Bee the Difference Month

30 Days of Prayer and Service

Bee the Difference Month invites all members of the St. Ambrose community - students, staff, faculty and alumni - to live out one of the institution's core values: service. Building on our Catholic foundation, people of all faiths and backgrounds are encouraged to participate in daily prayer or silent meditation and embrace our institutional calling to give back to the communities in which we live. Visit this page for daily prayer reflections, service opportunities and stories that highlight the lasting impact of the Ambrosian mission to bee the difference - not just this month but every day of the year. Bee the Difference Month activities include:

Bee the Difference Day: On Sunday, November 7, more than 600 students, faculty, staff and alumni will be seen raking leaves for campus neighbors, packing meals for Kids Against Hunger, cleaning up local parks and engaging in a variety of service projects. The 15th Annual Bee the Difference Day will kick off our month-long initiative and represents our collective commitment as a diocesan institution to be in, with and for our community.

30 Days of Prayer and Service: Beginning on November 7 through December 6, students, faculty and staff will provide daily prayers to encourage reflection and gratitude during the upcoming season of thanksgiving. Campus Ministry has organized a list of service opportunities for students inspired by the seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching, and the SAU Alumni Board will host events locally and nationally for the alumni community.

Giving Tuesday: On November 29, join in the global movement to give, collaborate and celebrate radical generosity. Whether you give of your time, talents or treasures, this annual #GivingTuesday commitment to doing good has the power to change our communities for the better.

Feast of St. Ambrose: Bee the Difference Month will conclude on December 7 with a campus-wide celebration of our patron saint. Students, faculty and staff will enjoy homemade breads, fresh honey (go bees!) and soup to honor Saint Ambrose of Milan and what it means to be Ambrosian.

Let's Bee the Difference

President Amy Novak invites the SAU community to participate in Bee the Difference Month: 30 Days of Prayer and Service

30 Days of Service

Inspired by Catholic Social Teachings

At SAU, service is not just something we do - it's who we are at our core. Our students, faculty, staff and alumni volunteer thousands of hours that translate into real change in the communities in which we live and learn. Key categories of service opportunities available to the campus throughout Bee the Difference Month, inspired by the seven themes of Catholic Social Teachings, include:

  • Community: opportunities to build a stronger St. Ambrose, Davenport, Quad Cities and beyond!
  • Creation: opportunities to care for plants, animals and our environment.
  • Life: opportunities to provide food, clothing and shelter, the essentials we all need to survive.
  • Solidarity: opportunities to stand by and support those who are marginalized and oppressed.
  • Youth: opportunities to support at-risk youth.
For Students, Faculty and Staff

All members of the campus community are encouraged to participate in the 30 days of prayer and service. Here's how students, faculty and staff can get involved:

  • Join a team and participate in Bee the Difference Day 
  • Commit to reading the daily prayer reflections or spending a few moments of silence reflecting on life's blessings
  • View the Campus Ministries list of service opportunities and sign up for projects that align with your passions
  • Track your impact! Report all service hours completed November 6 through December 7 by completing this survey

Don't forget to share photos of your events and service on social media using #BeeTheDifferenceMonth!

For Alumni

SAU alumni near and far are invited to participate in Bee the Difference Month! Here's how you can get involved:

  • Join fellow alums in your area at a scheduled service event or choose your own
  • Give the gift of an Ambrose education on Giving Tuesday
  • Donate to the campus Career Closet and help students make a great first impression
  • Commit to reading the daily prayer reflections
  • Report all service hours completed November 6 through December 7 and help us track our impact throughout the month

Please visit the alumni special events page for more details. Don't forget to share what you're up to on social media with #BeeTheDifferenceMonth!

30 Days of Prayer

Daily Prayer Reflections

The St. Ambrose community is called to join together in daily prayer throughout Bee the Difference Month. Reflections will be written by President Amy Novak, students, faculty and staff throughout the month to keep our focus and faith front of mind.

Invitation Prayer from President Novak

Saturday, November 5

Amy Novak, President of St. Ambrose University

Ambrosians,

I am excited to kick off our thirty-days of prayer and service, starting with Bee the Difference Day (tomorrow) and culminating on the Feast of St. Ambrose, December 7th!

As the days of autumn move into winter, the sun sets sooner, and we miss the lingering orange evening skies of October, let's use this time to come together to be the Light to each other and Light to our world.

St. Ambrose of Milan knew how to unlock that illumination that is inside of each of our souls. He encouraged:
"Let your door stand open to receive Him,
unlock your soul to Him, offer Him a welcome in your mind...
Throw wide the gate of your heart, 
stand before the sun of the everlasting light!"

Let us take this time to be intentional, with our relationships to others and God.

Let us see where a simple act of kindness sheds Light in a growing twilight. Let us throw wide the gates of our hearts to welcome those whom we may have never seen before on the outskirts of our circle of familiarity. Let us cherish each other as a unique community, bonded together with a mission of holistic formation. Let us offer words and actions of healing to those wounded in our world. Let us offer nourishment and hospitality as a family of fellow travelers on the eternal road, who can break bread together and enjoy a warm bowl of soup. Let us celebrate God's blessings and caring guidance of St. Ambrose who assured us that when we "offer Him a welcome in [our] mind, then [we] will see the riches of simplicity, the treasure of pease, and the joy of grace."

Let us serve, pray, celebrate and throw wide the gates of our hearts!
Let us be Ambrosians, today and every day. 

Bee the Difference Day Reflection

Sunday, November 6

Patrick Schmadeke, Class of 2013

Death and life are in constant relationship. Autumn, in all its beauty, is also a season of death: flowers wilt and leaves fall, foliage decays. Eventually, everything freezes over. Any yet, spring will come again. Seasons cycle in a constant death-life relationship.

"All or alive." This is Jesus' provocative and startling admonition to the Sadducees in today's gospel. The Sadducees doubt the resurrection and question Jesus, but Jesus isn't going to get backed into a corner. The dead will rise. We will rise. But the recurrection is never really about us. How could it be? It is about a God, a God of the living.

To be Ambrosian is to be fully alive, to experience the resurrection each day. It is to approach the world in a particular way: a way of service, justice, and truth. It is to be agents of love in service of God's kingdom in our midst. This work is never our own, and it is never complete. It is God's work, and we are along for the ride.

The final vestiges of fall remain now. God's creation is instructive. In the death-life relationship, it is always death that leads to life. Often, we get in the way of new life being born within us. What are you holding onto that is getting in the way of God's love for you? What are you holding onto that is getting in the way of God's love for others? Let those die, and discover the joy of the gospel. In this season, learn from the leaves. Let go of whatever you are holding onto. And keep your eyes trained on the kingdom.

