When was the Culture of Life first proclaimed against the culture of death? It could be said that the Culture of Life began with John Paul’s encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae,” promulgated in 1995. It could also be said that the Culture of Life began in 1973, in response to the Supreme Court ruling on Roe vs. Wade. It might even be said that the Culture of Life was inaugurated by Pope Paul VI in 1968, with his encyclical “Humanae Vitae.” You could make a good case for any one of those claims.
Here’s an easier question: When was Ave Maria University founded? Well, depending upon how one counts such things, we can say that Ave Maria University is looking forward to soon celebrating its twelfth anniversary. That is true, but it is not quite correct.
I think that Ave Maria University, and the Culture of Life which it serves, were both inaugurated at the Annunciation, the great solemnity we are celebrating today. At that moment, when the Providence of God met the humility of Mary, human life was given an identity, a dignity and a destiny that the pagans of the ancient world could not have imagined, and which the modern world cannot match or even comprehend. In that moment, in the “fiat,” in the “yes” with which Mary responded to the Archangel Gabriel, the horrifying power of sin and the culture of death it spawned, began to be broken.
Consider this lovely image from Saint Irenaeus. He wrote: “Eve, by her disobedience, tied the knot of disgrace for the human race; whereas Mary, by her obedience, undid it“. Our Blessed Mother, by her love, trust and obedience, cooperated with God so that within her very body, the seed of the Culture of Life took root.
We here at Ave Maria, love and serve the Culture of Life begun at the Annunciation; we here at Ave Maria, in opposition to the culture of death which is devouring both human bodies and human souls, wish to imitate the love, trust and obedience of Mary. In imitation of our Blessed Mother, we too wish to cooperate with the saving plan of God. We want to say “yes” to what God would do with us, body and soul. That is why this glorious Solemnity of the Annunciation, a cause of joy for all Catholics, is held especially dear to us here at Ave Maria. The Annunciation is for us here at Ave Maria our icon, our charter and our measure.
The Annunciation is our icon, for it helps us to see what our lives should look like—a humble, grateful and fruitful trusting of God’s Power and Providence. The Annunciation is our charter, for Mary’s “fiat”, her “yes” to the work of God must be echoed and implemented by us here. And the Annunciation is our measure, for we can only judge our success or failure by our obedience to the call of God.
Today, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the patronal feast of Ave Maria University, let’s pray for three graces, three special blessings. Let’s pray to be alert—alert to the promptings of the divine messengers sent our way, as Mary was. Let’s pray to be obedient—obedient to the workings of Divine Providence, as Mary was. And let’s pray to be fruitful—fruitful stewards of the amazing grace entrusted to our care. If we do that, if we pray and live to be alert, obedient and fruitful, then we can both echo and imitate Mary at the inauguration of the Culture of Life and say, “May it be done to me according to your word.”
Ave Maria University’s Father Robert McTeigue, S.J., preached this homily during Mass for the Solemnity of the Feast of the Annunciation, which is the patronal feast of the town of Ave Maria, the parish of Ave Maria Oratory, and Ave Maria University. Father McTeigue is currently finishing a collection of homilies and essays on preaching entitled, I Have Someone to Tell You: A Jesuit Heralds the Gospel. He recently began writing a weekly column. Father McTeigue earnestly seeks your prayers that his life and work be to God’s greater glory.