Have an ADVENTure this December!


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

“If we resist rather than embrace the cultural commercialization of Advent and the early celebration of Christmas, Advent can be a wonderful season of longing, hoping, yearning, waiting, watching and preparing for the coming of the Messiah.” – Bishop Thomas Zinkula

Come along on an ADVENTure this December, as The Catholic Messenger shares insights and ideas from people and parishes in the Diocese of Davenport. 

Lindsay Steele
A student at St. Joseph School in DeWitt participates in an Advent prayer service in this file photo.

Sunday, Dec. 1


Today is the day to get out your Advent wreath! Light your violet candle or electric votive today.

Each year during Advent, Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine involves parishioners in the lighting of its Advent candles. “Each Sunday of Advent we invite a different family to come up in the entry procession and light the Advent wreath,” said pastor Father Troy Richmond.

Today, St. Ambrose University in Davenport will celebrate the feast day of its patron saint. Each year, the university celebrates Mass for the Feast of St. Ambrose and presents McMullen Awards to honor those who have made a difference for the university. This year’s Mass will begin at 10:30 a.m. in Christ the King Chapel, with the awards and a social to follow.

Monday, Dec. 2

Focus your mind on the spirit of Advent today and every day leading up to Christmas.

Bishop Zinkula recalls, “As a parish priest, I used to enjoy arriving at church early in the morning before Mass, lighting the Advent wreath candles, and spending time in prayer, reflection and meditation in the silence, solitude and darkness.”

One of his favorite Advent reflections is this poem by the late Sister Jessica Powers, a Carmelite nun from Wisconsin:

I live my Advent in the womb of Mary.
And on one night when a great star swings free
from its high mooring and walks down the sky
to be the dot above the Christus i,
I shall be born of her by blessed grace.
I wait in Mary-darkness, faith’s walled place,
with hope’s expectance of nativity.
I knew for long she carried and fed me,
guarded and loved me, though I could not see.
But only now, with inward jubilee,
I come upon earth’s most amazing knowledge:
Someone is hidden in this dark with me.

Tuesday, Dec. 3

Make confession a priority this Advent season.

Father David Brownfield, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Riverside, was commissioned by Pope Francis as a Missionary of Mercy in 2016. Fr. Brownfield offers the following reflection on confession during Advent: “Advent is about preparing for Christ’s return as well as preparing to celebrate his birthday. Confession helps with both preparations. A good confession requires humility needed for heaven. Humility helps us appreciate God’s mercy as a gift and not an entitlement. In humility, we appreciate that mercy of God doesn’t damn us for our sins but offers another opportunity for salvation. By seeking reconciliation, we recognize our equality with everyone as sinners dependent upon God’s mercy. During Advent, reconciliation can help us begin life afresh with greater zeal for Christ.”

Wednesday, Dec. 4

In today’s Gospel we hear the miracle of the seven loaves and fishes. During a cold Advent season, your time and financial
contributions can be vital to a food pantry or soup kitchen in your community.

Thursday, Dec. 5

Make an Advent prayer book with your friends and/or family!

Ask everyone to bring a small notebook and several copies of their favorite Advent prayer, Psalm or hymn. Cut and paste your favorites into your notebook!

Friday, Dec. 6

Feast Day of St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas was known for his abundant generosity to the poor. The generosity of St. Nicholas has often expressed in the giving of gifts. When making your Christmas list this year, consider asking loved ones to make a donation to a favorite program or charity on your behalf.

Saturday, Dec. 7

Feast Day of St. Ambrose

St. Ambrose was a bishop and doctor of the Catholic Church known for his pastoral skills and his love for the poor.  He is also the patron saint of St. Ambrose University in Davenport! Today, take time to pray for those seeking to join the Church, or who have left the church. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says Catholics can follow St. Ambrose’s example “just by witnessing the faith through your everyday life lived with love, honesty, hope and faith.”

Sunday, Dec. 8

On this Second Sunday of Advent, light the
second violet candle on your Advent wreath. Today, open your eyes and identify people in your life who may be suffering or feeling alone this holiday season. You could try bringing a plateful of cookies or fresh fruit to a member of your parish who is homebound. You could also try reaching out to someone in your classes who you feel could use a friend; maybe invite them to a movie night with friends.

Monday, Dec. 9:

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Take this day to honor Mary and pray for all women who are dealing with unplanned pregnancies. “Mary had an unplanned pregnancy as a teenager,” said Vicki Tyler, executive director of the Women’s Choice Center in Bettendorf. “She had many obstacles and yet she chose to be obedient to God.”

