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This ancient devotion reminds us that Mary is a guiding light


She's the one to call on "if the winds of temptation arise, if you are driven upon the rocks of tribulation."

An ancient title for our Blessed Mother is Our Lady, Star of the Sea. The title was most likely given to her in the 4th century, by the great Doctor of the Church St. Jerome. People called Mary the Stella Maris, which means Star of the Sea, and to this day, devotion to this title is very popular around the world.  

Stella Maris (Nostre) or Our Lady, Star of the Sea, was used to emphasize Mary’s role as a guiding star for Christians.

Writings from the 9th century said that Mary, Star of the Sea, was a “guide” to be followed on the way to Christ to avoid capsizing in storm-tossed waters.

Then, in the 12th century, St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote:

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 upon the waves of pride, of ambition, of envy, of rivalry, look to the star, call on Mary. Should anger, or avarice, or fleshly desire violently assail the frail vessel of your soul, look to the star, call upon Mary.

St. Anthony of Padua wrote about Mary, Star of the Sea, and many years later, Pope Pius XII quoted Bernard of Clairvaux saying: “Mary … is interpreted to mean ‘Star of the Sea.’ This admirably befits the Virgin Mother.. (for) as the ray does not diminish the brightness of the star, so neither did the Child born of her tarnish the beauty of Mary’s virginity.”

In Mount Carmel, Israel, Stella Maris Monastery was built as the foundation house of the Carmelite order. It  was founded at the beginning of the 13th century. This monastery was destroyed several times but was always rebuilt. Today’s refurbished monastery is still considered the headquarters of the Carmelites.

The practice of invoking Mary as a guiding star for seafarers has led to devotion to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, all over the world, especially in coastal and fishing communities. There are many, many Catholic churches that are named in honor of Mary, Star of the Sea. The oldest church in the Archdiocese of Miami is the  Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea. This church was founded in 1846. There is another St. Mary Star of the Sea not far away in Key West. This church was founded on February 26, 1852. Today, it also is a Basilica.

Our Lady, Star of the Sea, is Patroness to Catholic missions and seafarers. The Apostleship of the Sea was named after her and many coastal churches around the world are named Stella Maris or Mary, Star of the Sea. (At City Island in the north part of the Bronx, there was a parish I attended many times growing up. Its name was St. Mary, Star of the Sea.) The devotion to Our Lady with the title dating back to the 4th century is popular throughout the Catholic world.

The following is a prayer to Our Lady, Star of the Sea:

Hail Star of the Sea

Hail, O Star of the ocean, God’s own Mother blest, ever sinless Virgin, gate of heav’nly rest.
Taking that sweet Ave, which from Gabriel came, peace confirm within us, changing Eve’s name.
Break the sinners’ fetters, make our blindness day, chase all evils from us, for all blessings pray.

Show thyself a Mother, may the Word divine born for us, thine Infant, hear our prayers through thine.
Virgin all excelling, mildest of the mild, free from guilt, preserve us meek and undefiled.
Keep our life all spotless, make our way secure till we find in Jesus, joy for evermore.
Praise to God the Father, honor to the Son, in the Holy Spirit, be the glory one. Amen.

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