Day 1

Monday, November 7

Ryan Saddler, Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

What an uplifting message regarding the power of our faith. Paul's message to Titus as a son was uplifting and encouraging. I love how Paul exhorts Titus by calling him, "my true child in our common faith." Titus was given specific instructions on what to look for as he appointed presbyters or elders in every town. These presbyters were to be able to both encourage the faithful believers through sound doctrine and refute or contest those who opposed the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Have you ever had your faith challenged while living for the Lord? I've had events happen in my life where my faith has been shaken to the core, but only to be reminded that I am the Lord's, "the maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them and he remains faithful forever" (Psalm 146:6). I find refuge in acknowledging His greatness. I find inner joy and peace in knowing that I belong to Him, the one who owns everything. I believe God loves our ability to shine through adversity. In fact, we are instructed that dangers and traps that cause us to sing will be upon our faith journey, but woe unto them through whom they occur. I never want to be that person that causes anyone else to stumble into sin. We must constantly be on guard and ready to converse with those who sin against us and ready to forgive those who repent - a troubling concept I know first-hand. However, I love the realness of the Apostles when Jesus gave them this instruction. In a sense of wonder, I hear them asking, how am I going to actually forgive someone who was offended me all day long? Lord, increase our faith, was the simple request. Why, because we know that without faith, it is impossible to please God (He. 11:6a). It's encouraging to know that even with a faith the size of a mustard seed, we are equipped with a powerful faith that can uproot any diversity facing us today or in the future.

Let's continue to pray as did the Apostles, Lord, increase our faith!

Day 2

Tuesday, November 8

Jana Seutter, Senior Assistant, President's Office

Dear Ambrosians,

Today’s reading from Timothy 2 is about modeling behavior. Timothy provides a directive that “older” men and women are to be role models on how to live a loving and godly life through words and deeds to the younger generation.

While I agree with Timothy on this “older to younger” modeling approach, I remind myself to be open to learn from those whom I perceive as less experienced.

I have been blessed to have sweet and contemplative conversations with my 9-year friend from Hope at the Brick House. While this young lady has yet to reach middle school, she provides me with sage words of wisdom that make me pause and rethink my world view and perceptions. When I am with her, she is my teacher who is sound in faith and love.

Students are also role models for me. I have witnessed students channel energy to community service, show compassion to others, and exhibit tenacity and resilience when faced with unforeseen barriers. Unknowingly they are a witness to Christ in their acts of devotion to others and endurance to their cause.

Indeed, the call to be a role model shouldn’t be dictated by age. At the end of this reading, Timothy tells us that Jesus wants us to be His people, eager to do what is good. Everyday we have opportunities to show the world that we are His people.

Dear God, help us to be good role models to each other.

Day 3

Wednesday, November 9

Rylie Steinkamp, Class of 2025

In the middle of my senior year of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. If people asked, I’d mention working in healthcare or something related to that but in reality, all I knew was that I was called by Christ to serve others. I just wasn’t sure how. By the mercy of God, I decided to visit St. Ambrose on a whim. Almost immediately, I was drawn in by the welcoming and loving atmosphere that I found walking around campus here. Not only that, but I was astonished by the emphasis placed on serving others whether that be on campus or in the surrounding community. By the end of my visit, I knew that God was calling me to come to St. Ambrose. I wasn’t really sure why, but I was certain that this was where I was meant to be.

Throughout my freshman year, I was blessed with countless opportunities to learn exactly what it meant to be an Ambrosian. The St. Ambrose community stresses the importance of welcoming others, fighting for social justice, and serving all of God’s children. One of the reasons I feel that God brought me to Ambrose was because of its firm foundation in Christ. This point is emphasized in today’s second reading when St. Paul says, “For no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ.” Our faith in God is the foundation for all things Ambrosian.

The Ambrosian spirit is also reflected in today’s Gospel. When Jesus arrives at the temple in Jerusalem, He discovers vendors that are mistreating the holy place. We see Jesus grow angry as He fights for the temple to be properly respected. As members of the St. Ambrose community, we are filled with zeal to fight for what is right when we notice injustices in our society, just as Jesus Christ himself did.

I still only have a slight clue of what I want to do with my life, but being a student at St. Ambrose has invited and inspired me to accept my call to love and serve others. Everyday I’m given the opportunity to live out exactly what it means to be an Ambrosian whether that be seeking truth, fighting for justice, or serving my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Day 4

Thursday, November 10

Miranda Nelp, Class of 2005

The kingdom is God’s reign in your personal journey. It is your individual adventure and path.

There are steps taken each and every day to lead you to your future as a beloved child of God. The steps will be building blocks to leading you to the personal path God has made specifically for your special life. Each and every step taken results in your Christian journey. Our God is always with us and by our side through each and every situation.

There is not one thing you do that makes you a shiny Christian. But there is also not one sin that decreases his love for you or casts out. This will never happen, as God is for us and not against us.

Keeping your eyes and ears focused on the power of his words makes your physical course easier, your burdens light. But this does not come without many distractions: naysayers, times of misguidance. The more important piece to keep with you is your knowledge on how much love our God has for every person.

Day 5

Friday, November 11

Gene Bechen, Director of the School of Education

The readings call us to ask the question, "What if I am the one left behind?" No one wants to be left behind. For He tells us, "Where there's death, there is the vulture."

Can we interpret this to mean where there is no movement, there is death? We must each ask ourselves, "What is my purpose at St. Ambrose University?" Do we recognize Christ moving, being, through our work with each other? The Lord is ready to guide us.  Do not be deceived.  There are many messages out there that tempt us to stray.  Remain in the teaching of Christ so we may walk according to his commandments. We are all here at St. Ambrose to fulfill God's purpose. Will you be one to move in the Lord or be left behind??

Day 6

Saturday, November 12

Ann Garton, Professor of Nursing

As I reflect on this week's scripture, I think about our journey here at SAU, and what this scripture means as an Ambrosian.

While on an educational journey, our goal is to obtain a degree and pursue a profession. Often, we miss the point of learning to find deeper truths and a better understanding of selves and others. As an Ambrosian, I believe part of our journey together is to understand how we, individually and collectively, work to better root our community in truth, justice, and service.

How we organize our society directly affects the capacity of individuals to grow in a community. No matter our chosen path, we can engage in work to strengthen human dignity in our community. By engaging in our Ambrosian values, we support this idea at the individual, community and global level. Each of us engaging at the level that we are able.

As lifelong learners, we set out to understand what it truly means to be human. We seek to embrace the truths of the world and seek ethical ways of attaining these truths. As we search for these truths, we recognize our responsibility to advocate for a just world. Human dignity is a God-given right and one that needs to be protected. As members of a global society, we each have a responsibility to protect this for all.

As an Ambrosian, we use our knowledge, talents, and skills in service to others. This work is in our daily lives no matter where we are in our journey. Moreover, as we grow in our truths, knowledge, and skills, we should find ourselves walking in solidarity to further our collective pursuit of social justice.

Day 7

Sunday, November 13

Lisa Haverkamp, Class of 2010, 2012

"You know how one must imitate us." 

Paul comes off as a bit of an angry dad in our second reading today, lecturing the early Christians for acting in ways that do not live up to his standards and example. As someone who goes to Mass every week with a three-year-old, I can relate. I'm sure we can all remember being reprimanded by our parents for embarrassing the family in public, and some of us have found ourselves on the other side of this dynamic already. But clearly, learning how to behave, especially when those behaviors reflect a larger group, is an arduous process. How do we act, when we know we're representing our family, or school, or employer, or church? Are there not many ways to do this well? How do we recognize each other in the variety?

