Age 23 / Villanova University
St. Patrick School: PE/Computer Assistant

Brian Omastiak is Southside of Chicago born and raised. At St. Rita High School and Villanova University was where he spent most of his days. After...

Lenten Reflections


Welcome to this year’s edition of the Augustinian Volunteers Lenten Reflections. Each year, we ask people from all different roles in our program ranging from current and past volunteers to Augustinians to advisory board members to site-supervisors and others who work with and support us to contribute a reflection on the readings of a particular day of Lent. We then give this to our volunteer communities as well as the Augustinian community at the volunteers’ particular site as well as to the greater Augustinian Volunteers community for prayer and reflection.

You may read the Lenten Reflections online here at or request to receive a daily email from us with the day’s reflection at

We would like to thank those who contributed a reflection in this year’s edition as the tradition of the Lenten Reflections would not be possible without you and your generosity with your time and effort.

We hope you enjoy this booklet and find it fruitful on your Lenten journey this year.

Joanna, Hannah and Taylor
The Augustinian Volunteer Staff

Ash Wednesday, February 18
Thursday, February 19
Friday, February 20
Saturday, February 21
First Sunday of Lent, February 22
Monday, February 23
Tuesday, February 24
Wednesday, February 25
Thursday, February 26
Friday, February 27
Saturday, February 28
Second Sunday of Lent, March 1
Monday, March 2
Tuesday, March 3
Wednesday, March 4
Thursday, March 5
Friday, March 6
Saturday, March 7
Third Sunday of Lent, March 8
Monday, March 9
Tuesday, March 10
Wednesday, March 11
Thursday, March 12
Friday, March 13
Saturday, March 14
Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 15
Monday, March 16
Tuesday, March 17
Wednesday, March 18
Thursday, March 19
Friday, March 20
Saturday, March 21, 2015
Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 22
Monday, March 23
Tuesday, March 24
Wednesday, March 25
Thursday, March 26
Friday, March 27
Saturday, March 28
Palm Sunday, March 29
Monday, March 30
Tuesday, March 31
Wednesday, April 1
Holy Thursday, April 2
Good Friday, April 3



Ash Wednesday, February 18
Jl 2:12-18; Ps 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 and 17; 2 Cor 5:20-6:2; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

This group of readings is interesting to me. In the first reading we are told “Gather the people, notify the congregation; Assemble the elders, gather the children…” We are told to bring those around us, our community, together to ask God to have mercy on us. We recognize that we have sinned and we plead together in church, in small groups, in friendship, to be cleansed. And we know that God has the power to do that, He just asks for effort to be put in. Jump to the Gospel and we are told to “take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise you will have no recompense from your Heavenly Father.” On the surface these verses seem contradictory. One asks us to gather together and the other requests we pray alone, with our door closed. If we dig a little deeper, the Gospel doesn’t advise against praying in community or for others to see, but Jesus wants to make sure we aren’t doing it for show. God will have mercy on those who genuinely ask for it. As Christians we can’t just talk the talk, we have to walk the walk. As the Lenten season begins, it is important to remember that we are not just giving up candy or coffee or meat because that’s what Church tells us to do. As a community we are sacrificing because it honors the sacrifice Jesus made for us.

Abby MacDonald
Current AV, Philadelphia

Thursday, February 19
Dt 30:15-20; Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6; Lk 9:22-25

Today’s readings accentuate the choice that we have between accepting God’s path and straying from it. In the AV journey, this choice is all the more prevalent. During the second half of your AV year, it is easy to settle and accept the status quo and to not challenge one another at home and on-site. If you merely accept the simpler path, you are, in essence, “turn[ing] away your hearts.” While you will not “perish” in the literal sense, your experience will be less meaningful because you had an opportunity to bless others and be blessed by others “in the land you are entering to occupy.” In your service sites, as well as in your home communities, you have constructed communal structures that will only continue to blossom if you open your hearts and fully accept God’s guidance. This Lenten season, reflect on your commitment to your different communities. While at times it may feel like you are sacrificing a lot of yourself to be engaged in the lives of others, God has given up his life for our betterment, and He is available to help guide you through this journey. Do not be led astray, for if you trust in God, you will surely prosper.

Brittany Daniels
AV 2012-13, Philadelphia

Friday, February 20
Is 58:1-9a; Ps 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 18-19; Mt 9:14-15

During the Lenten journey that we have just begun, we will be reminded repeatedly of various means available and recommended to make our travel profitable. Traditional suggestions include such things as prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Today's Liturgy highlights the last of these.

Fasting, as we well know, is not necessarily a spiritual or religious discipline. People fast for many different reasons, some of which ostensibly have little to do with religious motives or purposes. Nevertheless, even some of these can help to reveal how fasting can be useful also on our spiritual journey. A fundamental aspect of fasting, for whatever reason it is carried out, is that we freely limit our intake of food, because something else is more important to us, whether it be health, appearance, self-discipline, or physical stamina. In the spiritual realm, that "something else" becomes "someone else", namely God. But it is not that God is somehow pleased or appeased by our self-denial. The point of fasting for religious motives is, rather, to make us more God-conscious. The rumbling in my stomach when it feels the lack of nourishment, is meant to heighten my awareness of the ever-present rumbling in my soul, which Saint Augustine describes so eloquently as the inborn "restlessness" that is always characteristic of us human beings. Fasting becomes an instrument of self-awareness, and prompts me to turn my thoughts and attention to the one who alone fills me and satisfies my many hungers.

But fasting has another objective, as well. It enables me to become other-oriented, if I allow my self-denial to profit those whose doing-without is not freely chosen, but imposed by circumstances of life, by the neglect or greed of others, or, by what Pope Francis today calls the "globalization of indifference." Today's first reading from the Prophet Isaiah underscores this point sharply. The Lord rejects the fasting of those whose practices only serve to immerse them more deeply in attitudes of self-centeredness and self-consciousness, to the neglect of others and their needs. Fasting, or any religious practice, for that matter, profits us nothing if it is self-serving, or is not connected to the whole of life. Most assuredly, it merits rejection if it is offered as an act of religion to the neglect of more fundamental and serious obligations.

Lent offers us an opportunity - and not for forty days alone - but for a lifetime. Prayer, almsgiving and fasting are the means; our human and spiritual growth, our sensitivity and generosity towards others, and a heightened awareness of God-with-us, are the goals.

Very Rev. Michael Di Gregorio, O.S.A.
Prior Provincial of Eastern Province

Saturday, February 21
Is 58:9b-14; Ps 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6; Lk 5:27-32

The opening from the first reading from the Book of Isaiah highlights the importance of service. In order to serve others we must first “remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech.” We must stop making quick judgments, gossiping about others, and taking situations out of context. The theme of service continues in our reading from Isaiah and in the Gospel of Luke. Isaiah writes “If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like the midday.” It is through service to others that we find the Lord. This is also shown in the Gospel reading today when Jesus instructs Levi to give up everything and follow Him. During the banquet, Jesus tells the Pharisees that “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

The first reading from the Book of Isaiah encourages us to let go, bringing to mind St. Augustine, who writes that he was “bound by the iron of my own choice” (Confessions 8.5.10). Many times we choose to focus our attention on ourselves, rather than focusing our attention on others. The theme of letting go also brings to mind a quote from an Augustinian at Villanova, who said “God writes in crooked lines.” You do not know where one path will lead and what opportunities will be presented in the future. As Isaiah mentioned in the first reading, “Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land.” You don’t have to know the answer, but put your faith in the Lord and serve others.

