By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Sunday, Dec. 10
Light the second violet advent candle today.
For a Catholic twist on Elf on the Shelf, hide the Three Wise Men! Every night, the figurines “move” around the house searching for Jesus. You can make your own by painting doll pegs. Jennifer Brooke, director of Religious Education for St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport, will offer a “Paint like a Saint” tutorial today at the parish at 1:30 p.m. Can’t attend? Create the three wise men at home with 3.5-inch peg dolls, acrylic paint and a water-based clear coat. “Keep your details fairly simple,” Brooke advises. A full tutorial can be found on The Catholic Messenger’s website at http://bit.ly/2nbSK93.
Monday, 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.
Tuesday, 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 family.
Wednesday, 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.
Thursday, 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.
Friday, Dec. 15
Most parishes in the diocese organize or help with community programs which help make Christmas more merry for individuals and families in need. Some examples: All Saints Parish in Keokuk works with the local Ladies of Charity to prepare Christmas baskets, St. Mary Parish in Centerville works with other churches in the area to make “Operation Santa” baskets, and St. Vincent de Paul in Burlington makes Christmas bags for children experiencing food insecurity. Many parishes in the Davenport area collect gifts for Friendly House’s Christmas basket program, while the food portion of the baskets is partially funded by local CRS Rice Bowl collections. St. Patrick Parish in Marengo collects toiletries and cleaning products for baskets through Love Network. Each year, parishes in the Iowa City area help St. Joseph Parish in Hills with their Christmas party — complete with gifts, crafts and a meal — for local families in need. Additionally, many parishes offer parishioners the opportunity to donate items, gift cards or money to families in need. Research programs in your area and ask how you can help.
Saturday, 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.