An easy example comes from my job as a Physical Therapist. Whenever I have had a PT student from St. Ambrose, I've always had the reassurance that we speak the same professional language. Students from other schools have much to offer as well, but I have known some to be too attached to techniques or methods that don't always translate well to real life, and they can be resistant to let go of their ideologies. I expect (and most often find) Ambrose students to be teachable, flexible, and thoughtful. To appreciate nuance and not be married to one idea. These traits are valuable outside of our profession as well-being reflective and creative while serving real people instead of hypothetical ideas. These behaviors allow for the beauty of diverse thought while honoring foundational truths. These actions are rooted in being Ambrosian and may even make Paul proud, but most importantly, they imitate Christ, our ultimate example.

Day 8

Monday, November 14

Morgan Miller, Class of 2025

Today's Gospel is the parable of the blind man. This is one of those passages that I have permanently bookmarked because I can keep coming back to it and finding something new. It's a comforting story for me, but also very convicting. 

The blind man is introduced in a very vulnerable position. He is on display for all of the travelers to see, yet he's not afraid to be among people. The posture of sitting on the road is one of humility, coupled with the action of begging. Not to mention, he is blind. He could easily be tricked by those around him. 

When they tell him that Jesus is coming, he trusts them, and with courage, shouts out to Jesus. Not only once, but several times. He keeps calling, keeps knocking, keeps seeking until he is heard. This is such a powerful reminder for us to ask God for things and be persistent in our requests. 

As if the audacity to call out to Jesus wasn't enough, he also had to withstand the criticism of those around him, telling him to be quiet. He was looked at as a nobody, not even worthy enough to be named in the story. The blind man might not have had sight, but he had the courage that they did not.

It's good to reflect on who's side you would have been here. How many times have we deemed others unworthy or silenced them when we don't even know who they are? How many people have we immediately shut down because of their appearance or reputation? Even as believers, it is so easy to cast judgment on others and follow the crowd. We forget that our faith is supposed to be radical. It's often not the popular choice. And if done right, it's almost always scary.

Being blind, in this instance, might have actually helped him. The blind man lived in literal darkness, so everything required faith and trust. He made his peace with the darkness long ago. Most of us haven't. We live in the light, avoiding darkness at all costs. We fear the darkness and the unknown things that lie in it. We stay where we can see, and everything is familiar, and we aren't afraid. How many of us would have seen Jesus on the road that day and walked right by? How many of us would have been too scared to say anything, or been so absorbed in ourselves that we didn't even notice? Instead, the blind man didn't have to see Jesus to believe; he just had to trust the light that Jesus was.

As Jesus approaches the blind man, I can only imagine the attraction and energy in the air. Jesus asks him, "What do you want me to do for you?" This is the question I keep coming back to. It's so inviting, so gentle, so loving. It's like a father asking a child, "How can I help?", or "What can I do to make it better?". He is letting the blind man lead. He wants the blind man to feel his gaze and receive his attention. Jesus is listening. This man has been told again and again that he's not worthy of anyone's attention. But Jesus thinks he is worth it. And that means everything.

It's such a deeply personal encounter because it reveals the most vulnerable part of the blind man. His answer, of course, is simple--he wants to see. But what about us? What does our heart desire? When was the last time you asked that question? When was the last time you asked God?

Immediately, his request is granted, and the man is given his sight. He is let out of the darkness, and the first thing he sees is the face of Jesus. How incredibly beautiful. The man is now freed, his faith is affirmed, and he is a new creation. The man uses his freedom to follow his Savior with complete abandonment. There's no saying goodbye or packing up his belongings, he just goes.

The blind man's story shows us that if we want to find fulfillment and meaning in our lives, we need to be searching for it. We aren't going to go anywhere if we don't have a direction in mind. We need to be paying attention, facing challenges, and being scared. We can't physically see the person of Jesus today, but we can have the faith to believe in Him and His miracles. We can remain in His Eucharistic presence. We can still persist in calling out to Him, over and over, until we are heard. And we can still recklessly abandon the world to get up and follow Him. It's up to us. Jesus is waiting for us to lead. What will we ask Him for? Where shall we go? What do our hearts desire?

Day 9

Tuesday, November 15

Maureen McNulty Valvassori, Class of 1981

Most everyone knows the story of Zacchaeus, today's Gospel reading, Luke 19:1-10.  Zacchaeus hears Jesus is passing his way. Lacking in height, Zacchaeus climbs a Sycamore tree so he can see Jesus over the large crowd. From a small guy, we are about to learn some big lessons!

What I love about this Gospel is Jesus spontaneously calls to Zacchaeus and in turn, Zacchaeus quickly responds. Jesus then receives Zacchaeus "WITH JOY". It's well known throughout Jericho that Zacchaeus is a sinner. Yet, Jesus boldly, publicly and joyfully connects with this evil tax collector. Zacchaeus is so moved by this gesture he repents, promising half of his possessions to the poor and restitution to anyone he has cheated.

What I know now, that I didn't fully appreciate as a student, is that Saint Ambrose, like Zacchaeus, doubted his worthiness. Overcoming his self-doubt and with great faith, Ambrose became a profound spiritual leader and advocate of social justice.

So, what are the big lessons I learned from Zacchaeus?
Have I ever overcome a challenge or obstacle while seeking Jesus?
Like Zacchaeus, when I hear Jesus do I respond quickly, if at all?
When was the last time I publicly righted a wrong?
Do I recognize that Jesus JOYFULLY receives me ALWAYS, despite my shortcomings and imperfections?

A wonderful priest I know once said, "No matter how many steps I may take to walk away from God, it only takes one step to get back." Like Zacchaeus and St. Ambrose, let us overcome our self-doubt and with great faith, be the difference we are called to be.

Day 10

Wednesday, November 16

Tracy Schuster-Matlock, Associate Vice President for Assessment & Institutional Research
"For it is in giving that we receive."  - St. Francis of Assisi

I've heard this phrase many times in my life. I've heard it during mass in the context of sharing Christ's gifts and was reminded of it again as I read today's gospel.  I've heard this notion from my parents who taught me from a young age to be grateful for what I have and to share with those in need. I've heard it from my friends over the years as they remind me of the gifts I have to share, especially when I struggle to see them.  I've heard it from Ambrosians, like you, who have helped me to understand the justice (and the privilege) that surrounds giving.  I am reminded of it again today, especially in our month of prayer and service. 

So, during this month and leading up to the Feast of Saint Ambrose on December 7th, I am challenging myself daily (sometimes rising to the challenge and sometimes failing, of course) to reflect humbly upon giving.  Perhaps you want to join me?  How do we give of ourselves?  How do we receive others who share with us? Is it something tangible?  Is it our time?  Our wisdom?  Our words?  Our patience and grace? Our commitment to justice? 

Let's open our hearts to give, and prepare to be enlightened by God's gifts that we will receive in return.

Day 11

Thursday, November 17

Connor Obert, Class of 2017, 2019

In the gospel for today (LK 19:41-44) Jesus is getting closer to his passion and death and we hear the words, "As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, 'if this day you only knew what makes for peace but now it is hidden from your eyes.'