JJ Brown
AV Advisory Board Member

First Sunday of Lent, February 22
Gn 9:8-15; Ps 25: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; 1; Pt 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15

The Lenten reading I was assigned was Genesis 9: 8 -15, when God made his covenant to Noah and his family. In the story, God emphasizes that this covenant he is making, that the earth shall not be destroyed by a flood again, is with not simply Noah and his family, the humans, but also with all of the animals on the arc, both “wild and tame.” God then extends this covenant to a covenant between him and the Earth. I like this passage because it highlights the interconnectivity between all things. God is recognized as the ruler of all humanity, animals, and the living earth. God makes his covenant to all living things, not simply the humans. This links all living things. As we cannot be without the animals or the earth. I really like this connection between all things, and it makes me think to look not only at helping others like me this Lenten season, but also what can I do for the earth I live on and the animal cohabitants I share this space with.

The other part of this reading that caught my attention, was the theme of the flood, of the clearing of everything on earth with water. As an English major, I read once that in literature flooding and rain normally scream a baptism of sorts. The great flood was a giant baptism of the world, clearing it of evil and giving humanity (represented by Noah) a second chance. A chance to walk forward into the newly purified world. I will keep this idea with me this Lenten season, looking to shed and let go of negativity that I hold. Rather, I look to be baptized this Lent and walk forward as a forgiven child of God.

Casey Papuga
AV 2014, Peru

Monday, February 23
Lv 19:1-2, 11-18; Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15; Mt 25:31-46

A student of mine reminded our class one day by stating that we are all Augustinians and a part of a community of believers. I found this a powerful reminder and accurate reflection of the message of community and identity that is provided in today’s readings.

In the first reading, the litany of rules or framework we should live our daily lives by is stated. These we have all heard of before, but it is the last that always centers us on others; “you shall love thy neighbor as thyself.” This prompts an immediate re-focus towards where we see God most, in the daily interactions with all of his people. These interactions could be small acts of kindness, service to others, and the attitude we convey in our daily lives.

It helps us understand how to transform our actions from mere actions to meaningful works representative of Christ. This is furthered in the Gospel today; “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Christ is the concrete example for us to live by and is calling us to act as he would by serving those in all walks of life. We are called in our communities to recognize Christ’s presence among us and to be an active participant in His world. Pray today, that we all may take a more active role in understanding our presence with God’s people here on earth.

Michael Cunningham
AV 2008-09, San Diego

Tuesday, February 24
Is 55:10-11; Ps 34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19; Mt 6:7-15

Some days as a volunteer are overwhelming. Some days are stressful and frustrating, and some days seem impossible to get through. I sometimes find myself emotionally challenged at my service site, exhausted from community tension and conflict, and paralyzed from my lack of concrete future plans. On those kinds of days, I reflect and ask myself, “Why does it have to be so difficult?” Today’s Lenten readings address this question. Although the readings may not completely resolve an issue, they begin to shed light on the “why” of a situation. Isaiah 55:10-11 describes how God works with divine intentionality, or rather the reading reinforces the common belief that “everything happens for a reason.” The most poignant line reads, “So shall my word be…it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” I think this first reading encourages us to recognize that there is a greater purpose for every single seemingly mundane or infuriating thing that happens in our lives. As the reading describes the rain and snow coming down for the purpose of nourishing the earth, God’s words and deeds have a direct, intentioned result. The Gospel reading from Matthew reinforces this theme, reading “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” It could be hard to recognize in the moment, but these challenging days could be exactly what you need to move forward and to grow emotionally, personally, or as a community. They could give solace to you when you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or frustrated by helping you step back and recognize that something constructive, positive, or productive could come from a difficult situation. As volunteers on these challenging days, we need to remember that ultimately God is the one who knows what will best benefit us, what will most impact us, what will help us flourish as community members and as individuals. We need to put our trust in the divine plan, and during those difficult times “Let go and let God.”

Rosie McCarty
Current AV, Chicago

Wednesday, February 25
Jon 3:1-10; Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19; Lk 11:29-32

My time serving in Chicago was one of the most influential times of my life. From my job as a preschool aide in an inner city school to interacting with the neighbors and lifestyle of the south side, many of the most significant moments of my time as a volunteer was spent with my housemates. In thinking about today’s reading, I am reminded of the times my housemates and myself needed to come together to reach a specific outcome, to console one another, or to meet a goal that we had established. During our nightly dinners, we would come together to discuss the day. Hearing the different stories of helping moms get diapers so that they could care for their children, to helping seniors get into their choice of colleges, it was these dinner time moments where we put every personal stress, concern, or angst aside, and tuned into the needs of each other. It was these moments we were able to learn more about each other, learn how to care for each other better, and therefore make each other a better volunteer. Much like the people of Nineveh, we put aside the differences in our job placements and the differences in our personas, to allow ourselves to help each other grow. These moments were valuable in creating a household that was accepting, supportive, and conducive to living a life of community built and focused on faith.

Claire Dorman
AV Chicago 2007-08

Thursday, February 26
Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25; Ps 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8; Mt 7:7-12

Solitude is my friend and foe.

When I’m alone, I’m elevated. I wonder, dream, and devise new realities. I’m most myself on a starlit walk.

When I’m alone, I’m devastated. I worry, hate, and ponder brutalities. I’m least myself in an empty hall.

In today’s first reading, Queen Esther pleads to God, “Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand.”

The word “hand” strikes me. I raise my own, and examine the crease in the palm, the arch of each finger, the ghostly blue veins running silently beneath the surface.

How will I use this marvelous five-fingered instrument? Will I make a fist to smash myself in isolation? Or will I open wide to caress and embrace this intertwined creation?

In the Gospel, Christ tells us, “Ask and it will be given to you; 
seek and you will find;
 knock and the door will be opened to you.
 For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; 
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Yes, yes indeed. We have hands. We have arms and elbows. We have legs and knees and toes and heels. We are creatures made to move, to engage, to walk the earth and touch everything within it.

Today I pray for all who suffer from loneliness. I pray for all who seek quiet peace. I pray for the strength to reach outside myself and find God in others. I pray for the humility to ask for help.

At last, as I begin walking under the stars, I pray for the courage to keep seeking, and to keep knocking.

Mike McCormick
Current AV, Ventura

Friday, February 27
Ez 18:21-28; Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-7A, 7BC-8; Mt 5:20-26

If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?

Community life, family life, and work life can all be challenging at times. It is easy to point out the faults of others, to tally up someone else’s mistakes. Imagine if God tallied up our sins and used them against us. Surely none of us would be standing. God’s forgiveness is abundant and constant. We have infinite second chances with Him.

God doesn’t mark our iniquities, but do we mark the iniquities of others? Do you respond to your community members in such a way that builds them up or puts them down? Do your actions and words allow others to stand and be confident? Do you take the time to help foster your co-workers/clients gifts and talents so that they can grow as sons and daughters of Christ? This Lenten season let us not mark the iniquities of others, but rather mark the goodness of others. Let us respond as the Lord would, with kindness and forgiveness.

Mary Dillon
AV 2004-05, Lawrence; 2005-07 South Africa

Saturday, February 28
Dt 26:16-19; Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8; Mt 5:43-48

God shows us the WAY we should follow and what we should do to live out our commitment! The way to be "perfect" is to be "compassionate" or loving especially toward those who do not love you.

The WAY is to Bless those who persecute you...Bless and do not curse them. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be concerned for what is noble in the sight of ALL:

Those who harm us...
Those who dislike us...
Those who look down on us....
Those who refuse to speak to us....

Those whom we harm....
Those whom we dislike....
Those whom we look down upon...
Those to whom we refuse to speak...

This is what it means to be a follower of the WAY. It is not easy, but it is our call.

Jesus is the WAY! He is the example to follow as are Mary and Joseph and the other saints who like us were, as St. Augustine says, "on the WAY to God!"

During this Lent, let us reflect on these things as we strive to observe the Law of Lord with all our heart and all our mind and all our soul. And the Law of the Lord is this: "We are called to act with justice, we are called to love tenderly, we are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God! It is the Law of Love!"

So go out and spread His Love to All and Change Yourself and the World! Follow the WAY!

