Some of you may be aware that last year, I purchased an older fishing boat. This acquisition turned into quite a project, one with many lessons learned! Shortly after bringing the boat home, the priests of the house asked if I had given the boat a name, which to that point I had not even though about doing. At our annual Fishing with Father event at the Villa Maria, some of our youngsters offered recommendations. But the name that I finally decided on stems from my love for the Blessed Virgin Mary. The name I chose was Stella Maris, which is Latin for Star of the Sea.
Just a few weeks ago, I did some winterizing of the boat so that it will (hopefully) be ready for action next Spring when the weather warms up. It got me thinking a little bit about the title of Mary as Star of the Sea. Perhaps that title does not immediately evoke thoughts of Christmas, the Octave Day of which we celebrate today, but there is a connection to this title that is very much in the spirit of this season. The connection is to be found in the hymn to Mary under this title, Ave Maris Stella (Hail, Star of the Sea). One of the verses goes like this:
Show yourself a Mother,
may the Word divine
born for us thine Infant
hear our prayers through thine.
This verse draws our attention to Mary in her role of giving birth to the “Word divine”, this claiming the rightful title as Mother of God. In her closeness to her child, we turn to her in confidence asking that she would pray to Him with us and on our behalf.
What strikes me about this verse is the first line: “Show yourself a Mother.” This is a phrase that I use from time to time when I turn to Mary, asking for her prayers for some particular situation or need. It could be something that I am struggling with, such as a difficult situation, or the discouragement at not advancing more quickly in the spiritual life. I ask Mary to show herself to be a Mother to me, helping me with her encouragement and prayers. As I encounter the sufferings and struggles of the people whom I serve, I sense their need for consolation and peace. And just as children we turn to our mothers to find that, I ask Mary to show herself a Mother to those individuals in their needs.
On this day when we celebrate Mary’s greatest title, that of being the Mother of God, we also take consolation in the fact that she is also our Mother. As Jesus was dying on the Cross, He entrusted Mary to us through the Apostle St. John when He said to him: “Behold, your mother.” (John 19:27)
As we look to the year ahead, we have no doubt that there will be joys, but what will prevent us from fully experiencing those joys are the disappointments and setbacks that we will face due to our weaknesses, or due to factors outside of our control. As we make our way through the potentially rough waters of the sea of life, may our eyes turn to Mary, Star of the Sea, asking her with faith: “Show yourself a Mother.” Through her prayers, she will help to keep us safe with her Son in the Church and continue to guide us to the safe harbors of eternal life where she awaits us.