Christ's heart breaks for those that are going to persecute him. For those whose hearts are hardened and cannot hear his message of love and mercy and so he weeps. He sees how the people of his day are looking for peace in the wrong places.

Today we find ourselves in a similar position. We have a God-sized hole that we are constantly trying to fill and Christ's heart breaks when we don't look to him in loving trust. So often in our lives, we struggle to believe that God looks to us and sees our value and wants us to live life more abundantly (John 10:10).

We don't trust the God who created the universe to know what we need. We don't know "what makes for peace" and we try to fill our lives with the things we think will make us happy, but we often walk away feeling unsatisfied. Fortunately, Christ has revealed the true source of peace. 
As Christ carried the cross to Golgotha, he saw things from the eternal perspective. He saw that his suffering had purpose and that it would lead to the resurrection. He knew that if he followed his Father's will he would destroy death itself and free us from the fear of death. He knew that following his Father's will would bring the greatest good out of the worst evil. 

With this, he reveals that our peace can only be found in him. He displays that we must seek to follow in his steps and to do His Father's will and ultimately, we will find our peace.

Day 12

Friday, November 18

Ken Novak, Adjunct Professor, Philosophy Department

Life is tension.

Not just "stress", but the pulling of paradoxical opposites.  Sinner and saint.  Lost and found.  Die to live.  Last shall be first.  Release to gain.
In today's first reading the apostle John is told to eat a scroll.  Not the preferred method of increasing fiber in our diets.  Of course, this works on multiple levels, but the point of emphasis for our reflection is that "it will taste as sweet as honey" and "it will turn your stomach sour."

If we could order our scroll over an app we would check the "non-souring stomach" option. We would prefer "this" not "that." Give us a multiple-choice test please, with an obvious answer. Suggest for me the best route with no chance of "recalculating ... recalculating." I like what Father Greg Boyle says about the best route.  Boyle works with ex-gang members in LA.  They tell him that they "use to be on the bad path" but now "they are on the good path."  Father Greg says that's a "natural thing to say" but then drops the hammer of wisdom: "I don't think there are two paths.  There is only the Good Journey.  We are never on any other path but that one" (Barking to the Choir, 112).

If we want to prophesy, if we want to speak Truth into our world, then it's best to drop the moral outrage.  We must let go of the notion that "those people" are not on The Way, the Good Journey.
We are not walking to eternity; we are already on the eternal path.

There's no recalculating that.

The Church says we are all called to be prophets:  sweet as honey and sour on the stomach. Focus just on the sweet, and we bring too much of our ego. Focus on the sour, and we stay in our corner afraid of the discomfort. Life is tension because we want a decision. We want what is the right answer. Check the gospels, when people ask Jesus a question. They never get, "Oh . . . it's option "C". Jesus actually serves back another question, or a confusing parable, or right-back-at-ya "you figure it out." Maybe the poet Rainer Marie Rilke surmised Jesus's seeming refusal for the "answer key" when he advised a young man, "Live the questions."

Keep stepping.
One Good Journey to all the Above.

Day 13

Saturday, November 19

Sarah Eikleberry, Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology

When I was young, the concept of belonging in a commuity evoked images of Norman Rockwell paintings like Saying Grace (1951). In a crowded restaurant, a woman and young boy bow their heads and silently pray. Their quest gesture does not go unnoticed by those around them, but there is no indication that it will be met with noise, disdain, or disrespect. The table I ate at growing up was a little more like Dewey vs. Truman (1948). Newspapers in hand, loud arguments, nervous dogs, and overdone toast were a bit more our speed. Of course, we said prayers here and there, but the staid, solemn, and reflective times that were reminiscent of either of my parents' mass or church services felt extremely removed from the effervescent energy experiend at our kitchen table, in our car, or on the driveway. As a kid I fully bought into the notion that there was a later. This later, maybe sometimes I thought of it as heaven, an afterlife, maybe event high school. It was far away, full of gold, pearls, clouds and trendy clothes. The profane world was so far from it. In my lifetime, my neighbors have witnessed the fall of the Berlin wall, the collapse of the World Trade Center, a breach of the US capitol, and some pretty serious Wall Street stumbles. I've never known extreme poverty and was raised in a secure and loving environment. Despite my privilege, I felt very far away from that perfect later. How could there be something waiting that was gilded and plush while I became more aware of and began experiences new injustices in the world? I wasn't sure that I really liked it very much, and I certainly didn't know how to do anything about that. I needed someone to teach me how to learn, conncet, and work to dismantle what was wrong and build something that resembled that perfect later. Fortunately, I've encountered some amazing teachers, architects, and demolition experts while I've lived in both Iowa City and the Quad Cities. They've taught me that the work towards human liberation cannot always be measured in massive wins or events that become part of a grand historical record. It's in the interstitial moments and spaces where we use our voices, our talents, and our collective powers to organize, intervene, lift one another up, and work to loosen, if not ultimately break the chains of injustice that shape this earthly plane. I don't really think about later anymore. I mean there may well be one, but part of being Ambrosian means I keep myself grounded here, I plant and sow small seeds now. While winds of change fell trees, those tiny seeds, somethings very discreetly, blow around and take root. Those roots, those little blooms to come, that's the later that I care about.

Day 14

Sunday, November 20

Tammy Norcross-Reiztler, Director of Campus Ministry

Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King. When I think of a King, I think of the monarchy in England and all its riches, fancy garments, castles, palaces and formal dinner parties. But that's not the kind of king we are remembering and celebrating today. This Feast invites us to look at Jesus as a King who serves his people with radical, all powerful compassion and love, not one who dominates or lords it over people. Jesus doesn't want to control us; he wants to save us.

In the Scriptures we see many clues about Jesus' unique and radical kingship. He's a king who dines with the marginalized, who washes the feet of others, who feeds the hungry, who listens with compassion and forgives over and over again. He is a King who takes time in the desert or apart from others to pray to God. In his kingdom, all are welcome. While hanging on the cross, he promises paradise to the criminal hanging beside him. He is indeed a very different kind of king.

As King and ruler of our lives, Jesus invites us to join him in bringing about His Kingdom. We honor our King by studying his Word and imitating his actions. Hopefully our commitment to 30 days of prayer and services gives us a glimpse of our crucified King in the faces of the broken and suffering people we encounter. In Matthew 25:40 we read, "And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these lease brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

Day 15

Monday, November 21

Brynn Beenblossom, Class of 2025

The gospel today is incredibly convicting. 

Jesus says, "I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood."

How often do we as Christians find ourselves putting in an embarrassingly little amount of our time, talents, and treasures into our faith? Probably more often than we would like to admit. Our lives can get crazy busy, bouncing from one event to another, and it can be easy to put our faith on the back burner. Jesus gave his life for us, so we should be living our life for Him. This will look difference for everyone, as each one of us is on our own journey. As a college student, the giving of my gifts will look different than that of my parents, which will look different than that of our friends and family. With that being said, nothing of our time, talents, or treasures is overlooked by God. This month of prayer and service is a great time to begin giving our lives to God and I pray that we can go on this journey together.

Day 16

Tuesday, November 22

Joe Norris, Class of 2012

“Lord, Lord, open the door for us!”