Very Rev. Bernie Scianna, O.S.A., Ph.D.
Prior Provincial of Midwest Province

Second Sunday of Lent, March 1
Gn 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18; Ps 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19; Rom 8:31B-34; Mk 9:2-10

In today's Gospel passage, God speaks for the second and last time in the Gospel of Mark at the Transfiguration. The first instance is that of Jesus' baptism. The sky is torn open and, unbeknownst to those gathered at the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus in the form of a dove. As this occurs, he hears a voice say, "You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased" (Mk 1:10). We, the audience, share this private moment with Jesus in which his true identity is revealed.

Eight chapters later, we find ourselves on the top of a mountain where the information privy to us is made public. It is revealed to Peter, James, and John. Admittedly confused by this experience, the disciples heed Jesus' command not to reveal his identity to anyone until he has been raised on the third day. Despite the characteristic secrecy of Mark's Gospel, the Transfiguration serves to remind us of our own identity. As baptized Christians, we are called to share the Good News of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus throughout the entire world. Jesus asks us to, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you" (Mt 28:19). Sharing in the Body of Christ asks us to be preachers of the Word, in voice and in action. We are called to illuminate the love of God in the world and the dignity of every human person.

During this season of Lent, I encourage you to reflect on what this identity means to you. What message of hope do you bring to those you serve and those in your community?

Megan Costantini
AV 2011-12, Lawrence

Monday, March 2
Dn 9:4b-10; Ps 79:8, 9, 11 and 13; Lk 6:36-38

Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you.

Jesus sums today's Gospel all up in such a nice package and makes it sound so easy but what he challenges us to do is hard work. In a world that struggles with so many injustices on a daily basis it can be overwhelming. It takes constant commitment on our parts to rise above the jealousy, anger and intolerance but we’re human and together we can make an impact, sharing our light, love and hope.

A daily motivation of mine is to say the Serenity Prayer and think to myself how I can make an active difference. I invite you to reflect on this prayer today.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and Wisdom to know the difference.

Nicole Lombardi
Current AV, Philadelphia

Tuesday, March 3
Is 1:10, 16-20; Ps 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23; Mt 23:1-12

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus counsels his disciples in humility, saying that often what we practice is more significant than what we preach. This theme encompasses all of the Lenten season from our reflections on Ash Wednesday all the way to Jesus’ humility to accept death on a cross. On Ash Wednesday, we acknowledge that we are dust; small in the scope of all of humanity and still even smaller in relation to the greatness of God. It is common to look down on ourselves as a practice of humility, but that is the exact opposite of Jesus’ teaching. In fact, the most humble are secure in themselves enough to accept that they are small, vulnerable and not in control while God is great and ultimately in control. Upon reflecting on humility, I was reminded of a prayer that was shared with me soon after my volunteer year.

The Litany of Humility

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
Being humble means thinking less about yourself and more about others. Being an Augustinian Volunteer opens up many opportunities to think more about those around you. Through living in intentional community and working with those at the service sites, you are given so many opportunities to learn about and cherish others, that it becomes natural to think less of yourself.

From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
As humans, it is in our nature to desire love, friendship and companionship. God calls us to not only love others but desire love for others before ourselves.

From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
As a volunteer, I remember being praised by others; often revered for the work and service that we did and the sacrifices we had made. I remember many co-workers, students and members of the greater community recognizing that we’d “given up a year” to serve others; honoring us with gifts and gestures of gratitude. One of my goals during my year of service was to become more humble – thinking more about my community and those I served than myself. It was challenging to put aside the praise of others, and during the year I learned that the truly humble people were oftentimes my co-workers who worked very hard for little pay to live their ministry. They did not get the title of “volunteer” to exclaim their humility. Instead, they truly lived Matthew’s Gospel message, by practicing before preaching. God calls us to praise others and put aside our desire to be praised and accepted by others.

That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Hannah Cunningham
AV 2012-13, San Diego

Wednesday, March 4
Jer 18:18-20; Ps 31:5-6, 14, 15-16; Mt 20:17-28

Mother’s want the best for their children. In the Gospel today, the mother of the sons of Zebedee is seeking the best for her sons when she asks Jesus to have her sons on either side of him in his kingdom. Jesus asks if they are able to do what is necessary to truly be his follower and merit being part of his kingdom. The disciples overheard this request and were just a bit annoyed at the two sons and their mother for trying to maneuver themselves with Jesus. Jesus hears this going and calls them all together to challenge them.

He tells them if you want to be great, then you must be a servant to all. If you want to be first among others, you must be as a slave for others. Jesus tells them that he did not come to be served but to serve to the point of giving his life as a ransom for others. Jesus challenges all of them to reflect on how they are truly his followers by being a servant to others, but seeking out and serving the needs of others.

How do we see ourselves as followers of Christ? Are we willing to be a servant? Are we willing to seek out and respond to the needs of others? Are we willing to put others and their needs ahead of our own? Are we willing to be a true follower of Christ?

There are many ways to serve other people. It is not always in the huge, earth shaking events. Sometimes it is just the small things in life: the smile to one who needs to see it; the kind word to one who needs to hear it; the touch to one who feels alone. Let this Lent be a time to truly serve not our own needs but the needs of others.

Fr. Tony Burrascano, O.S.A.
Augustinian Site Supervisor, Philadelphia

Thursday, March 5
Jer 17:5-10; Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6; Lk 16:19-31

I have always found this parable that Jesus tells to the Pharisees to be one of the more visual pieces of the Gospel. With images of dogs licking the wounds of Lazarus and a giant chasm between Abraham and the rich man, it is easy to find myself in this story. To imagine the scene is not difficult because the imagery is so strong, and even the rich man’s weird request, of a drop of water from the finger of Lazarus, I find easy to visualize in my mind’s eye. I believe that was the evangelist’s goal when telling this story, to bring us into the story and engage with it. Which makes it significant that the only person whose name is not given in this story is the rich man, he is anonymous. I wonder if the evangelist wrote it this way so it would be easier for the audience to imagine themselves in this parable. What a powerful way to engage with the scripture on today’s gospel.

One begins to feel the same anguish and thirst that cannot be quenched by human beings for we are “like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, but stand in a lava waste” (first reading). The anxiety and restlessness the rich man faces when trust is not placed in the Lord, is daunting and familiar. And the desire to repent while there is still a chance for oneself to not be nourished by the rushing stream of life, which allows us to bear fruit throughout the seasons.

The first reading and the Psalm offer reprieve in the image of a nourishing stream. And the hope of a remedy for a restless heart for those who hope in the Lord, who knows and comforts the poor and afflicted.

Griffin Knipp
AV 2010-11, Chicago

Friday, March 6
Gn 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a; Ps 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21; Mt 21:33-43, 45-46

Today’s gospel reading from Matthew is the Parable of the Tenants. In this story, Jesus is comparing the religious leaders to the tenants in the vineyard who beat, killed, and stoned the servants sent by the owner sent to collect produce. Even when the owner sent his son, the tenants showed no respect for him and found more cause to harm him because of his close relation to the vineyard owner. If the pharisees and chief priests listening to Jesus tell this story could understand the metaphor Jesus built here, it is not difficult for us reading to do the same. Although this explicitly was directed toward these corrupt church leaders who were rejecting the servants- and even Son- of the Lord sent to preach and reform, we too can draw a lesson from these words.

Perhaps we are not denying the authority of Jesus in the church as the chief priests and pharisees did, but we could be rejecting Him in certain areas of our lives. Lent provides the perfect time for reflection on this question. How am I rejecting Christ from the vineyard, from my life? Is it greed, like that of the tenants, that blocks Jesus’s full presence in my life? Could it be in jealous action, similar to that of Joseph’s brothers in the first reading from Genesis? Or maybe it is in shame, an unwillingness to confess wrongdoing? No matter the reason, in this Lenten season, we as Catholics are called to examine Christ’s presence in our lives. And part of this examination is confessing our sins, moments when we had turned from him, so that in preparing for his coming to save us from these sins, we can be truly worthy of his sacrifice.

