By Sister Marie Estelle, OCD
“Ave Maris Stella”- Hail Star of the Sea, is an ancient title for Our Lady. It hails from a time when transportation relied heavily on ships on the sea.
As a guide sea captains used a compass and the stars to get them safely to port. Easily enough, we can see how this is translated to the Christian pilgrim’s journey of life here on earth to reach the port of Heaven. Often the circumstances in our world and in our own personal lives can resemble the chaos of the sea and we wonder “Will we ever find the way to the safe harbor of heaven?” The Church says- yes! look to the Star, look to Mary. Through her radiant purity, Mary is a star that directs and guides us to Jesus.
In some images of Mary under this title she is clutching a ship- symbolizing her love and care for the Church of her Son. In others she stands tall and strong, waves crashing at her feet, but she is undisturbed. She is secure in the Father’s love and so is able to withstand the trials and turmoil that world hurls at her. She was the ‘Stabat Mater’ standing at the foot of the Cross: even in the darkness of Calvary, her faith was a star that shone in the night that gave way to the full brightness of the Sun (Son) Risen on Easter!
Carmelites honor her under this title, Star of the Sea. St. Simon Stock (feastday: May 16) received from Our Lady the Brown Scapular. In his prayer of gratitude to Our Lady for such a great gift, title ‘Flos Carmeli’, he honors her as Mother and Star of the Sea. Many other saints have spread this devotion, most notably, St. Bernard of Clairvaux. “If squalls of temptations arise, or thou fall upon the rocks of tribulation, look to the star, call upon Mary.” St. Bernard
Here are a few ways you can grow in your love and devotion to Mary under this title:
1. Be enrolled in the Brown Scapular and wear it as a symbol of your filial love and devotion to Mary, the Mother of Carmel. Be clothed in the virtues of Jesus and Mary.
2. Listen to some of the beautiful hymns that have been composed under the title “Ave Maris Stella”. Two very beautiful ones were composed by Edvard Grieg and Hans Leo Hassler.
3. Pray the Ave Maris Stella or Flos Carmeli prayers (or both!) and consider making a Marian consecration.
4. Visit the Sea (or other body of water) and spend time in silence listening to the waves. Meditate on how Jesus calmed the raging storm and that he and His Mother Mary, will never leave your side. Ask Our Lady, to increase your trust in the Lord’s Infinite Love for you!
5. Strive yourself to be a star, leading others to Jesus the true ‘Light of the World’ who is the answer to all our searching questions and who will call the chaos of our ‘stormy seas.’