In the Gospel reading for today’s memorial of Saint Cecilia, Jesus shares the parable of ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet a bridegroom for a wedding feast. Five brought extra oil and supplies with them, and five did not. In the end the five who were prepared with extra oil were admitted to the feast. The five who did not come prepared had to go and get more oil, then upon their return requested admission proclaiming “Lord, Lord, open the door for us!” But the bridegroom turned them away, these five were not admitted. As I reflect on this parable, I am moved to consider what this parable might look like if we adapted it into a play for the Galvin Fine Arts Center, to model the values and beauty of our Ambrosian Community. It might go something like this...

In the first act the stage is set. Five Ambrosians and five strangers are preparing to go to the celebration. The Ambrosians pack some extra supplies - just in case an opportunity to help someone might arise along the way. As Ambrosians, we are formed from our first moments on campus to be prepared for God to call us into His service. We have witnessed countless acts of preparation and service during this Bee the Difference Month and throughout our storied history. Being prepared to say “Yes” to God and to serve those in need, even in the midst of the excitement and anticipation of being admitted to a great celebration, is what being an Ambrosian looks like to me.

The five Ambrosians and five strangers arrive at the celebration at the same time. They make quick friends. As the strangers’ oil begins to run out, they ask the Ambrosians to go with them to get more oil for their lamps. The Ambrosians readily agree to assist. They give the strangers some of their own oil to make it through the journey, and then leave with the strangers to obtain the needed supplies. Accompanying those most in need with mercy and compassion is what being an Ambrosian looks like to me.

The second act is the interaction with the bridegroom. All ten return to the feast having become friends along the way, and even added another ten strangers to their group. It is difficult at this point to differentiate between the Ambrosians and the strangers. The bridegroom comes out and is surprised by how many are waiting to enter the celebration. He proclaims only the Ambrosians can come to the party, intending to only admit the original five, turning the rest away. But the original Ambrosians advocate for their new friends, explaining, “these, too, are Ambrosians!” They continue to the point of insisting that the others be admitted without them. Moved by their compassion and advocacy, the bridegroom relents and admits all to his feast. Striving for justice and truth and advocating for systemic change in the face of injustice is what being an Ambrosian looks like to me.

In the final act, they pass the evening sharing stories, singing and enjoying the company of one another. As the party comes to an end the new friends exchange information, agree on a time and place to meet for brunch the next day, and then go on their way. The original five Ambrosians are filled with joy, having made new friends and expanded God’s kingdom through their genuine pursuit of justice and truth. Being welcoming and inviting, and always looking to share the love of Christ that binds us together with those we encounter along the way is what being an Ambrosian looks like to me.

What does being an Ambrosian look like to you?

Let us join in prayer today, that God will continue to bless us and call us closer to him. That He will teach us what is right and just, so that we may be models of HIs love and mercy in our communities. When we approach the Heavenly Banquet with all of the friends and neighbors we have welcomed into our Ambrosian community along the way, may we all shout together in joyful song, “Lord, Lord open the door for us!”

Day 17

Wednesday, November 23

Nicky Gant, Coordinator of Service & Justice

Jesus never said Christianity would be easy.

In today’s gospel (Luke 21 12-19), he warns a crowd about the extreme persecution, betrayal and adversity they would experience for following him, including death for some. “You will be hated by all because of my name,” He declares.

That doesn’t sound like the good news of Jesus Christ that anyone would want to hear. And yet, many continued to follow him, and many continue to follow him today.

Along with this dire warning, Jesus encourages us not to worry or even prepare a defense for ourselves. He promises to provide the wisdom and words we need, when we need them - keeping our best interests at heart, along with God’s. “Not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.”

That is very good news.

Even when life is crashing down all around us and our worst fears are coming true, Jesus is with us - strengthening us, supporting us, protecting the most essential part of us, and inviting us to participate in his mighty work of salvation for the sake of those who don’t know him yet.

Today, I pray you can experience Christ’s love in such a tangible way that you would be willing to follow him through every trial and that you would have the grace to testify of his great love, when you are called to do so.

Day 18

Thursday, November 24

Fr. Ross Epping, University Chaplain

I sat down weeks ago to write this reflection. Had it finished, wrapped up neatly, ready to go. But it all seemed a bit trivial in the face of what happened in the midst of our Ambrosian community this week. The death of Patrick Torrey is devastating, a profound loss that reaches far beyond the borders of our campus. There is something both paradoxical and appropriate about celebrating Thanksgiving now - that we should take time in the midst of such sadness and loss to prepare for a feast, and share our thanks. Not easy, far from it.

This is the sixth Thanksgiving I celebrate as a priest. And as I sit down to rewrite this reflection, I glance back at all that has happened since my first one - lingering deaths and tragically quick ones, old marriages and new ones speeding to an end, faces of starving children pleading from magazine covers, global pandemics. A number of years ago, I had to bury a little boy in Bettendorf. He was seven. It broke my heart. Before the Funeral Mass, my pastor said to me three things: You are here to give thanks for his life. You are here to tell him goodbye. You are here to gift him over to God.

We are here to give thanks for his life, I thought. How strange.

He is dead at seven, and we are here to give thanks for his life. Not to argue that it should have been longer, or easier, or different. But to give thanks for what there was of it, to be glad we knew him, and to say a blessing over as much life as he had before gifting him to God. I gave up my notions then of the way life ought to be and recognized something else. There is loss and sadness in this life for all sorts of reasons. But there is never a loss of the love of God. And in between the cracks of that great truth there are a thousand reasons to say thank you to God and to one another, for the gift of every moment of life and love in this world, and in the next.

“It is forbidden,” says Jewish law, “to taste this world without a blessing.”

This is what I am reminded of each time I celebrate Mass: where we give thanks for the life, and death, and life of Jesus Christ.

In that space, we do not bless the good parts and curse the rest. Whenever we gather for Eucharist, for Thanksgiving, what we toast is the whole of our Lord’s life: the defeats along with the victories, the gentle birth alongside the crucifixion, the sleepless night in Gethsemane alongside the empty tomb of Easter. Because if we look back, we believe that it is all a single tapestry. And the removal of a single thread diminishes the whole of creation.

Our challenge this Thanksgiving Day is to see our own lives the same way - to learn how to give thanks not only for the mixed blessings of Christ’s life, but also for our own. To say “thank you” for the whole mess. The things we welcome as well as the things we would risk our souls to escape.

“Thanks be to God,” we say, because we believe that God is somewhere to be found in everything that happens to us.

“Thanks be to God,” we say, because we believe that the cords of God’s love are never severed, however dark our path through life may sometimes be.

Today, we embrace all that we have ever been and done, and recognize our lives as sacraments, outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual gift. Every single occurrence of our lives is an invitation to draw closer to God and one another.

Whether we are joined by friends and family or we find our tables a little emptier this year, whether we look forward to a five-course feast or a pizza from down the road - God goes with us. And there is no corner of our lives that he does not inhabit.

Day 19

Friday, November 25

Fabian Alonzo, Graduate Assistant, Campus Ministry

In revelations, John describes the victory over death and evil to which the serpent was cast into the abyss, and he witnessed those who had passed before who had kept the faith and were martyred for their beliefs. Every person who followed God has been restored and rescued while the Devil was cast out so he may have no hold, allowing God to create a new heaven. This is promised to those who believe in Him.

