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Our Lady Star of the Sea

Our Lady Star of the Sea by Brenda Nippert

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Star of the Sea is an ancient title for Mary, emphasizing her role as the hope of a guiding star in the rough waves of this earthy life. Those who live along the coasts all over the world and those who make their living on the sea, such as sailors and fishermen have long looked to Mary, Star of the Sea for guidance and protection. Whether you are a seafarer of not, Our Lady, Star of the Sea or Stella Maris in Latin, is always there to shed light and lead you through life's storms. This poem by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) sums it up “If the winds of temptation arise; if you are driven upon the rocks of tribulation, look to the star, call on Mary; if you are tossed on the waves of pride, of ambition, of envy, of rivalry, look to the star, call on Mary. Should anger, avarice, or fleshly desire violently assail the frail vessel of your soul, look to the star, call upon Mary.”

Her feast day is September 27.

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Mary’s title “Star of the Sea” is thought to derive from the account in 1Kings 18:41-45 which refers to a little cloud appearing above the sea as a sign of hope that rain would soon come to water the parched earth. This little cloud, seen by St. Elijah on Mt. Carmel, is believed to be the “Star of the Sea”, and is why the Carmelites named the church they would later build on the site, Stella Maris. The star as a symbol of Mary is rich in meaning. It is used to articulate several characteristics of Mary: her privileges, in particular her mission as Mother of the Redeemer or her holiness; her anticipatory role (forerunner, announcer) with regard to Christ; and her role as luminous and enlightening.

One of the earliest references we have to Mary as Stella Maris is found in the writings of Paschasius Radbertus (d. 865): “Mary, Star of the Sea, must be followed in faith and morals lest we capsize amidst the storm-tossed waves of the sea. She will illumine us to believe in Christ, born of her for the salvation of the world.” This beautiful quote reminds us that just as this title of Our Lady speaks in a special way to her patronage for those who travel or work on the seas, as the spiritual mother of all God’s children, she guides us and intercedes for us throughout the sea of our life until we finally arrive at heaven’s safe harbor.