Star of the Sea

Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance, celebrated for the perfection and grace of his paintings and drawings. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period. When asked what model he used to paint Our Lady in a very famous Chapel, he answered, “I did not use one specific model. I looked at many mothers and I took from each one of them the most beautiful feature. Then I bonded them together and here is the result…”

She is beautiful and is working hard to make us beautiful. The old movie The Juggler of Notre Dame tells the story of Barnaby, a circus performer, who in his suffering after the death of his wife and the murder of his friend Sparrow, finds his ultimate fulfillment in juggling pins, hoops, and balls in front of a statue of Our Lady. Mary has the face of his deceased wife. When he finishes, Barnaby bows and with everyone watching, looks up at the statue of Our Lady which comes to life, smiles, and tosses Barnaby her rose. The movie ends on that scene.

Mary appreciates every single gesture of tenderness done to her. One day the Curé of Ars, the French pastor who became internationally notable for the radical spiritual transformation of the parish he was working in, was listening to confessions in his small Church when he noticed a woman in line who looked awfully sad. He went across to meet her and simply told her “Your husband is in heaven!” Her husband had just committed suicide by throwing himself into the river and the woman was depressed because she was convinced that her husband had been condemned to hell. She was also surprised because she had never met this priest and the priest seemed to know everything about her.

“How do you know, Father?” she asked. “Between the bridge and the river, there was God,” he answered. God jumped also from the bridge and in mid air your husband reconciled with God!” “But how is it possible, Father?” “Well, this was a gift of Our Lady. You do not know but your husband occasionally would pass by a Church and would put flowers in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary. How could Mary possibly forget this kindhearted gesture?”

The French poet and novelist François Coppée (died in 1908) was once walking by the beach where there were many fishermen preparing their boats to face the ocean. The boats looked so small and fragile and the sea so huge and intimidating. He asked, “Friends are you not afraid?” One of them answered in their name. He led the poet to his boat and asked him to look at the back of the boat. In the stern of the boat, there was a picture of Mary with a small lamp in front of her. The fisherman just said, “With her on board, we feel safe!”

Saint Bernard, the primary builder of the reforming Cistercian Order in the twelfth century, a great devotee of Our Lady had clear ideas. “When the tempest rages and you feel completely lost in the sea of life, just look at the star, call upon Mary and you will be safe.”


(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.