Sarah Dunbar
Current AV, Ventura

Saturday, March 7
Mi 7:14-15, 18-20; Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

It is easy to come across many a prodigal son when devoting yourself in service to others: the homeless alcoholic at the soup kitchen who slowly begins to share his sins of the past with you; the young pregnant mother in the homeless shelter trying to figure out how she is going to provide for her new family; the child with the rough family life who is failing or constantly in trouble despite the goodness you know is buried deep within. When troubles are so raw and so great, it is almost easier to minister to them and say, “Turn back and give up your sins to God, and He will not only forgive you, but also help you to find your way.” But what about those of us on the other side, who, for the most part, are trying to live in accord with God’s teaching? Do we sometimes fall into the cynicism that our culture would have us believe, that these prodigals are not worth our time, that if they want a better life they should just stop making bad choices? After the initial challenge and fear of working with a new ministry wears off and we fall into a routine, it’s easy to begin doubting your work, wondering what the point is as you often see those whom you are trying to help repeatedly return to destructive behavior. It’s tempting to begin to wonder why you are giving up your time and earning potential for these seemingly undeserving people. But this is not how God’s mercy works, neither for the prodigal sons or for us, the older brothers that wonder why God’s infinite love and mercy should be equally bestowed upon these people that keep messing up as to me, the one who seems to be doing all the work. But today’s parable reminds us that God’s love and mercy is reckless, outlandish, given freely to anyone – ANYONE – who asks for it. It challenges us to do the same, and reminds us that when we realize that we are simply not capable of such perfect love and forgiveness, we only have to turn to the sacrament of Reconciliation, where God is waiting to bestow that perfect love and forgiveness on us and give us the strength and courage to try again to be an example of His great love and mercy.

Beatrice Frey
AV 2002-03, Bronx

Third Sunday of Lent, March 8
Ex 20:1-17; Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11; 1 Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25

“Put your trust in the Lord; your ass belongs to me.” These are the words that Andy Dufresne hears out of the mouth of Warden Norton as he begins his incarceration at Shawshank prison. And for some odd reason as I was reading the scripture for this reflection, those words kept popping into my head. And although Warden Norton was a very religious man, he was using the Word of God for the wrong reasons, mainly as reasoning for the crime and illegal acts that took place within his prison. We find Jesus in a similar situation in the Gospel. As Passover was approaching, Jesus heads to Jerusalem only to find his Father’s house (the temple) being made into a marketplace for oxen, sheep, and doves by many religious officials in the area. So often in today’s world we can find ourselves losing sight of what truly makes us Catholics, our faith in Jesus Christ. How many announcements were there at the end of mass last time you went explaining different social gatherings or fundraisers within the parish? Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I think at times it can take away from the real reason we attend mass, to receive Communion and be filled with God’s grace, and seem as if we are using our churches as a present day marketplace similar to our early disciples within the Gospel reading. When Jesus told his disciples to destroy the temple and in three days He will raise it up, they did nothing but question him. It was not until he was raised from the dead that they came to believe Him and his word. We too may stray from our faith from time to time, but as Warden Norton said, “Put your trust in the Lord,” and He will guide you back towards the path He has so lovingly created for you.

Tom Keefer
Current AV, Lawrence

Monday, March 9
2 Kgs 5:1-15ab; Ps 42:2, 3; 43:3, 4; Lk 4:24-30

Sometimes it is tempting to look for signs of God love and protection in those who are the most powerful on this earth because they make the decisions that affect our lives on earth. However, today I am reminded that I tend to overlook the smaller, quieter channels of God’s love and protection. What struck me most from today’s story of Naaman was the role of the little servant girl. This little girl “captured in a raid on the land of Israel” evidently lived a difficult life. She was uprooted from everything she knew yet this little girl lived with and served her masters with such good faith that she choose to speak up to her mistress to save her master. A little girl’s word, inspired by her faith, saved Naaman’s life from the pain and destruction of leprosy. The King of Aram sent Naaman to the King of Israel, but it was not the King who saved, it was the humble prophet Elisha who saved the Kings from another great quarrel and saved Naaman from his disease. If it were not for the little Israeli servant girl speaking up, a very different story would be known.
As a volunteers we know that we are not prophets, we are not kings, we are not army commanders, but we might be, if we choose, the little servant girl willing to speak up when we see suffering or pain so that others may also help the cause.

Sara Hoegen
AV 2012-13, Ventura

Tuesday, March 10
Dn 3:25, 34-43; Ps 25:4-5AB, 6 and 7BC, 8-9; Mt 18:21-35

So I don’t have any debt to be paid. At least, nothing monetarily. In the Gospel today, it talks about how servants being sold to pay off their debt ask their masters to “Be patient with [them] and [they] will pay [him] back.” I thought about it for a while and I couldn’t figure it out. I understood the final message that I must forgive my brothers and sisters no matter what is done to me, but I thought there was more than that, and there was. I reread the reading from Deuteronomy and something really stuck out to me. “So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly.” That’s what I’m doing right now. That’s the debt I’m paying off. God has given me the greatest gift of all. A life to be lived. Daily at my work site or in community prayer or just at dinner, I work to pay back that wonderful gift I have been given by trying to help others. I’m not perfect at it though. Sometimes I want to give up, or yell, or just sleep in on a Monday. And sometimes, I’ll be honest, I do. But that’s because I’m not perfect. So instead I ask God, be patient with me. I’ll pay you back. And for now, I think I’m on the right path to paying that debt back.
So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly.

Will Rattigan
Current AV, San Diego

Wednesday, March 11
Dt 4:1, 5-9; Ps 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20; Mt 5:17-19

I like to tell stories. Few experiences in my life have given me such a wealth and breadth of stories as my volunteer year in South Africa.

Take the story of Luke. Luke was four years old when he was placed at St. Teresa’s Boys Home in Durban, South Africa, along with his two brothers. One of his first days there, he came up as I was playing with other boys.

“Pick me up!” he yelled at me.
“Wait your turn, Luke, like everyone else.”
“Pick me up NOW! Pick me up now or…or I will PEE on you!”
Undeterred by his threat, I instructed him again, “Wait your turn!”

I picked up another boy and started turning him around in the air. When I put him down again, I saw that Luke had dropped his pants. (Gasp!) He was attempting to pee on me!

Say what you will: Luke was a man of his word. Some might call that “integrity”…

I can’t help but smile and laugh as I remember that day. There is so much more to the story than a peeing boy. Luke was an orphan before his second birthday. St. Teresa’s was the third “home” he had lived in. What was his experience of rules and order? What was his experience of feeling loved without conditions or demands? Luke didn’t need to be picked up immediately, as he fervently demanded. He needed to be heard, and he needed to be loved.

Our readings today speak of statutes, decrees, and the law. Life is rarely so clear-cut. It’s more like a collection of stories.

“Take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.” –Deut 4:9

This sounds like what’s known as the Pastoral Cycle: Trust your experiences. Reflect on them. Act from what you have learned.

Brian Strassburger, S.J.
AV 2006-07, Bronx; 2008, South Africa

Thursday, March 12
Jer 7:23-28; Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9; Lk 11:14-23

Harden not your hearts.

“Thus says the Lord: this is what I commanded my people: listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Walk in all the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper” – Jeremiah 7:23

What an adventure it is to walk the path God has laid before each of us! What a joy! And what a beautiful challenge! As I begin my year in Chulucanas, I experience the discomforts that accompany picking up from your old ways and dropping yourself in what feels like a different world. I craved these discomforts ever so deeply before my departure, as I knew they would help me become a better person. But now, as I find myself with a strange food allergy, struggling to express myself in Spanish, missing the familiarity of my family and community, questioning customs different from my own, and surrendering my pale body to the hot Peruvian sun, I am uneasy. What were you thinking, Kristin?!

