Convocation Address: "Catholic university Life and the year of Mercy"

Convocation Address: "Catholic university Life and the year of Mercy"

Dr. Mark Miravalle, Professor of Theology at Franciscan University, delivered Ave Maria University’s convocation address, “Catholic University Life and the Year of Mercy,” on September 4, 2015.

The event opened with a prayer led by Fr. Robert Garrity, S.T.D., Director of Campus Ministry. Fr. Garrity enjoined those gathered to start off the school year with an appropriate attitude. Quoting the words of Sirach, he urged the students: “[I]f you apply yourself, you will be shrewd. If you are willing to listen, you will learn.”

On the heels of this prayer, Dr. Mark Miravalle spoke to the students about what they can expect, if they apply themselves, from a Catholic liberal arts education. He began by offering the examples of two “giants” in the Church: Pope Saint John Paul II, a giant of the mind; and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a giant of the heart.

Yet John Paul II was also a “champion of the heart,” Miravalle said. “He didn’t just teach a radical philosophical personalism, he lived it.” Likewise for Mother Teresa, whose name is not only “almost synonymous with charity,” but who is also known for her “keen intellect.” Both of these giants cultivated an excellence of the mind and an excellence of the heart. “Not one or the other,” Miravalle insisted, “but both.” Catholic education has always been just that: An advancement of the mind coupled with a development of the heart.

In this vein, Miravalle offered the students ten tips on how to cultivate an appropriate attitude toward their studies, applying themselves in order to get the most out of a Catholic liberal arts education, and how to develop charity, because “we are all called to be saints,” he said. 

The first five (speculative) tips:

  1. Immerse yourself in the greatest intellectual tradition in human history. “[T]he Church has synthesized the best,” Miravalle said. “Where,” he continued,”is it guaranteed that you will get what has come down through this great process of Catholic tradition? The oftentimes accursed and unappreciated core curriculum. … That’s how a university like this guarantees that you will get this truth and pass it on.” 
  2. Pursue truth for truth’s sake, and human development–not just training. Undertake your studies “for your perfection, for your personal advancement.”
  3. Obey the Magisterium.  “It’s not irrational to follow the Magisterium,” he said. “It’s super-rational.”
  4. Celebrate the legitimate beauty of diversity within the Church. “God uses a variety of spiritualities so as to reflect the beauty of the one Church.”
  5. Excel in your profession or specialization. “We desperately need authentically Catholic and educated professionals, because we are in a culture war… We will be victorious, but we have to do our part.” 

The second five (practical) tips:

  1. Establish a daily prayer schedule. “First we’re called to be saints, and then we’re called to be scholars.” To help with this, Miravalle suggested four pillars: i. Daily Mass; ii. Daily Rosary; iii. Eucharistic Adoration at least once a week; and iv. Confession at least once a month. 
  2. Establish a daily study schedule. “Realistic study is part of making the truth your own.”
  3. Respect your bodies. “We have to tend to the body…that’s part of a balanced life.” Underneath this point, Miravalle offered three subpoints: i. Dress and act with purity and modesty; ii. Exercise; and iii. Don’t get drunk; don’t get high. 
  4. Check the headlines daily. “There’s a danger at campuses…that we become insular, that we become clothed in ourselves.” How can we call ourselves educated and change culture if we don’t know what’s going on in the world?  
  5. Consecrate yourselves to your mother, the Blessed Mother. “Follow the example of some of the greatest scholar-saints in history… Marian consecration is a no-lose situation.”

Dr. Miravalle closed his address with a reference to the upcoming Year of Mercy, which will begin on December 8, 2015. He posed the question: How will you become a witness to the mercy of the Church this year? In answer, he suggested two tasks: First, receive mercy, for example, by taking advantages of the indulgences throughout the year; and second, give mercy through forgiveness—especially to those that you most need to forgive.  

Miravalle ended with the prayer: “May Our Blessed Mother, Saint John Paul II, and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta defend and guide and protect the goal of this university and, God-willing, every university, to attain the truth in the perfection of love.” 

Dr. Mark Miravalle, husband, permanent deacon, and father of eight, earned his Sacred Theological Doctorate at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Dr. Miravalle has been teaching at the Franciscan University of Steubenville since 1986. He is President of the international Catholic movement, Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici (Voice of the People for Mary Mediatrix). Dr. Miravalle is known for his international lectures in Mariology. He has addressed several episcopal conferences, including that of South India, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Costa Rica. In addition, he has made many conference appearances as well as several television appearances, for example on EWTN and Fox News. He also produces a biweekly Mariology television show for www.airmaria.com.