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Editor’s Note: This article is a sneak peek of the Ave Maria University Spring Magazine, out March 25th. To receive the magazine, visit this link. In this article, Dr. Mark Miravalle explores essential questions regarding vocation and how you can rely on Mary’s fiat as a guide.
1. In a society chasing instant gratification, money, and power, we find workaholism, burnout, and anxiety to be rampant. What if we had a society filled with people viewing work as an anointed, God-given vocation?
Clearly, our worldview of life and our metaphysics of work foundationally impact our society. There is a radical difference between, as the great German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper articulated, “living to work” versus “working to live.” In the latter, work is a noble means for the celebration of life, intrinsically and organically filled with dignity, as well as with and personal and societal fulfillment.
Theologically, we believe an infinitely loving Father has a providential plan for each one of us—a plan designed from all eternity for our ultimate fulfillment, happiness, and service to his Kingdom. We call this a “vocation.”
Sometimes, a young person may feel everyone else has a vocation except them, crying in their hearts, “I think God forgot me!” This is impossible. If your loving Father knows the number of hairs on your head, He likewise has planned a beautiful and fruitful vocation for your life. Oftentimes, more extended time in prayer is necessary in order to hear it, then to accept it, then to live it. There’s no place better for this vocational listening and discerning than before our Eucharistic Jesus in Adoration, where our Lord answers all the questions we need to know at precisely the right time.
2. What was Mary’s vocational call? How was it received?
Our Lady’s vocational call was nothing short of the greatest in human history: to bring our divine Redeemer into the world, and to uniquely participate with Jesus in human Redemption. It is a “wonderment of nature,” as the liturgical text refrains, for a creature to give birth to her Creator. As Mother Teresa quipped, “Of course, Mary is the Co-redemptrix. She gave Jesus his body, and the offering of the body of Jesus is what saved us.”
Vocationally noteworthy as well is the fact it was a woman— not a pope, not a bishop, not a priest, not a man— chosen by God for the highest human vocation, i.e., to work with and under Jesus, like no other creature, in the historic work of Redemption. This constitutes the true basis for authentic Christian feminism, and why Our Lady must be the ultimate exemplar and guide for all women in seeking their own rightful vocations.
The Annunciation reveals the greatest human “yes” to the greatest human vocation in creation. It is a truly a sublime grace for Ave Maria University, to be, both in name and in charism, so profoundly permeated with the spirituality of the Mother of Jesus and the Spiritual Mother of all peoples, as it is embodied at the Annunciation.
3. Mary was obviously filled with grace in a very unique way, as the Immaculate Conception. For those of us not immaculately conceived, how do we receive the grace necessary not only to know God’s call, but to respond to it?
The prayer and sacramental life of the Church offers us more than ample grace to hear, to receive, and to sustain our God-given vocations. Two great vehicles for both assisting in vocation discernment and for ensuring vocation fulfillment are: 1) once again, frequent weekly visits before the Blessed Sacrament, where we can directly ask Jesus and our Mother to reveal or to strengthen our vocations within our hearts; and 2) Marian
consecration, where by consecrating ourselves to Our Lady as her “slaves,” we can be freed from certain personal agenda or attachments, and thus allow the Mother of Vocations to guide us to the vocation which most pleases her divine Son. St. John Paul II called Mary the “Spokesperson of her Son’s will” and consecration to Our Lady can exponentially assist in discovering or in being perpetually faithful to our Christian vocations.
4. How do we see Mary repetitively give her “fiat” throughout scripture? What does that tell us about the nature of vocation?