Don’t get comfortable and “harden not your hearts!” (Psalm 95: 8). This is the very moment that He asks us to call upon Him! He commands us to walk these demanding roads and we must trust that they are right and true, but we are not meant to do it alone. “Listen to my voice” He tells us in Jeremiah, and I will be yours and you will be mine. As St. Augustine reminds us, God has created us for Himself; we are meant for relationship with Him! We are called to a deep friendship with Christ so as to walk in His ways with great peace and joy. He desires us to prosper!

Let us open our hearts freely and wide to His voice this Lenten season through deeper prayer and recognition of the people He has chosen to walk these paths with us. May we lean on Him and each other in community in order to trust and be present to the mysterious ways He desires us to prosper and experience His love.

Kristin Van Spankeren
Current AV, Peru

Friday, March 13
Hos 14:2-10; Ps 81:6c-8a, 8bc-9, 10-11ab, 14 and 17; Mk 12:28-34

Today’s reading from Hosea covers many things that I typically think of as Lenten practice or prayer: returning to God, forgiveness, healing, blossoming. In the “desert” of Lent, without even the daily rejoicing of the Alleluia or Gloria, we wait and we soak up God’s presence and forgiveness and compassion, and we will blossom.

When we “forgive all iniquity” of others—anything that has been done to us or our loved ones—we “receive what is good” (Hos 14:3). We too should forgive our neighbor—community members, friends, family, coworkers, clients—even as we ask forgiveness for ourselves. When we forgive others, when we let go of the ways they have hurt or offended us, we are able to receive good things from God.

And our God is not a God of paltry forgiveness. He does not forgive the way we often do, begrudgingly and slowly, always on the watch for how we will offend him next time. No, God promises, “I will love them freely”! (14:5) He speaks of dew, blossom, putting forth shoots, splendor, fragrance, fame, prosper. Words of life and flourishing, which seem odd to hear while we’re in the Lenten desert. But that’s what we’re preparing for here, while we wait and pray and repent. We’re preparing for life, and life in abundance! When we put in the time and effort to really turn back to God and find out what he offers us, we are opening ourselves up to his life and his flourishing.

Susanna Seibert
AV 2011-12, Bronx

Saturday, March 14
Hos 6:1-6; Ps 51:3-4, 18-19, 20-21ab; Lk 18:9-14

The parable that Jesus shares in the Gospel of Luke is one that many of us have heard before and, for me, it serves as a humbling reminder of our shared humanity. It can be very easy to compare oneself to another in almost every aspect of life. Just like the pharisee, I’m sure we can all recall times in our lives where we were self-righteously thankful for our gifts or thought of ourselves as better than those around us.

This can be a particularly easy habit to fall into during this year of service. As wonderful as it is that we are dedicating our time and talents to others, we are placed in environments that serve as constant reminders of the blessings God has bestowed on us, whether they are physical, emotional, spiritual, or financial. When confronted with these differences I think it is important to be thankful but to also remember that in the eyes of God these differences we perceive do not exist. To him, we are all perfect. He sees our differing personalities as the variety that makes us unique rather than better than one another. He is blind to the structures of our society but he is not blind to the injustices that divide us. And I believe his answer to this difference was expressed in the first reading. “For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice.” God is calling us to love one another, but not in a way that makes us pity those we serve. Truly love them and lift them up. We must recognize that we are all equal in the eyes of God. We are imperfect humans that he loves perfectly. The sins of others are no graver than our own and we all need God’s forgiveness and grace in our own way.

The Lenten season always seems to emphasize the sacrifices we can make to live in solidarity with the suffering of Jesus. This season, stop comparing, be thankful, and love your brothers and sisters. This year of service is something to be proud of but do not hold yourself on a pedestal. Instead focus on the love you can share with those you are serving. It is not a sacrifice but a gift.

Brittany Patten
Current AV, Lawrence

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 15
2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23; Ps 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21

For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;
it is not from works, so no one may boast.
For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works
that God has prepared in advance,
that we should live in them.

Often, during our volunteer years, we witness countless injustices such as lack of access to healthcare, affordable housing, clean water, and safe living conditions. Through the people we serve, we realize just how privileged we are. I find it easy to feel guilty about the opportunities we have been given and ask, “Why God?” However, this passage is conveying a different message. We, as faithful Christians, have the responsibility and privilege to use the blessings we have been given to serve others that have not been as fortunate. We are God’s “handiwork” created to do “good works.” Whether it is forgiving a friend who has hurt you, showing compassion and generosity to your neighbor, or choosing a career that serves marginalized and vulnerable populations, you can do these good works that God has prepared for us. We have been created to do God’s work and to allow his love shine through our words and actions.

Anna Thomas
AV 2014, Peru

Monday, March 16
Is 65:17-21; Ps 30:2 and 4, 5-6, 11-12A and 13b; Jn 4:43-54

I can directly credit my volunteer year to the career path that I am now journeying. Without the growth and opportunity I received through the AV program, I highly doubt this path would have been the one I forged after graduating college. For that reason, I went to my current students for inspiration on these readings. In the reading from Isaiah, they pointed out the renewal that comes with Christ and how we sometimes linger too heavily on the past. One of the students joked, “The present is a present,” with a grin but it was an important point to make. Sometimes when we are in the trenches our day to day lives, we forget how precious a gift it is. I remember during my volunteer year some days were just hard to get through. Whether it was because of your work site, your community or things going on at home, it was easy to push off a good mood until tomorrow or postpone gratitude until later. Looking back, I wish I would have cherished the moments a little more tenderly and been more open and aware of all the unexpected ways God was working in my life. My boss often quotes Pope Francis by saying: God is the God of surprises. Every time we decide to put God in a box, or we think we’ve ‘figured Him out’, He molds His grace into a new and unexpected offering. He continuously renews, recreates and resurrects the humdrum of everyday life to offer us the love, forgiveness and hope that we yearn for. My path has taken so many unexpected turns since I committed to my AV year and I anticipate God will continue to transform it in ways I cannot fathom if I am open to it. I pray this Lent; we make an effort to open our hearts to the God of surprises and to cherish all the joys He brings to the ordinary.

Emma Gallagher
AV 2012-13, Lawrence

Tuesday, March 17
Ez 47:1-9, 12; Ps 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9; Jn 5:1-16

Bodies of water have often been an attraction and a source of reflection for me. Whether it is the depth of the ocean, the expanse of a river, the calm of a lake, the peacefulness of a brook or stream, the depth of a well, or the beauty of a fountain, I find them to be places of reflection, peacefulness and wonder, vivid and tangible reminders of the gift of God’s creation.

During this season of Lent, the focus for Christians is water. It is time for each one of us to be mindful of our Baptism into Christ through the life-giving water of this foundational Sacrament of Christian initiation; it is our introduction to the Person of Jesus and the beginning of what should be a life-long intimacy and friendship with Him.

Today’s Gospel passage brings Jesus, and us, to the entrance of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, the most significant place for Jews to experience and encounter the presence of God. He comes to the pool of Bethesda, a word that means house of mercy, a name fittingly applied to the Word of God. Jesus meets a man who had lost the use of his limbs for thirty-eight years. Imagine, being helpless, unable to walk for so very many years. Jesus offers him help and mercy.

That person, unable to help himself, represents all of us who often labor under spiritual infirmity, unable to help ourselves. The Lenten season is a special time in the liturgical year when we are encouraged both to be more in touch with our particular infirmities but more importantly to be more aware of the presence and mercy of Jesus in our lives, always ready to help us in our need.

Here are two suggestions to assist us to participate in the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday and to renew of Baptismal commitment on Easter. Think of and pray about ways in which you might be able to ‘wash the feet’ of your brothers and sisters, simple acts of kindness, humility and service which you might consider doing for others in your life. Consider also celebrating the anniversary of your Baptism each year. Most likely, you won’t know or remember that anniversary but you can research it by obtaining a baptismal certificate from the parish church where you were baptized. Then, celebrate that day when you were embraced by Jesus as one of his disciples.

