SAU lenten reflections include messages of friendship and unity


(Members of the St. Ambrose University community in Davenport are writing reflections on daily Scripture readings during Lent. Here are a couple of reflections, edited for space. To read more reflections go to

Amy Novak, St. Ambrose University president

(March 23 reflection). My husband, Ken, and I have had the privilege of hosting various students at our house since we’ve become Ambrosians. Our guests bring such joy and vitality under our roof. We discuss school, and they tell me what would make life more wonderful at our university. Mostly, we laugh. We laugh at each other’s humbling stories. We laugh at the craziness of the card games we play, the boasts about PS4 greatness or the ridiculous ping-pong challenges. There’s also quieter time in the “lizard room” (as some students have called it, where there are lots of couches, chairs and our bearded dragon in his terrarium), where stories about life-after-graduation or even just summer plans bounce around. In all this, there’s listening. I’m talking about listening as a savoring of something beautiful. It’s listening to how each student listens and responds to the other. How we cherish a spontaneous laugh. How we hear the fear about “what’s next” in their voices, mixed with an excitement about something new. The audible landscape is in full bloom. The talking seems to be incessant. It’s colorful. It’s real. It’s full of everything.

Lindsay Steele
St. Ambrose University President Amy Novak and her husband, Ken, talk with Father George McDaniel, left, and Father Ross Epping after Mass at Christ the King Chapel on the Davenport campus last month.

Ken and I share a love for Father Greg Boyle. I just finished his new book, “The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness.” Ken’s philosophy class will read “Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship” next month. In “Whole Language,” Father Greg says we usually congratulate ourselves by taking an issue “head-on,” but he says it’s not “head-on” so much as “underneath.” Underneath means listening for what builds up to this moment. Underneath means knowing backstories and sharing vulnerabilities. Underneath is about humility and sometimes humiliation.


There are times over the years when I have said, “I am so sorry this happened,” and I mean it. Perhaps I could have influenced a different outcome if I had listened more closely. What I feel grateful about is that we have opportunities to create a place of hospitality that opens up the “underneath.” That shares from a place of trust. As a leader, I disappoint people; it is an inevitable reality of leadership. I also have met people’s needs and I hope to God (these acts) lifted them to a better place.

I am sure I often seem to take things “head on,” but I also know that an iceberg is mostly underneath and “head on” is not a good approach in those waters. As a university president, I am a continual student, and often my teachers are the students. They intersect my heart in ways of gladness and sadness. I open myself to being wounded and healed by the entire community I work beside. This is sacred work. If it wasn’t, I would not give it a second of my energy. “Holiness is a contact sport,” Father Greg explains. Amen.

Usually the evening ends with a few students sitting at the kitchen table, sharing stories that you tell when the campfire is nearly out. Ken and I joke about the line his dad used to say, “Honey, let’s go to bed so these people can go home.” The amazing thing is that our guests have made our house a home. I don’t know what I’ve “given up” this Lent, but I know what I have received.

Peter and John ran to the tomb when Mary Magdalene said Jesus was not there. They didn’t hear her say, “He’s risen!” All that time Jesus was with his friends, he was working the story from underneath. The apostles didn’t get the fact that holiness was a contact sport. Nobody could have imagined what rises from underneath, from a place of deep listening: a place open for everyone to share. It’s real. It’s full of everything. It’s a relationship. It’s what it means to be living in the Ambrose community.

Kari Miller, physical therapy, assistant professor

(March 25 reflection). “God is with us!” — Not above us, distant from us or out of reach from us. God is WITH us! How lovely of a reminder today as we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord.

We’re all faced with challenges throughout life, but we are called to demonstrate courage and vulnerability at some point in our lives. While we may feel alone during these times, take heart, God is with you and me. God is with us! God is always there, ready to encounter us in our most joyous and darkest times, ready to embrace us for who we are at our core and ready to engage with us to help us on our journey.

God is ready to encounter, embrace and engage with us. He is ready to work through us to encounter, embrace and engage with all those we meet.

How great is that? “God is with us” serves as a reminder of our calling to unite as one body in Christ! While this unity and peace may seem impossible during challenging times, imagine how impossible it must have seemed to Mary to hear that she would conceive a child. Yet, she was told, “Do not be afraid.” She responded, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

I challenge us to follow Mary’s footsteps and be not afraid of change or of the unknown as we strive for unity, encouraged by the knowledge that God is with us every step of the journey!

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