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Franciscan University’s new St. John Paul II Chair of Mariology said in an interview that the opportunity will allow him to coordinate a more united front in support of the Virgin Mary.
Mark Miravalle, who holds a doctorate in sacred theology, has taught theology and Mariology at Franciscan University since 1986 and was awarded the honor to recognize his work as a scholar, writer, speaker and teacher on Mary, according to an April 9 press release by the university.
The press release said that the honor is a “funded chair” and will receive financial support from the Zita and James Gavin Foundation, which supports Catholic and Marian-related activities.
Miravalle said that as chair, he will be able to coordinate with cardinals, bishops and lay Marian scholars from across the world in spreading the message of the Virgin Mary, which is something he sees as currently lacking.
“There seems to be a lack of Marian leaders working together for her cause,” Miravalle said. “It often seems as if the world is more unified in their efforts against the faith than the faith is to bring forth Christ.”
Miravalle said that one of his projects will be to promote an international journal of Mariology that he founded called Ecce Mater Tua – Latin for “Behold your mother” – which he hopes will unite scholars from many different countries.
He also plans to speak internationally on Mariology and said that not only will he be traveling to Amsterdam in May to give a presentation, but he also has been offered the opportunity to go to Iraq and give a seminar on the subject at the university started by Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda.
Miravalle is also the president of a Marian association and said that combining the two roles will help not just scholastically, but will help provide a more united front in presenting the whole truth and love of the Virgin Mary.
As he approaches this honor, Miravalle said that he takes inspiration from St. John Paul II, the namesake of the chair. In the university’s press release, the late pontiff is described as “arguably the most Marian pope of all time,” and Miravalle said that he is a great role model for those seeking to study the Virgin Mary.
“He was such a historic figure for the mother that included his genius as a theologian but also his loving heart as the ‘Totus Tuus’ pope,” Miravalle said. “That combination of head and heart is something that I want to try to reflect in the chair – that it’s both high scholarship but also a truth-dedicated love and more of the embracing of the gift we get from the cross when Christ says ‘Behold your mother.’ We as a church need to respond to that gift more.”
Miravalle said that too often, Catholics stumble when confronted with the “Marian questions” by people such as fundamentalist Christians. This is something he says needs to change.
“Theologically, but more for the New Evangelization, the more they can defend the truth about Mary, the more they’re defending the truth about Jesus and the Church,” he said, adding, “She can’t be separated from her son or the body of her son.”
Miravalle is encouraged by the response he has seen to Mariology on campus and hopes it will spread through the country. He said that he has taught over 5,000 students in his time at the university and that they are “bringing the truth about Mary” wherever they end up.
The university is expanding its area of Marian focus by adding a second Mariologist, Br. Daniel Maria Klimek, TOR, to its theology staff, and by adding a Marian concentration to its theology master’s degree program.
The new concentration will allow people to receive an all-around Mariological preparation and education, Miravalle said, and will treat several facets of the Virgin Mary’s influence on the Church and the world throughout history. It will be offered beginning in the fall 2018 semester.
Miravalle will hold the chair for an initial period of four years and looks forward to the contributions he can make in honor of the Virgin Mary.
“What a blessing it has been to teach the truth about Our Lady for the past 32 years and continue to do so,” he said. “The response of students and their legitimate love for Our Lady continues to spur me on to do all I can to make her known on this campus and now nationally and internationally, through this chair.”