Fr. Jim Wenzel, O.S.A.
Former AV Advisory Board Member & Augustinian Site Supervisor, Lawrence

Wednesday, March 18
Is 49:8-15; Ps 145:8-9, 13cd-14, 17-18; Jn 5:17-30

Most of us would probably agree that life-giving and healthy relationships are built upon trust, a trust that must be sustained throughout the relationship. In the first reading from Isaiah, the Lord promises to meet the needs of his people, but the people of Zion still struggle with doubt in difficult times, feeling forsaken and forgotten by God. This experience of doubting, despite a foundation of trust, is something we all have probably experienced at one time or another, both in our relationship with God and with people in our lives. Even very strong relationships go through trying times. In the words of St. Augustine, “Doubt is but another element of faith.”

As Augustinian volunteers, you may be experiencing doubt or struggle related to your work placement, your community, your faith, or your plans for the future. How do you work through doubt, in your faith lives or with others? How do you accompany others in times of doubt? The season of Lent challenges us to create the space for reflection, for prayer, for living in the doubt that Jesus’ disciples must have felt after his death, but still in hope for Easter and resurrection. If we take seriously this opportunity during Lent to strengthen ourselves, our faith, and our relationships with others, we can nurture or repair the foundation of trust that allows us to persevere through times of doubt and struggle. May we trust in God’s abundant grace, mercy, and comfort, and treat ourselves and others with the same loving care.

Cheryl Mrazik
AV 2006-07, San Diego & AV Advisory Board Member

Thursday, March 19
2 Sm 7:4-5A, 12-14A, 16; PS 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29; Rom 4:13, 16-18, 22; Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24A

Today’s Gospel highlights a moment in the life of Joseph that perhaps sealed his role in the holy family. Yet, looking forward to the life of Joseph and how he was a constant presence in the life of Jesus and supporter of Mary, there is no doubt as to why Joseph did what the Lord commanded him to do; to take Mary, his wife, into his home. One can only imagine how his own faith impacted this decision; to trust in the Lord at a time when many may have struggled to do what was asked of Joseph. Looking back on our own faith journeys, there have been times where God has placed joys and responsibilities to us. Perhaps this year as a volunteer and community member have brought new challenges that were unforeseen. Have you allowed yourself to listen to God in these moments and hear what it is he wants of you as Joseph had? We forget at times prayer also includes listening to God and a key part of trusting in the Lord. Allow yourself the opportunity to let God speak to you and listen. When we listen to God, the outcome of our actions will far outweigh the task and challenges to complete what the Lord is asking of us.

Jeannie MacCune
AV 2007-08, Chicago

Friday, March 20
Wis 2:1a, 12-22; Ps 34:17-18, 19-20, 21 and 23; Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

“So they tried to arrest him
but no one laid a hand upon him
because his hour had not yet come.”

Often times I think to myself how much easier life might be if I could just have a glimpse into the future. Do I get a good job? Do I move to a new city? Do I meet someone and fall in love and live happily ever after? It’s in those moments, the moments when I need reassurance of my decisions or the direction I’m heading in, that I find it so hard to let go and let God.

The words of John’s gospel today speak to that longing – “Because his hour had not yet come.” In the hardest times, it is most difficult to see through to a greater plan. But isn’t that where God comes in? Though we may not know what it entails, there is a plan for us and each of us will get to where we are meant to be, all in good time.

In the hustle and bustle of life and the rush of modern society, sometimes it is beneficial to just sit in understanding of this notion – we will get to where we are meant to be, all in good time. During the season of Lent, we are given a unique opportunity to look inside ourselves, to understand and appreciate all that has brought us to where we are and all that will bring us forward. Because, like Jesus, our hours are yet to come. The most beautiful part of life is how much control we lack, yet we survive and thrive anyway.

So, in the days of Lent, our days of prayer and penance, let us not forget that the path before us has been laid, our unique plan is in place, and we will never be alone on our journey.

Amy Rowland
Current AV, Lawrence

Saturday, March 21, 2015
Jer 11:18-20; Ps 7:2-3, 9bc-10, 11-12; Jn 7:40-53

Over the course of my volunteer year there were many times where I, or my community members, often felt lost, confused, and even sometimes divided. These were frequently the weakest moments of our year together but it helped lead to the greatest moments. After reading today’s Gospel message from John, these feelings of confusion and division are nothing new. We hear that there were crowds of people gathered proclaiming Jesus as the Christ while others denied it, creating a division amongst the people. Over time, as this division grew, it lead to the arrest and crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimately, these weak moments shared in confusion and disagreement lead to the greatest moment for us as Christians. Our Lord and Savior gave His life for us, for our sins and eternal salvation.

I find the season of Lent to be a very special and rewarding time of the year for my personal growth as an individual and a person of faith. It allows me to look back on the past year and reflect on the times where I felt weak and lost and then turned to God to help me through them. It also allows me to reflect on all the blessings that God has given me. Lent is a time where I, as a child of God, forgive others and ask for forgiveness. I look at all these weak moments and all the great moments and remind myself that through everything God is with me as He gave His only Son for all of us.

As we get closer and closer to our Easter celebration let us all take time to reflect on this past year and ask for God’s forgiveness and remember that despite our struggles and weaknesses He will be in our lives and in our world because, “This is truly the Prophet…This is the Christ.”

Andrew DiMarco
AV 2013-14, Chicago

Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 22
Jer 31:31-34; Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 14-15; Heb 5:7-9; Jn 12:20-33

“Jesus also promises that we will bear much "fruit" for him, if we choose to deny ourselves for his sake. Jesus used forceful language to describe the kind of self-denial he had in mind for his disciples. What did he mean when he said that one must hate himself? The expression to hate something often meant to prefer less. Jesus says that nothing should get in the way of our preferring him and the will of our Father in heaven” (

I believe that we all chose to prefer less when we decided to dedicate a year of apostolic service through the Augustinian Volunteer Program. I think we can all understand the concept of bearing fruit for Jesus by choosing to deny ourselves and our personal desires and interests for His sake. By having the framework of putting others’ interests above our own, especially our AV community, we are able to develop a greater faith in God. For me personally, I have approached this year as a “yes” year, meaning that I must always offer help to whoever needs an extra hand. In saying yes to others I am able to deny myself and develop faith filled relationships with some many different types of people: strangers, parents, students and coworkers. This has been the ultimate lesson that I will carry on in the rest of my life: we all can provide help to others in our lives and we can all use help in our lives. This shared-faith approach encompasses the theme of self-denial in today’s Gospel reading. I encourage all of us to identify areas in our lives that we could use help and seek it out and also seek out those individuals in our lives that need help and provide it.

Rory Magargee
Current AV, Chicago

Monday, March 23
Dn 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62; Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6; Jn 8:1-11

Susanna stands up for herself because she knows what is right. She knows she is worthy in the eyes of God for her honesty. But she knows it won’t get her far because she is a woman, a minority, looked upon as less by so many.

The first reading, responsorial psalm and Gospel all reminded me of an event, a movement at the forefront of my community over the past seven months causing injustice, anger and division. As these readings brought my mind back the more intense moments from Ferguson and Michael Brown’s death, I begin to reflect and ask myself, who am I in these stories? Am I the priests condemning the innocent Susanna to death to assert my power and cover up my short comings? Or am I in the crowd ready to cast stones at Darren Wilson for what he has done? Reading through the story of Susanna I realize I needed to be more like Daniel, listening to the Lord for guidance and standing up for the innocent. I was so afraid that someone would consider my opinion on Ferguson irrational or extreme sadness for the state of my city immature, so I kept it to myself, I did not speak up. And I realized by not raising my own voice, I silenced many others.

Even though we all walk through our own dark valleys, the Lord walks with us. And He provides us with His wisdom to defend the innocent here on earth. Reflect on ways you bring justice to your community currently, and how you can continue to be more like Daniel, inspired by God’s gift of courage to stand up for those whose voices are not loud enough on their own.