Contact your local Right to Life organization, pro-life crisis pregnancy center or Birthright to see how you can help women and families dealing with unplanned pregnancies.

Tuesday, Dec. 10

Set up a nativity scene as a way to remind guests to your home/dorm, as well as your family members, of what is really important this holiday season. Don’t put baby Jesus in the crèche yet!

At St. Joseph Parish in West Liberty participates in a unique Nativity tradition – one the pastor, Father Joseph Sia, brought to the parish a few years ago. “Beginning the first Sunday of Advent, I bring out our Nativity statues of Saints Joseph and Mary and ask parishioners from each Mass (English and Spanish) to bring home a statue and let it stay in their home for a week. I invite them to pray at home with the statue as a preparation for Christmas. They are to bring back the statue the following Sunday for another parishioner to take home. On the last Sunday of Advent, both statues are back in church and I bring out the baby Jesus statue in time for Christmas.”

Wednesday, Dec. 11

Jesse trees are a tradition dating back to medieval times to help children learn about Jesus’ heritage. Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry, explains that the Jesse tree gets its name from Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot shall come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” The Jesse tree ornaments tell the story of God in the Old Testament, connecting the Advent season with the faithfulness of God across 4,000 years of history.

Each year, Seton Catholic Elementary School in Ottumwa puts up a Jesse tree. During Advent, the school replaces the daily morning prayer and psalm reading with readings from the Old Testament. Each day, an ornament corresponding with the day’s reading is given to the students to place on the Jesse tree, located in the main hallway.

Anne Marie Amacher
A young girl and boy portray Mary and Joseph during a posada at St. Mary Parish in Davenport in this file photo.

Thursday, Dec. 12

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

This feast day celebrates Mary’s apparitions to Juan Diego in Mexico and is an important day for Hispanic Catholics. “Tradition calls for the singing of the ‘mañanitas’ at midnight to greet the Virgin on her special day,” said Father Joseph Sia, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in West Liberty. “The climax is the procession on the morning of Dec. 12 to celebrate the Eucharist and honor the Virgin of Guadalupe.”

St. Mary Parish-Davenport, St. Patrick Parish-Iowa City, St. Joseph Parish-West Liberty, St. Joseph Parish-Columbus Junction, St. James Parish-Washington, Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish-Muscatine and St. Mary Parish-Ottumwa will host events for this feast day. If you do not live near one of these parishes, you can enjoy a Mexican meal and pray the rosary with your friends or family. Posole (hominy stew) is very popular among Mexican-American Catholics during Advent.

Friday, Dec. 13

St. Lucy’s Day

Today is feast of St. Lucy (St. Lucia) whose name means “light.” Little is known about this virgin and martyr, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). St. Lucy’s Day celebrations are popular in Scandinavian countries. In Sweden, children process with candles and song and compete for the role of St. Lucia, who wears a crown of electric candles in a wreath on her head. Lucia celebrations also include treats: ginger snaps and sweet, saffron-flavored buns (lussekatter) shaped like curled-up cats with raisin eyes, according to Sweden’s official website, sweden.se. An easy Lucia-inspired treat can be made by unrolling pre-made cinnamon roll dough, braiding it into the shape of a wreath, baking according to package instructions and placing candles (wax or electric) in the pastry before serving.

Saturday, Dec. 14

St. John of the Cross

This saint was the founder of a Carmelite order and a gifted writer.
Pray for men and women religious today and all who are discerning a call to religious life. Here is a prayer from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website:

Loving God, you call all who believe in you
to grow perfect in love by following in the footsteps
of Christ your Son.
Call from among us more men and women
who will serve you as religious.
By their way of life, may they provide a convincing sign
of your Kingdom for the Church and the whole world.
We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sunday, Dec. 15

Light the pink Advent candle tonight — the Joy candle. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) describes this as a turning point of Advent, with a heightened sense of anticipation.

If putting up a Christmas tree is part of your family’s holiday traditions, offer a blessing before plugging in the lights. Here is a blessing from “Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers”:

Photo collage by Alicia Andrews
Second graders from Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City hold paper letters spelling out descriptions of Jesus from Isaiah 9:6 during the school’s K-5 Advent Mass in this file photo.

Lord our God,
we praise you for the light of creation:
the sun, the moon, and the stars of the night.
We praise you for the light of Israel:
the Law, the prophets, and the wisdom of the Scriptures.
We praise you for Jesus Christ, your Son:
he is Emmanuel, God-with-us, the Prince of Peace,
who fills us with the wonder of your love.