The message in revelations that stood out to me in the reading was how the decisions of my life as a college student ultimately influence my adult career and my relationship with God. I feel being a part of Campus Ministry here at Saint Ambrose has helped me reflect deeper into my own faith by showing me what it means to follow Christ. In my role in Campus Ministry I take part in many service opportunities which allow me to serve others in my community. This work has allowed me to find God in these small moments that make me thankful for the strong community of faith on campus, and that push me to serve others the way Jesus does.

Day 20

Saturday, November 26

Ellie VanLandschoot, Class of 2023

This gospel is a great reminder of how we should be living our everyday lives. Does your heart worry so much that you turn away from what Jesus is truly asking you to do? There are many temptations that can lead us down the wrong path and lead us astray from the way that God wants us to live. The many glamorous aspects in our lives include money and the power that we hold in our lives. My prayer for all of you is that you can practice control and say no to temptations that could diminish your bond from our Lord, Jesus Christ and the life that He has planned for us. Instead of turning away from our worries and the obstacles in life, acknowledge the strength you have that comes from the grace of God.

To be an Ambrosian means that you are a member of this community rooted in justice, truth, and service to the Kingdom and local community. I encourage you all to embrace with open arms the people you see, talk about, and listen to all around this campus community. In every conversation you have, it should be rooted in Christ so we can build the Kingdom of God together. It doesn’t matter how much money people have, it’s about loving them for who they are. What a great joy it is to be in this community with the loving presence of the Lord all around.

Day 21

Sunday, November 27

Fr. Bud Grant, Professor of Theology

Aeterne rerum conditor:

Aeterne rerum conditor
Noctem diemque qui regis
Et temporum das tempora
Ut aleves fastidium

Praeco diei iam sonat
Noctis profundae pervigil,
Nocterna lux viantibus
A nocte noctem segregans.

Tu lux refulge sensibus
Mentisque somnum discute,
Te nostra vox primum sonet
Et ore psallamus tibi

Eternal Creator of all that is
Who rules both night and day,
give presence to the present,
That you might alleviate ennui.

The herald of the day already calls out
Keeping vigil through the depth of night
A night-light for travelers
Dividing night from night

You, Oh Light, dazzle the senses
And wipe sleep from the mind
May our first utterance announce You
And with prayer sing to You

It seems appropriate for Ambrosians to begin Advent with one of our Patron’s hymns. Aeterne Rerum Conditor is especially fitting, both for the season and for the readings of this day, which include Isaiah’s beautiful promise of the days to come and his invitation “let us walk in the light of the Lord!” Then we have Paul’s encouragement that ‘the night is advanced, the day draws near, now is the hour,’ and Matthew’s admonition: ‘the night is far spent, the day is coming, we do not know the hour.’ These three voices reverberate back and forth, echoing and enhancing one another in polyphonic images of night, dawn, light, day, an hour to come, this hour…eternity in the present moment.

Ambrose’ hymn plucks the chords and playfully teases out the contrasts among these images, harmonizing with them: day and night, night divided, night-light, heralding light, light dazzling. His song assures us of the omnipresent presence of Christ.

That’s the thing about Ambrose. In a time of darkness and dread he gathers people in holy silence. He organizes us stereophonically, leads us in his song-prayers and with us keeps confident vigil for the coming dawn. I mean this quite literally. It was the late winter of 385. The imperial court had just tried to seize a church, arrest citizens, and impose heavy fines. Ambrose himself was physically threatened. Men, women, and children, in response, gathered in the city’s basilicas, keeping watch day and night. Ambrose, moving among them, alleviating their worries, arranged them into two groups and got them singing his own hymns antiphonally, dividing the night from night with the supernal light of high-chant. Their shared experience of conviction and fear, of fatigue and courage, bonded Ambose’s people into a choir, singing as if of one mind with one voice. I imagine them, hands clasped in neighbor’s hands, eyes on the vigil candles illumining their leader, their inspiration, their light, and He reflecting back that light, that warmth, that assurance. But Ambrose made this clear: he was not that “Light shining in our senses,” Christ was and is and always.

In Splendor Paternae Gloriae, another Ambrosian hymn, we find his beautiful phrase “Lux Lucis..fons luminis.” It means ‘light of light, source of light,’ but “light,” even in English, has a richer polyvalence. We speak of being “enlightened,” we call creative insights “bright” ideas, we say that “the lightbulb went on” when we have grasped a difficult concept, and a burning lamp is the ubiquitous image of colleges and universities. So, in that one simple phrase, Ambrose says that we Ambrosians are to ‘learn for the sake of learning,’ and not only in pursuit of some worthy end, such as a career in health care, business, education, any other noble profession. We are ‘lifelong learners.’ And that makes perfect sense if, as Ambrose also says, Christ is the font of light. Learning is never ‘finished,’ just as no love is ever ‘attained.’ These aren’t goals, but meaningful ways of being in the world. To be enlightened by the “Eternal Creator of All Things” is to live lives of learning, exploring, as if on a pilgrimage, fearing not the night because “some kind of eternity [is] hovering over the vicissitudes of time.” All of this is to say that Christ, our Light in the darkness, is already and always with us, as we travel together, hand in hand and prayer-singing.

Day 22

Monday, November 28

Fr. George McDaniel

I am sure we have all met people who talk a big game but after a time we realize their word is empty talk. Our language is full of idioms to describe such people: all bark and no bite, all hat and no cattle, all foam and no beer. You get the point.

The centurion in the gospel today was a Roman army officer with men under his command. With his soldiers, his bark had a bite. But he was powerless to help his servant. I wonder how many people he consulted whose healing words turned out to be powerless; how may tonics and potions he had administered to his servant all of which turned out to be powerless against the sickness.

What did it cost his pride to admit he was powerless, that his word was empty and that he needed help? So, he turned to Jesus. We don’t know what he may have heard about Jesus but as a man with power he recognized power. In his statement, “I am not worthy to have you come under my roof,” he realized it was not necessary for Jesus to come to his house, his word was enough.

Am I too proud to admit I can’t do it alone?

How many times did I turn to someone for help only to find they were all foam and no beer?

Like the centurion do I think I am not worthy of the Lord’s help?

When we pray the centurion’s words before we receive the Lord in communion, we recognize the power of Jesus to nourish and heal us.

Day 23

Tuesday, November 29

Leah Hanson, Class of 2015

"Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea."

God's diverse creations living together in harmony and helping each other to thrive. What a beautiful image from today's first reading. This idea of helping our neighbors in a non-judgmental and loving way is completely counter to the individualistic culture we face every day. Looking back at my early days as an Ambrosian, the values of community and service are without a doubt the most influential for me. Studying abroad, service trips, retreats, theology class, my role as international ambassador, lifelong friendships that were formed, and a graduate program that prioritized service and justice in their curriculum...all of these God given opportunities and gifts ultimately led me to my vocations as a mother, wife, and mental health care provider.