Anna Cychowski
AV 2012-13, Lawrence

Tuesday, March 24
Nm 21:4-9; Ps 102:2-3, 16-18, 19-21; Jn 8:21-30

“But with their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses…” How many times has our patience worn out on our own journeys, maybe on this particular Lenten journey, or the AV journey, or just on our faith journeys in general? I think it’s safe to say that we probably all understand where the Israelites are coming from on this one…God’s plan is no easy one to follow.

The Lord saved the Israelites from their sins of impatience and mistrust with the bronze serpent he gave to Moses. Those who looked at this serpent saw two things: themselves, as sinners who had given into their human temptations to complain and find fault with God, and God’s abounding mercy, which absolved them of the sins that had threatened to destroy them.

In a similar way, when we gaze upon Jesus on the cross, we experience an introspective look into who we are and how Jesus saves us. We see ourselves as susceptible to sin, to wounding others and ourselves with our greed and selfishness; we see that we have contributed to the suffering of Jesus as he hangs on the cross. But we also see our God, whose unconditional love offers us continual forgiveness and healing. We see Jesus, the risen Lord, who endures and conquers our sins because he loves us so very much.

As we continue on our journeys, in the final days of Lent and beyond, may we gaze upon the cross with the faith and the repentance that the Israelites had as they gazed upon the bronze serpent, so that we may see our sins overpowered by God’s unfailing love and bask in the glory of his mercy.

Angela Monaco
AV 2013-14, San Diego

Wednesday, March 25
Is 7:10-14; 8:10; Ps 40:7-8A, 8B-9, 10, 11; Heb 10:4-10; Lk 1:26-38

Our knowledge that “God is with us,” certainly comes alive in our readings on this Feast of the Annunciation. The scene depicted in today’s Gospel of Mary being visited by an angel, has been painted over and over by artists throughout the centuries. The need we have as humans to see and sense the mysteries of our faith, transcends time, culture, and the many generations that have come and gone since the actual event of Mary saying ‘yes’ to the Lord. Her faith becomes a living example of what our faith should become as we attempt to address the Lord throughout our lives, trying to find the courage, wisdom, and faith to also say ‘yes’ to God on a daily basis.

As Mary found the grace to accept the message of the angel, we must find the necessary grace to accept the challenges of our faith each day by being open to the message that we too have a unique role in salvation history. We have been challenged to be Christ-bearers, as was Mary, by our daily actions and good works. Mary found favor with the Lord and so do we, by allowing ourselves the opportunity to grow in holiness as we minister to one another throughout the Lenten Season in preparation for Easter.

The readings today set the stage for what Lent leads us to as we prepare to recognize the Risen Christ in ourselves and others. St. Augustine reminds us in Sermon 229 that, “the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the distinctive mark of the Christian faith.” We have been marked by that very action of Christ rising from the dead. Today we rejoice in what God did for Mary and continues to do for us, that is giving us the grace to say ‘yes’ when asked to do God’s will. Isn’t that really what our faith calls us to do?

Fr. Joe Mostardi, O.S.A
AV Advisory Board Member & Founding Director of Augustinian Volunteers

Thursday, March 26
Gn 17:3-9; Ps 105:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; Jn 8:51-59

It can be easy to give myself all the credit for the good works I do, as if all my actions are from my own power and will. When others tell me how good I am for volunteering, for a day or a year, I brush it off with a false humility, for inside I am swelling up with judgment over all those who do not do what I do. And then I start caring about everything that is unimportant. All my actions become increasingly burdensome. I do “good works” to be better than others. I stop really spending time with others and instead dominate the conversation with my intelligence. And I do things that I think is best (or rather what I want) and never praise others for the good work they have done. I forget that everything I have ever been able to do is because of God. It is only be being in touch with God that others will be helped.

God has first given me the grace to serve. I love because God loves me first. If I speak in front of others about the faith, it is not I who am speaking but God. If I thought I was speaking out of my own power, I would be so caught up in how I sound and look and care more about how I present the message instead of the message itself. And even now I fight to not take pride in the words I have written. I can block God out with fancy words. But no one will benefit. Only through humility, by praising God alone and never myself, will anything good ever happen. Abraham prostrated himself before God, the psalmist sings of God’s great deeds, and Jesus glorifies God, saying, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is the Father who glorifies me.”

Daniel Madden
AV 2011-12, Chicago

Friday, March 27
Jer 20:10-13; Ps 18:2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 7; Jn 10:31-4

I always start to get a little anxious towards the end of Lent. For many, we have made sacrifices in our daily lives during this holy season and we start to feel ready to move on in our relationship with God, hopefully to a better, more life-giving stage. Lent is a long journey, during the final months of winter, and I always look forward to the new life – physically and spiritually – that comes with Easter Sunday.
Lent is hard. Volunteering full-time can be challenging. Living in community is often difficult. Being away from friends, family or a supportive faith community is not easy. As the responsorial psalm for today invites us to call upon the Lord in times of distress, I can’t help but think how appropriate this is for the final week of Lent and for this point of the volunteer year. It is so easy for all of us to get caught up in the daily grind, and perhaps to focus on the hard things in life. As an Augustinian Volunteer especially, we witness to lives of many folks that may have it even more difficult than us.

So how do we keep going? How do we live in this crazy world, with so much sadness and distress? I have come to believe the only way is to call upon God. God allows us to see beauty amidst distress. Perhaps a good conversation with someone or a grace-filled moment in our day can remind us what life is all about. All of the readings today remind us that God is here, waiting for us, always. God is ready to help through this journey and all journeys. After all, St. Augustine reminds us that the only way we can find peace is to allow our hearts to rest in God.

Vicki Izzo Blaszak
AV 2004-05, San Diego

Saturday, March 28
Ez 37:21-28; Jer 31:10, 11-12abcd, 13; Jn 11:45-56

“The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.”

As the bell rings, my students run out to the blacktop eager to get their physical education class started. What they do know is that they will be stretching, running, then playing some sort of physical activity for this class. What my kids don’t know is while planning for this class I have already thought out, “what precautions can I take to make sure all my students are safe in this activity? Will this type of activity be ok for this age group? For their maturity level? Does this class thrive off of competition or having fun? How can I get maximum participation from each student...?” and the list goes on. While kids may think of me as the game giver and rule enforcer for those 50 minutes on the blacktop, I feel as though I am their shepherd.

While I wish that my students never felt pain, they still scrape their knees on the asphalt. While I wish everyone got along in class, there are still quarrels. And while I wish that everyone were a good sport, there are some sore losers and rule breakers.

God can act as our shepherd, but there is no guarantee that our lives will be perfect. I have come to realize that while God is watching over us we still have our fair share of missteps, misfortunes and mistakes.

Sometimes during P.E, kids will be so captivated by the game that they forget I am even watching. Even though I am still present, they may not feel my presence as heavily as when something goes wrong, like an injury or a dispute. While I am in no way comparable to God, I do feel like a shepherd, always present for my students with a listening ear, doing my best to guide them and protect them. Realizing that God is always with us and guiding us, I challenge you to look for God’s presence in your daily life and appreciate his role in guiding us as a shepherd does. I would especially challenge you to notice God’s presence during hard times, as these are the times where we are most in need of his guidance.

Danielle Callahan
Current AV, San Diego

Palm Sunday, March 29
Is 50:4-7; Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24; Phil 2:6-11; Mk 14:1-15:47

After reflecting and revising this reflection a few times, I realized Palm Sunday represents two of the questions I struggle with most in my faith. 1) Regarding our human nature, why are we the way we are? 2) Why is there suffering? Palm Sunday shows us a man who experiences these two themes in extreme ways. Jesus experiences the two sides of human nature by being praised with palms at the beginning of the week while before the week is over being crucified by those very same people. He also experiences intense suffering on his journey with the cross.

