Stella Maris shrine, Sopot, Poland
“invite everyone to become a trusting child before Mary, even as the Son of God did. Saint Bernard says, and we say with him: ‘Look to the star of the sea, call upon Mary … in danger, in distress, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary. May her name never be far from your lips, or far from your heart … If you follow her, you will not stray; if you pray to her, you will not despair; if you turn your thoughts to her, you will not err. If she holds you, you will not fall; if she protects you, you need not fear; if she is your guide, you will not tire; if she is gracious to you, you will surely reach your destination”’ (Pope Benedict XVI, address at Heiligenkreuz Abbey, September 9, 2007).
Stella Maris is one of the Holy Names of Mary. Mary as the protector of sailors is such a comforting image – in demotic European art, there is a long tradition of ‘primitive’ ex-votos – works painted by ordinary sailors in thanksgiving for rescue at sea. I first saw them in Venice; there is also a long tradition of such thanksgiving paintings in France and other countries.
Ex-voto paintings in the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde (‘La Bonne Mère’), Marseilles
I was reminded today of this excellent charity – the Apostleship of the Sea. The charity ministers to seafarers worldwide.
Other denominations are available: the Anglican Mission to Seafarers and the Christian Sailors’ Society, for example. I should also mention the Seafarer Support group, which provides welfare services and grants.
Here is the hymn written by Father John Lingard, whose historical works helped to persuade reformers such as William Cobbett of the need for Catholic Emancipation. The hymn is a popular hymn today and is based on the 9th century Ave Maris Stella.
Hail, Queen of heaven, the ocean star,
Guide of the wanderer here below,
Thrown on life’s surge, we claim thy care,
Save us from peril and from woe.
Mother of Christ, Star of the sea
Pray for the wanderer, pray for me.
O gentle, chaste, and spotless Maid,
We sinners make our prayers through thee;
Remind thy Son that He has paid
The price of our iniquity.
Virgin most pure, Star of the sea,
Pray for the sinner, pray for me.
Sojourners in this vale of tears,
Blest advocate, to thee we cry,
Assuage our sorrows, calm our fears,
And soothe with hope our misery.
Refuge in grief, Star of the sea
Pray for the mourner, pray for me.
And while to Him Who reigns above
In Godhead one, in Persons three,
The Source of life, of grace, of love,
Homage we pay on bended knee:
Do thou, bright Queen, Star of the sea,
Pray for thy children, pray for me.
Here’s a nice church in Tilbury, Essex – still a thriving port:
Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Tilbury, Essex