Seeing God's vulnerable children through a lens of compassion, truth, and justice doesn't come naturally to us. It takes prayer and consistent effort. Our call as Christians is to fight for those who are living in this world that is not designed for them. For all that we have is from God and we are to share that with others.

Growing up, my mom always said, "if we make time for God, he will make time for us." The same can be said about the poor and vulnerable. If we make time for them, God will reward us in ways we can't even imagine. My prayer this Advent is that we seek to see God in those that are different from us and that we may all live together in peace.

Day 24

Wednesday, November 30

Matt Jung, Class of 2022

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” These were the words Jesus said to Simon and Andrew the day they became his disciples. Biblically, we don’t know a whole lot about how much either brother knew of Jesus before this interaction, but to willing leave their livelihoods behind to follow a Rabbi is quite the gamble. Assumingly, there is a high chance at least one of them have interacted with Jesus before, but probably never thought of the possibility that he would call them like this. Yet, they took the risk and went with him.

I think about the risks from my time at Ambrose. Some of them bigger than others. Choosing to come to Ambrose was a risk in itself. Moving 144 miles away to live with somebody I never met, eat food I may not like, and have freedom like I never experienced before. Some risks paid off, other ones did not turn out how I had hoped when I took them, but I don’t regret any decision I made that got me to this point. Whether it was a relationship that didn’t work out, a race that didn’t go my way, or entering with a major that I ended up walking away from, they were all risks I’m happy I took. They left me on the other side wiser and with a new perspective on life. I have no regrets from my time at Ambrose, because I took the risks I needed to in order to live the life I’m living right now. That random freshman year roommate I’ve had ups and downs with who is now one of my greatest friends, the gentlemen who share a love for stargazing and The Princess Bride who are now my brothers, or the heartbreaks I had to endure to realize how beautiful life is because of the people who walked with me through the highs and the lows.

My risks may have not have been as great as Simon and Andrew’s in leaving everything to follow Jesus, but the risks I’ve taking to follow him in my own life provide a peace I can only imagine is similar to theirs of when they agreed to go. SAU has taught me a lot in my 4 short years there, lessons I apply to my life right now and friendships I thank God for every day. I’m thankful for everyone I had the chance to meet while at SAU, whether our experiences together were good or not, I have nothing but respect and thanks for them all. Regardless of their outcomes, I learned, I grew, and I took more risks. Being Ambrosian means taking a leap into the unknown, accepting the risk that you don’t know its outcome. Sometimes you need to just let go and let God. Simon and Andrew did, and their best was yet to come, so what’s stopping you?

Day 25

Thursday, December 1

Fritz G. Dieudonné, Coordinator of Student Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

I was a high school senior on a football recruiting trip the first time I stepped foot on campus in the Spring of 1996. Although I was excited for the possibility of playing college football, I knew nothing about this small school in Davenport. I actually knew very little about the State of Iowa. At the time, all my knowledge of Iowa was associated with the Hawkeyes because my hometown of Evanston, Illinois is the home of Northwestern University which competes in the Big 10 Conference.

All I knew was, St. Ambrose was significantly smaller than my high school (Evanston Township). I also thought the “Fighting Bees” was an odd choice for a mascot. However, it didn’t take me long to realize I had found my home. On that visit I experienced a strange, and unexpected bond with St. Ambrose University, as if we were old friends reuniting after years apart. SAU was everything I didn’t know I needed, or wanted. I walked away feeling that St. Ambrose was a natural fit. I would spend the next four years fully immersed with being an Ambrosian!

Fast forward to the Summer of 2018, I’m in my third month back on campus, but now as an employee. In my new role, I found myself leading a breakout session during summer orientation for incoming freshmen. It was during those sessions I met a young man, and his mother. She asked several questions about what Ambrose had to offer, and what her son could expect? At the end of the session, the mother made a statement that took me back to the feeling I had during my recruiting trip so many years ago.

She expressed how she had several concerns at the start of her trip to SAU. Her fears were primarily driven by the fact her son could not put into words why he had chosen to attend St. Ambrose. When pressed for an explanation, he would simply say to her, “mom it just feels right.” She went on to say that after spending the day on campus, she now understood what her son meant. She expressed her gratitude for the genuine loving environment that she experienced.

I couldn’t help but to smile as I listened to her, and the emotion in her voice. It was as if a burden was lifted, she knew her son was going to be cared for. Like countless others before me in 1996, or this mother and son in 2018, we immediately felt at home at St. Ambrose but we all struggled to put the Ambrosian spirit into words. This moment can feel truly divine and spiritual.

As we observe these 30 days of prayer, and service which ends with the celebration of the Feast of St. Ambrose, I will attempt to put into words what it means to me to be an Ambrosian.

To be an Ambrosian is to fully embrace the spirit of our Patron Saint, Bishop Ambrose of Milan.

To be Ambrosian is to be fearless enough to challenge the status quo.

To be Ambrosian is to be inclusive, and respect the God-given dignity and worth of every individual.

To be Ambrosian is to be full of love, and compassion for your community. (John 13: 34-35)

To be Ambrosian is to care and provide for those in need. (Matthew 25: 34-40)

To be Ambrosian is to maintain your trust and faith in God through the storms of life like Job. (Job 13: 15-18)

To be Ambrosian is to pursue, and meet the requirements of God, as written in the book of Micah…to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

To be Ambrosian is to share your light with the world. (Matthew 5: 14-16)

As we observed these 30 days of prayer, and service I encourage you to be an Ambrosian in everything you do… Bee The Light!

Day 26

Friday, December 2

Kaleb Strom, Class of 2023

In today’s reading, Isaiah is speaking to the people of Israel and relaying God’s message to them about their coming salvation. How the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and how He will save them from the people who oppress them. Isaiah is delivering this message to a community that was being oppressed and had been oppressed for generations. Throughout the Old Testament they had been enslaved and abused by many, but one thing they always had, was each other, and their God. The benefit of having a community like this, was that sometimes it only took an individual to bring good news and hope to the people in order to uplift them. Whether it was Moses, Elijah, or in this case Isaiah, God always sent someone to bring hope to his people when they most needed it.

One of the things that I love so much about St. Ambrose, is how it feels like a distinct part of our worldwide faith community. At this university, it is not hard to find a group that connects us to others on campus and to the greater Church community. It is in these communities that we can find the very same words of hope and encouragement that Isaiah is bringing to the Jewish people. And not only can we find the word of God, but we can also bring it to others. Any member of this campus can support another and bring them the hope and encouragement that God provides us. I want to invite us all to try to bring Christ to one of our communities even if it.

Day 27

Saturday, December 3

Allison Ambrose, Professor of Accounting

Today’s gospel from Matthew ends with a line carrying much meaning to me: “Without cost you have received, without cost you are to give.”

This line prompts me to reflect on the various blessings that have been given to me, of which I am very grateful. However, I am reminded that I am also to give back. Being a mother, wife, daughter and teacher means that my life has been full of giving to others in various ways. But, these ways are automatically built into my life and have been relatively easy. I realize I am not to stop with just helping those I know, but that I am to stretch myself out of my comfort zone when I think about giving to others. Can I help the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the imprisoned? This, I believe, is what Jesus is calling his disciples to do in this gospel reading.

