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Feb 17, 2021

The Power of Our Name: Ave Maria University

Kevin Murphy

From Our Sponsor, Ave Maria University

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Naming something has always been a powerful act. God brought all the animals to Adam to see what he would call them (Genesis 2:19). God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, meaning “father of the multitudes.” Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, and he became the head of a nation. Simon’s name was changed to Peter, and he became the head of the Church. Fast forward a few thousand years and we instinctively still want to name things. However, names previously weren’t chosen simply for cadence or recall; they signified something deeper about the essence of the person. This is certainly true with the name Ave Maria. 

While many recognize that the term Ave Maria is Latin for “Hail Mary,” others mistakenly think this was the angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary in Luke’s gospel. Although it is a fair summary of the encounter, these are not Gabriel’s words verbatim. Gabriel does not say “Hail, Mary.” He says, “Hail, Full of Grace.” 

This is significant. 

The term “Hail” is often followed by a title. For example, “Hail, Caesar” indicates royal authority. Another powerful example is found in Christ’s passion. You may recall the guards mocking Jesus by putting a crown of thorns on his head and saying, “Hail, King of the Jews” (Mark 15:18). Again, “Hail” is followed by a royal title. 

In the case of Mary, it’s “Hail, Full of Grace,” which is astonishing considering this is an angel, “sent from God” (Luke 1:26), greeting a young, virgin girl with such a magnanimous title. It’s no wonder Mary is deeply troubled and wonders what his greeting means. “Full of Grace” indicates Mary has already been graced by God and filled with his divine life. 

The angel goes on to declare to Mary, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33). Royal language permeates the context.

It goes on:

And Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.

And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” 

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her

Luke 1:34-38

As Catholics, we’ve heard this story a million times and perhaps breeze by it, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it in a new light.

In paragraph 490, it says:

“To become the mother of the Savior, Mary ‘was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.’ The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as ‘full of grace.’ In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne of God’s grace.”

Gabriel delivered Mary’s vocational call. Think of this sequentially: 

  1. A messenger of God is sent to a girl named Mary. 
  2. Mary is “Full of Grace.” 
  3. The angel announces Mary’s vocational call. 
  4. Mary inquires about the call. 
  5. Mary accepts her vocation with a profound Fiat—“Let it be done unto me according to thy word.” 
  6. Mary goes on to become the Mother of God and of all his children, as she is given to each of us at the foot of the cross (John 19:26).

This has to be our mission as a university bearing such a weighted name as Ave Maria,. 

At Ave Maria University, we provide a culture where students grow in God’s grace, prepare to discover their vocational call, and are equipped to respond wholeheartedly with their free assent.

4 practical ways Ave Maria University supports the discernment of vocation, as learned through the Annunciation:

1. Seek to be “Full of Grace” (Luke 1:28)

Ave Maria provides access to God’s grace with six daily Masses, daily confession, and a community not simply tolerating Catholic faith, but supporting and challenging you to grow in it.

2. Discern God’s Call (Luke 1:34)

We have 31 majors and 28 minors. This allows you to discern or inquire about your vocational call just as Mary did. We also have a core curriculum of three theology and two philosophy courses to support your every endeavor with a moral and ethical foundation.

3. Give your fiat (Luke 1:38)

Once you’ve determined where God wants you to go, give your free assent and passionately pursue it. Say “yes” to God!

4. Joyfully celebrate with the Lord  

Once Mary said “yes,” her participation was not reluctant or passive. Instead, she joyfully collaborated even when she didn’t fully understand. It seems indicative that the first act after the angel left Mary was for her to go “in haste” to visit Elizabeth (Luke 1:39).

The haste Mary showed was a passion to fulfill her calling and to give herself fully to the Lord. Answering a vocational call affords you the same opportunity: to joyfully collaborate with the will of God in your life.

Ave Maria is more than just the name of a university: it’s an open invitation to be filled with God’s grace, discover your vocation, and live your calling as the royal heir of Christ.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the summer edition of the Ave Maria University magazine. To receive the next edition, out March 25th, visit this link

You May Also Like:

Mary’s Fiat: Trusting God in the Unexpected [Audio]


Waiting for God after Your Fiat


The Key to Discernment [Fr. Mike Video]


Kevin Murphy is Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Ave Maria University. He has over 30 years of marketing and sales experience, having worked and consulted with companies ranging from Fortune 100 to start-ups. He is married to his wife, Linda, and they have five children ranging in age from 16 to 26.

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