ultimate end, the escatological life; life ordained to be with our Lord. Life with God is continual and ongoing, being both here on earth and continuing on to life in heaven. So the Bible always refers both to life and eternal life -- the life we have here on earth and eternal life in heaven with the Lord. We must not forget that for us Christians, the "eschaton" is the final event. This final event is to be understood not only as a future goal, but as a reality which has already begun with the historical coming of Christ. His passion, death and resurrection are the supreme events in the history of humanity, the true foundation of Christianity, as well as the uniqueness of our religion. This fundamental foundation of Christianity has now entered into its final phase, making a qualitative leap into the final event, eternal life. The horizon of a new relationship with God is unfolding for humanity, marked by the great offer of salvation made to the fallen world in Christ. 


Christ said, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live," (Jn 5:25). The resurrection of the dead expected at the end of time already receives its first decisive realization in the spiritual resurrection of our soul when our soul, while we are living, experiences the darkness, understands the consequences of darkness of the soul, and leaves its darkness behind to enter into a spiritual resurrection, the primary task of the works of Salvation. The theologian calls this proceess "conversion"' consisting of new life given by the risen Christ as the fruit of his redemptive work. Mary Magdalene was the first disciple to experience this immediately after the resurrection. It is a mystery of rebirth by water and the Holy Spirit which is deeply marked as the sign of hope for the humanity of the present, and of the future. The effectiveness of the redemption at the moment is shown only by those people who totally accept this gift of God, and who in turn radiate and illuminate the world. Precisely, Christ is addressing us, his disciples, "to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth."


The twofold, present and future, dimension of the redemptive works of Christ is explained very clearly in his eschatalogical discourse just before the paschal drama of Calvary as he predicted. "They will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky." (Mk. 13:26-27).


The biblical understanding of clouds signifies a theophany; it indicates that the second coming of the Son of Man will not take place in the weakness of flesh, like a babe in the manger, but in divine power. The coming in clouds with great power and glory suggests the ultimate future that will bring the history of humanity to an end. During the trial before the crucifixion, Christ once again repeats the eschatological prophecy, formulating it in terms of an imminent event: "I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the power and coming on the clouds of heaven," (Mt. 26:64). 


Now we can understand and grasp well the dynamic sense of Christian eschatology as a historical process which has already begun in our midst and is moving toward its fullness. At the end of all things, there will be a great tribulation, "The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the power of the heaven will be shaken," (Mt. 24:29). This eschatological discourse expresses the precariousness of the world and the sovereign of power of Christ. It will be a complete takeover and moving of everything into the power of Christ, in whose hands has been placed the destiny of humanity. It will likely not happen on Dec. 21, 2012 as the media and Hollywood predicts; surely history advances towards its goal, but Christ  has not specified any chronological dates. Attemps to predict the end of the world are therefore deceptive and misleading. Christ has assured us the end will not come before his saving work has reached a universal dimension through the preaching of the gospel. Remember these words of Christ: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached thorughout the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come." (Mt 24:14).


The evangelization of the world by preaching of the gospel involves the profound transformation of the human person under the influence of Christ's grace. According to St. Paul, the end and the goal of history lies in the Father's plan to "unite all things in Him, (Christ) things in heaven and things on earth," (Eph. 1:10). Christ is the center of the universe who draws all people to himself to grant them an abundance of grace and eternal life. Christ is a divine judge with a human heart, a judge who wants to give life. Only unrepentance and undue attachment to evil can prevent him from offering these gifts of eternal life, for which he did not hesitate to face death.


December 17, 2012
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

No reindeer or snowmen will be mentioned this week on Iowa Catholic Radio. The Catholic radio station serving central Iowa will play only Christmas hymns, carols, family traditions, Christmas greetings, prayers and worship starting today through Christmas Day. Focus on the reason for the season by tuning in to Iowa Catholic Radio this Christmas season at 1150 AM, 88.5 FM or 94.5 FM.

December 14, 2012
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

A documentary called "First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty" will air on Iowa Public Television on Tuesday, Dec. 18. The documentary by filmmaker Lee Groberg focuses on the origin of the freedom in the years 1630-1836. A Catholic News Service reviewer said, "Groberg manages to craft a valuable overview of complex developments that viewers of all faiths will likely appreciate." Here is a link to IPTV for more information.

December 14, 2012
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

Bishop Richard Pates issued the following statement on the school tragedy in Connecticut on Friday.


"I share the overwhelming shock and sadness of all at the inexplicable death rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday morning. Our heartfelt prayers go out to the victims and to their families, especially the parents of children either killed or injured as they come to grips with this senseless tragedy. May they know that we stand in solidarity with them at this time. I ask all of the Diocese of Des Moines' parishes to incorporate special prayers in their liturgies of the Third Sunday of Advent. Despite the huge shadows and overwhelming grief, we know that Emmanuel - God with us, is present even in these darkest of moments."