Mary’s joyful fiat at the Annunciation (LkLuke. 1:38) contains within itself, according to the great French spiritual writer, Jean Pierre de Caussade, all of the greatest elements of Christian Spirituality. Our Lady’s fiat would be a “yes” she would utter throughout her life. For example, she would utter an interior fiat to the words of Simeon, hearing her son would be a sign of
contradiction and her own heart would be pierced (cf. Lk.Luke 2:35); her fiat in action to her Son’s divine power which would lead to the first miracle at the wedding of Cana (cf. Jn.John 2:5); and her most painful fiat at Calvary, where St. John Paul II states that Mary offers her “sorrowful fiat” to being “spiritually crucified with her crucified Son” for our salvation. The
Second Vatican Council confirms that at Calvary, Our Lady “consented to the immolation of the victim born of her” (Lumen Gentium, 58), which is the greatest fiat to redemptive suffering any human, any mother, could ever give.
Our lifelong vocations, too, will be filled with both joyful and sorrowful fiats. If we keep our hearts united to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary in seeking to live our vocations day to day, strengthened through prayer and the sacraments, then whether joyful or sorrowful, our fiats will ultimately be meritorious for our vocations and for our sanctifications.
5. Inspired by Our Lady, what does it look like to have a vocational approach to our work?
In imitation of our Mother, our work can become our prayer, but only if we pray first. Our Lady lived each moment of each day in complete union with the Divine will, but only because her prayer preceded her work, and therefore enveloped and transformed her work, and thus in turn, allowed her to make every daily task, regardless how menial, into a prayer.
In our only limited way, we can follow the Mother’s example of making our work our prayer, but not without first praying. Hence the need for a spiritual discipline of daily prayer, which, when possible, should include daily Mass and the daily Rosary.
6. With your Marian expertise, and as a college professor, can you speak to the difference between seeking to be employable, versus than seeking to make meaningful contribution to society, for the student?
While the two pursuits are not necessarily contradictory, there should certainly be in proper priority. Returning to the critical providential foundation of Christian vocation, God does have a plan for your life and that plan will never be exclusively to become a material success. Bringing Christ to the world through your vocation can have a great beauty of diversity of concrete manifestations, oftentimes one not better than another. It is also important to remember that a person’s God-given vocation may not necessarily turn societal heads or bring in large quantities of cash. A group of fishermen changed the world, not because they were the most employable, but because they were the most faithful in adapting their personal gifts to obey Christ’s developing vocations for them, which of course led both to their personal holiness, and also to spreading the saving Church throughout the world. We should seek to offer our own vocational gifts in the same way.
At the same time, seeking excellence in various careers or professions is an essential part of a proper Christian Theology of work. Here we must go to Joseph. St. Joseph will guide us to the proper balance of work, which should not prioritize material gain or public notoriety first, but rather a sanctified dignity in using our God-given potentials in obedience to God’s plan and the
good of family and society.
7. As a father of 8 children, could you share what’s been important to you in leading your children to discern their vocations?
The role of Christian parents in assisting children to discern a vocation is, I believe, a delicate and difficult balance between A) honestly pointing out to your children the particular talents you perceive in them over the years, and how practically that could manifest itself in a particular vocation; and at the same time, B) to make absolutely and repeatedly clear to them that their choice of vocation is ultimately, entirely, and exclusively their own, between themselves and God.
No family is perfect, save one, which means no contemporary Christian family formation of children will be either. Still, our heartfelt efforts to form our children in the ways of the Catholic Faith, however imperfectly, will hopefully provide a foundation for our children to look to God first for their ultimate vocational choices. The Holy Family and their powerful intercession will greatly assist our children to make the best possible vocational decisions, united with our own perpetual parental supplications.
Sometimes, it is a longer journey than expected for today’s young people to discover God’s vocation for them. In other cases, it may be that God will abundantly bless a young person who makes a “Plan B” vocational decision, even if it is not the “Plan A” vocational decision the Lord had originally intended for them. I believe Christian parents should ultimately support any legitimate Christian vocational choice of their children, in mirroring the respect for their vocational freedom which the Heavenly Father has given to each one of them, which is the same vocational freedom God gave to every parent.
May Our Lady of the Annunciation bless each and every student at Ave Maria University with an abundance of graces in order to discern and to accept the Father’s wondrous plan for each of their most precious lives.