Most of us have had life experiences that have prompted us to ask the two questions I referred to above and many of us during our year of service as an AV. Perhaps we can think of a relationship of ours where we experienced the best and worst of human nature with another person or community member. And maybe we recall a difficult time in our life when events unfolded that pushed us to our limits with suffering or a time when our community was hurting.

Human nature and suffering are key elements of christianity. I think one of the reasons I struggle with my faith is that Jesus had such a good attitude towards those two things while, I, on the other hand, do not. I’m sure God sees my heart daily and the moments where I trust amidst the positive and negative of human nature and suffering as well as the times I grudgingly continue and doubt the necessity and purpose of such things. This passage can challenge us to decide or remember who we believe Jesus really is--a thing we sometimes gloss over in our faith. If we believe Jesus is who he really said he was, then maybe we can go to him to help change our hearts, our attitudes toward good and evil in ourselves and others and suffering.

Taylor Gostomski
AV 2014, Peru
Assistant Director of Augustinian Volunteers

Monday, March 30
Is 42:1-7; Ps 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14; Jn 12:1-11

“The Lord is my light and my salvation.”

The Lord is our light, He shows us how we ought to act and treat others. But perhaps more important than showing the what of our actions, Jesus illuminates the why. In the first reading, Isaiah writes that God tells His children: “I, the Lord, have called you for the victory of justice.” Loving others as He has loved us. But John tells us that when Judas asked about the extravagant waste of pouring oil that could have been sold to benefit the poor, Jesus rebukes him.

Wait… what?

But John does not list facts to be taken at face value. He adds that Judas did not care about the poor and even stole contributions.

But Jesus, the light that penetrates our facades, reminds Judas that he will always have a responsibility to the poor, but he will not always have Jesus. Jesus is the light to show us what we ought to do, how we ought to act. Yes, love motivates us to care for others, but why? When we act for others, are we imitating Christ and acting for some selfish benefit? Or are we syncing our hearts with our hands and genuinely extending ourselves to others as Christ would?

Many who serve others feel the blessings of selflessness which should not invoke guilt. But we ought to always question our motives, thinking about whether or not we are doing the right thing, at the right time, for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.

We are called to trust in the way of God. We are called for the victory of justice. We are called to love genuinely, selflessly, and without measure.

Michael Bucaria
Current AV, Ventura

Tuesday, March 31
Is 49:1-6; Ps 71:1-2, 3-4a, 5ab-6ab, 15 and 17; Jn 13:21-33, 36-38

The first reading really spoke to me in how I feel about my experience as an AV. “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Now that I have completed my year, I can’t imagine my life going in any other direction. But with that, really reflecting back on some experiences, uncertainties, doubts etc, once I learned to let go of all of those, everything seemed to work out in some way shape or form. As if I was created and formed throughout the duration of the year to complete the jobs and responsibilities out there. One of my roommates on more than one occasion shared a quote with me that Pope John Paul I used to pray before bed and I’ll hold onto forever, "I did everything I could for Your church today, but remember God, it's Your church; and now I'm going to bed." That was all I needed to hear when I was letting the stresses of a new country, language, cultures and customs get the best of me during my time in Peru.

Once I learned to truly trust God, not in the I hope He helps me through, but I know He is going to help me through way, He did. And in learning to let go of trying to do it all, is when you realize just how much you are actually able to accomplish. We can't do it all and that is the cold hard truth, but we can do something. And we can really create something beautiful when we take our gifts and talents to an unfamiliar place with a willingness to share and learn from a whole new group of people, who by the end of your year, you will come to call family.

Tina Teofilo
AV 2014, Peru

Wednesday, April 1
Is 50:4-9a; Ps 69:8-10, 21-22, 31 and 33-34; Mt 26:14-25

Isaiah’s image of the servant of God today is the example par excellence of what a servant should be, that is, someone who places himself or herself at the total service of God. In today’s Gospel, Matthew cites Judas as the betrayer who hands our Lord over to those who will eventually capture, torture and kill him. Thus, Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus, the suffering servant. In our own lives, we have all felt the hurt of a betrayal, perhaps by a slight from a friend, a relative, a boss or a coworker, a fellow volunteer, a confidence broken, and so on. Betrayal stings! But do we ever look at ourselves as betrayers? Or would we also say, good disciples that we are, “Surely, it is not I, Rabbi?” But we are betrayers, we do act disloyally, and we are unfaithful in a myriad of ways. No, we may not be as guilty as Judas, but we do have our moments when shiny pieces of silver, or fame, or self-indulgence, or some other reward hold sway in our lives rather than to be who and what we really have promised to be as the servants of God. We go forward this week following in Jesus’ footprints as he pays the price of servanthood. Let us go forward likewise to gaze into the face of Christ in the suffering of this world and find ways to serve them. Tomorrow, despite our betrayals, we will be welcomed to Jesus’ last meal and sacrifice. As we gather at the Passover table and enter this most profound journey with Jesus may He find us willing to pay the price of being His servants.

Fr. Frank Doyle, O.S.A.
Former Augustinian Site Supervisor, South Africa

Holy Thursday, April 2
Ex 12:1-8, 11-14; Ps 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Jn 13:1-15

Preparing to celebrate the Last Supper, it strikes me how Jesus began this final meal. Jesus acted very intentionally, “fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” With such purpose and awareness, what does it say that Jesus chose for one of his very last acts on this earth to be an act of service? Furthermore, what does it say that he directs this loving service toward his disciples, his friends? As volunteers past and present, we value service to the poor and marginalized, as we see reflected in Jesus’s public ministry. Yet here, Jesus chooses to serve the people with whom he shares some of his closest relationships, his most intimate friends.

Sometimes it is the most difficult to serve those we are closest to – living in community can be a prime example of that! How often, after a tiring day of work, do we offer a friendly greeting upon arriving home? How often do we remember to ask about someone else’s day? Even when we are frustrated or annoyed, do we serve each other with kindness and joy?

Conversely, it is also difficult to accept service from those closest to us. Peter resists Jesus washing his feet, perhaps out of a sense of pride, or because he feels uncomfortable. Do we accept service with gratitude? Are we humble enough to recognize our own interdependency, to admit we need help? Do we allow ourselves to be vulnerable? To be loved? Do we give others the opportunity to grow in holiness by serving us?

As Psalm 116 beautifully reminds us, “our blessing cup is a communion.” There is a reason that Jesus puts together this intimate act of service and the breaking of bread - this is how we are to be in communion with one another.

Emily Thompson
AV 2013-14, Ventura

Good Friday, April 3
Is 52:13—53:12; Ps 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25; Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9; Jn 18:1—19:42

We are not people who often long to wait, sacrifice or practice self-control. Coming into a volunteer year, you commit yourself to sacrificing certain pleasantries of the life you had coming into this year and instead dedicate your time to being present with one another in community, at your service sites and with God.

For the past 40 days you took that a step further and perhaps you gave up something as a community, or maybe put into practice a good habit. I always find Lent to be a challenging time—as it is meant to be—and feel relieved when Easter arrives and we can finally rejoice. Well you’ve now made it and the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight. I don’t, however, usually reflect much after Lent ends and I think that is unfortunate because there is a lot to be learned during our times of suffering and sacrificing.

Lent isn’t about feeling good about ourselves because we stuck to what we said we would. I think it’s more about recognizing our humanity and remembering where we fell short. Today, on Good Friday, we witness humanity in many people. Judas motivated by greed; Peter consumed with fear; Jesus shamed, beaten and crucified.

We live in a society where accomplishments are celebrated and failures are ignored. I don’t believe accomplishments are without failure. Let’s now take time to reflect on our Lenten experiences. Where were we on Ash Wednesday? What did we hope to accomplish? Why? Where did we fall short? How do we hope to grow? How do we plan to carry out the changes we’ve made in our lives in the coming weeks and months ahead?

Shannon Keough
AV 2010-11, Lawrence