December 13, 2012
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

Iowa Catholic Radio wants to record and air your holiday greetings for family, friends, coworkers, priests, military and others. Call 515-282-PRAY (7729) and leave a 10-20 second Christmas greeting. Then tune in to 1150 AM, 88.5 FM or 94.5 FM in central Iowa to hear your greeting and those of others throughout the Christmas season.

December 11, 2012
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

By Mayra Moriel de Bañuelos

Coordinator of Hispanic Ministry


During the first days of Advent, the Latino community is busy preparing the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Dec. 3 marks the beginning of the Guadalupe novena, which continues through the feast day, which is tomorrow, Dec. 12. On Dec. 16, we mark the beginning of a new novena, known as the Posadas. These are great opportunities to celebrate Advent wtih the kids and get them involved in these special celebrations.


Back in my neighborhood, the Posadas had a great significance as we worked as a community preparing for the birth of Jesus. Each year, we selected nine homes to serve as host, one for each day of the novena. The children loved dressing up for the occasion, whether as Joseph, Mary or even as angels and shepherds. We would walk on the streets from house to house begging for shelter, in remembrance of Mary and Joseph's journey when they arrived in Bethlehem. Finally, the house selected for that day to be host would welcome us in for a feast that started with a rosary followed by the traditional pinata and food typical of the Christmas season: tamales, fruit punch and atole (a corn-based drink). We would do that every day for nine days! 


The symbols of the celebrations are still very signficant. The piñata symbolizes the destruction of sin. A traditional piñata has seven cones representing the seven capital sins. The candy and goodies inside the piñata represent God's gifts to those who fight and defeat sin.


Christmas Eve on Dec. 24 is the last Posada and this one is celebrated as a family. After a large, late dinner when the clock hits midnight, the family will sing to the newborn baby Jesus. The youngest members of the family will carry around a figure baby Jesus for each of the attendees to kiss. Then the whole family lulls the baby to sleep. There is prayer and offering of gifts. We then go to bed knowing that Baby Jesus will leave a gift for us in the morning.


As with anything, traditions vary from country to country and even from different regions within countries. The common thing among all these is Jesus as the center of all celebrations, whether in his mother's womb in the Guadalupe novena, looking for a place to stay in the Posadas or putting the newborn to sleep. Jesus is certainly the reason for the season.

December 10, 2012
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

You know the station as KWKY Catholic Radio. Reflecting its growth in central Iowa, the station now known as Iowa Catholic Radio will be holding a care-a-thon, or pledge drive, this week, inviting listeners to support its important work. Iowa Catholic Radio invites you to listen, pray for the station and financially support its evangelization efforts. This is the station that broadcasts live important diocesan liturgies -- like the diaconate ordination of three young men --  for all to hear and broadcasts major community events like the Dowling Catholic Pancake Breakfast. Where else can you hear retired Bishop Joseph Charron and Bishop Richard Pates every week? What other station broadcasts from a Catholic parish or school every weekday? Iowa Catholic Radio is growing, having acquired two FM stations this fall to broaden its reach. You can hear Catholic programming 24/7 at 1150 AM, 88.5 FM and 94.5 FM. Tune in to the care-a-thon starting today and support your Catholic radio station by calling 515-282-PRAY (7729).


December 6, 2012
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

Catholic Relief Services President Dr. Carolyn Woo will be the guest on the radio show "In the Heartland With Bishop Pates" tomorrow at 10 a.m. Also a guest on the show will be Teresa Dunbar, a leader on the local CRS Global Advocacy Team.


Before joining CRS, Dr. Woo served as the dean of the business school at the University of Notre Dame. She had served on the CRS board of directors from 2004-2010. She was born and raised in Hong Kong, educated by the Maryknoll Sisters and immigrated to the United States to attend college at Purdue University in Indiana, where she earned her doctorate.


Tune in to Bishop's radio show on the Spirit Catholic Radio Network 102.7 FM in western Iowa and Nebraska and Iowa Catholic Radio at 1150 AM, 88.5 FM and 94.5 FM in central Iowa.

December 5, 2012
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

Last year, we shared with you the story of Dina Manfredini, then 114 and the oldest person in her parish and the state. Dina is now the oldest person in the world at age 115, according to the Gerontology Research Group. Here is the blog post we ran last year on Dina.

December 4, 2012
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

In his role as chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace,  Bishop Richard Pates encouraged our senators to maintain aid to Palestinians. "Assistance to Palestinians, already heavily conditioned, is essential for humanitarian purposes and for building capacity for a future Palestinian state," he wrote. "Cutting aid will only harm the peace process." The U.S. bishops support a two-state solution for peace. Read the whole letter here.