One of the biggest blessings in my life is having been an Ambrosian for the past 34 years. I love this community and feel blessed coming to work here every day. I fully embrace the service to others aspect that permeates throughout this community. It has become part of who I am. I hope that everyone who also has a connection to the St. Ambrose community realizes what a blessing it is to be Ambrosian, but that this blessing also carries a responsibility to help others. As Ambrosians, we have received, but also as Ambrosians we are to give.

Day 28

Sunday, December 4

Jim Stangle, Executive Director of Campaigns and Leadership Gifts

"Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide". These words in today's scripture readings really spoke to me in a way that impacted me both personally as well as professionally in my time here at St. Ambrose, both as a student as well as now a current employee of the university.

The aforementioned request is a tall order whether by today's standards or those I observed as an undergrad back in the late 70's and early eighties. I remember from when my foot first stepped across the threshold of then East Hall, I realized that my life from that point going forward was going to change the way that I looked at things as well as people regardless if I was a clueless 18-year-old or sometimes today a 62-year-old with different questions.

Without realizing it immediately, I became an Ambrosian at that point, both in terms of my actions and words going forward at this pivotal time of my life. Growing up in a rather plain, middle class suburb of Chicago where most everyone looked the same way as I did, St. Ambrose helped open my eyes to another world that existed roughly two and one-half hours to my West.

When I walked into my dorm room for the first time I saw a man sitting at the desk who was fully bearded and large in stature. When we met each other I said, you must be Tim's dad, much to my surprise he said, no, I am your roommate. My neighbor on one side was from the Philippines and played on the tennis team while my neighbor on the other side was from Gary, Indiana, while my Resident Advisor was an underclassman wrestling with the idea of whether he should enter the seminary.

Where am I going with this you may ask? If I would have not come to St. Ambrose I would have not had this door to my life opened that showed me that we don't all look alike. We don't all talk alike and we don't all dress alike. We were all created in God's image and brought together at this special place that some people affectionately referred to as LSU (Locust Street University). What we learned as Ambrosians some 40 plus years ago still clearly applies and is adhered to today. That is - for all the differences that exist in our world, as well as between us, being anchored in Ambrose provides us all (regardless of age) the common bond of community and truth that permeates each one of us for the rest of our lives.

Day 29

Monday, December 5

Katie Van Blair, Dean of Innovation, Adult and Graduate Studies

In the readings for today, miracles are mentioned many times. As an Ambrosian for more years in my life than not, I can honestly say that I have seen miraculous things happen here on our campus and in our community. When a student overcomes a personal barrier to get that degree, a colleague shares research/book/poetry/performance that they built from their brain and their heart, or students/faculty/staff together offer their time in our specific Ambrosian service opportunities, we see the miraculous in each other’s actions. To serve like this is among the many gifts we have in life. I feel so very lucky to recognize that.

I would also offer an additional perspective about the miraculous in life. When a flower doesn’t bloom, we don’t actually try to change the flower…we try to change its environment. Does it need fertilizer in the soil? More water? Less? So often in life we offer service to make another’s load lighter, to improve conditions, to share some peace and light in a world that is sometimes so dark. It is important to serve others, so many of us work hard every day to do this, and would never describe ourselves as miraculous.

It would likely be easier if our call just stopped there. In this month of prayer and service, I sincerely want us to remember the two feet of social ministry that the late Father Mottet shared with me when I first came to St. Ambrose 20+ years ago as a social work faculty member. The two feet of social ministry calls us to do something about the environment in which others need our service in addition to that service. This is aligned with the social work model of empowerment whereby we both serve and work to create a just society. In adding these frameworks to my worldview when I came here as faculty, Father Mottet and the School of Social Work gave voice to my passion for changing the system, and go beyond supporting the person who must endure the difficult system.

The readings today inspire me to ask us to imagine a world where we don’t need miracles. (I mean they are amazing, but what if?) Where compassion, peace, justice, inclusion, and freedom are so tangible that people have the resources they need and the environment in which they need to bloom….and that we work to make that happen!

Day 30

Tuesday, December 6

Megan Schultz, Class of 2022

“In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!”

We hear this proclaimed in our first reading today. As I read it through, I kept coming back to that phrase. It doesn’t read, ‘In the soft pasture prepare the way’, or ‘In the comfort of your home”, but in the desert, in the ‘wasteland’ as Isaiah writes.

I have always felt as though it’s more difficult to be in relationship with the Lord when I am in the desert (and yes, I’ve been to Arizona, and it’s nice for about 3 hours of the day before I want to crawl inside and never return). But in the wasteland, when I have entered into a season where I taste more desolation than joy, preparing a place for the Lord seems impossible. I easily convince myself that if I am in a wasteland, I have been abandoned.

What we know from Jesus himself however, is that desert does not mean disowned. After his baptism, Jesus himself spent 40 days and 40 nights fasting in the wilderness. He chose to enter into a state of hardship to refocus on the Father and his mission for his life. This is not to say that when pain cuts into our lives, we should rejoice. We’ll surely walk into valleys during our lives, and we’ll try to wrestle with grief or make sense of disappointment. In these times however, we can stretch our hands towards the hem of Jesus’ garments and catch a string or two of hope, knowing that where we walk, He leads, like a shepherd bringing us home.

Feast of St. Ambrose Reflection

Wednesday, December 7

Ethan Gannaway, Co-Director of the Academy for the Study of Saint Ambrose of Milan

Today’s readings are rather fitting as the campus prepares to head into finals week. So many burdens at this time of year! Taking finals, grading finals, preparing offices for the holiday break and the end of the year. Then there’s planning for visitors or visiting over the holidays, and also gifts and cards. Then there are more lasting burdens, relating to health, finances, relationships, and more.

Burdens both small and great can leave me stressed out, worn out, wiped out. Just simply down and out. How will I not let down my community? Those I love? Myself? How do I keep from falling under their weight?

So, I just want to give up. And I think the readings tell us to do this. Not, however, in the way Homer Simpson tells Bart, “You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.” The origin of "give up" may be from the translation of John 19:30, when Jesus, hanging on the cross, “gave up his spirit.” This means to me, then, that after trying my best, I need to give up what remains unfinished to God.

Our patron, Ambrose, whom we celebrate today, provides a different example. Around 374 AD, he had agreed to the difficult position of governor, ensuring the peace and prosperity of a region spanning northern Italy and beyond. In the midst of a dispute over the next bishop of this region’s capital, Milan, he was called to take on that very role by public acclamation, or so his biographer Paulinus tells us. He tried several times to flee becoming a bishop, arguing his weaknesses and moral failures, but with every new attempt, his community said, “let his sins be upon us.” Thanks to God and to Ambrose’s community who supported him, our patron saint finally gave up.

The first reading reminds me that I am not God, that I can’t be perfect, and the Gospel reading tells me directly that God will alleviate my burdens. Ambrose’s life reminds me that God created our communities, united in grace and love, to share each other's troubles and to help carry the load given to us.

So, if I give in and acknowledge my weaknesses, and if I join in this grace and love of God and community, I’ll come upon that inner peace. I will perk up, get up, stand up, if I just give up.

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