Lord God,
let your blessing come upon us
as we illumine this tree.
May the light and cheer it gives
be a sign of the joy that fills our hearts.
May all who delight in this tree
come to the knowledge and joy of salvation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Monday, Dec. 16

Las Posadas begin tonight for Mexican-American Catholic communities. It’s a traditional Mexican Christmas procession brought to the United States by immigrants. Las Posadas commemorate the journey that Joseph and Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of a safe refuge where Mary could give birth to the baby Jesus. Posada is the Spanish word for an inn or shelter. Celebrated nightly from Dec. 16-24, Las Posadas generally begin with praying the rosary. Between decades, songs are sung reiterating Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter. Youths take turns portraying Mary and Joseph nightly in re-enactments of the posada story. The song “Canto Para Pedir Posada” is often sung. This traditional posada song has two parts. One group sings the part of Joseph asking for shelter. The other group sings the response that there is no room for the couple. The posada culminates when an innkeeper says “yes” to Mary and Joseph seeking shelter.

Tuesday, Dec. 17

The Roman Church has been singing the “O” Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative “Come!” embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.

Today’s “O” Antiphon:

O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!

Wednesday, Dec. 18

We are reminded in Advent that Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus were refugees. Learn more about how you can support migrants and refugees here in the U.S. by getting involved in the USCCB’s C.A.R.E. program.

Today’s “O” Antiphon:
O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!

Thursday, Dec. 19

Go on the social media website Pinterest and find instructions for religious-themed Christmas ornaments and have a fun evening crafting with family and friends. Some ideas: angels, saints, the nativity scene, the holy family and the cross. Discuss the significance of the people and moments depicted in the ornaments.

Today’s “O” Antiphon:
O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!

Friday, Dec. 20

As Christmas approaches, reflect on these words from retired Pope Benedict XVI:

“Christmas is a privileged opportunity to meditate on the meaning and value of our existence. The approach of this Solemnity helps us on the one hand to reflect on the drama of history in which people, injured by sin, are perennially in search of happiness and of a fulfilling sense of life and death; and on the other, it urges us to meditate on the merciful kindness of God who came to man to communicate to him directly the Truth that saves, and to enable him to partake in his friendship and his life. Therefore let us prepare ourselves for Christmas with humility and simplicity, making ourselves ready to receive as a gift the light, joy and peace that shine from this mystery.” — General Audience, Dec. 17, 2008

Today’s “O” Antiphon:

O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!

Saturday, Dec. 21

Today is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. Ponder the times you have waited in darkness, literally or figuratively.

Holidays can be a difficult time for people experiencing loss and loneliness; pray for those suffering this time of year. “Suffering grief and loss is difficult, but during a holiday, there is often a more intense sense of loss,” said Chris McCormick Pries, clinical director of Vera French Community Mental Health Center in Davenport and a member of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf. “Everyone around us is busy, celebrating the holiday with long-standing traditions and loved ones, but for the one experiencing grief, a sense of darkness and despair can overshadow the holiday. Each holiday after a loved one’s death will bring new challenges, more memories and new questions of ‘Will it be any easier this year?’ Be encouraged that it does get easier.”

Today’s “O” Antiphon

O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the
shadow of death.

Sunday, Dec. 22

On this fourth Sunday of Advent,, light the third violet candle on your Advent wreath.  Read the Christmas story (Luke 2:1-4) together as a family and reflect on the gift
of Christ’s life.

Today’s “O” Antiphon:
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

Monday, Dec. 23

Is there someone special on your Christmas list this year? Consider buying your gifts “fair trade” this year. Fair trade partners provide safe working conditions and fair wages to workers in impoverished communities. For more information go to https://ethicaltrade.crs.org/guide/

Today’s “O” Antiphon:
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!

Tuesday, Dec. 24

Christmas offers Catholics a unique opportunity to evangelize people from their parish or community who do not regularly attend church. Father Tony Herold, vicar general for the Diocese of Davenport and pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish-Davenport, shared his thoughts on how to make the most of the opportunity. “Obviously it is important that our liturgies are done well — good music, reverent gestures, insightful homily and comfortable atmosphere. Christmas has a lot going for it since our churches are decorated so festively. But I would suggest that a large part of spreading our faith during this time of the year rests in our faithful, dedicated parishioners/disciples who go out of their way to welcome those we ordinarily may not see. We hear often that the church must evangelize, that is, share our faith and create an atmosphere of encounter. During this time of year especially, but at all times, every one of us has an opportunity and privilege to reflect Christ in the warmth and hospitality that is shown through our words and actions.”

Pope Francis has said of evangelization: “It is not the mission of only a few, but it is mine, yours and our mission.”

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on