What is the Story of Stella Maris?
Happy feast day to Stella & Tide’s patron saint, Our Lady, Star of the Sea (Stella Maris)! The history behind this much-loved title of Mary is intriguing; however, the devotion extends much deeper than the name. You may already have a strong devotion to Mary, Star of the Sea, or maybe you are less familiar with this title and want to learn more, but regardless of where you stand, here are some facts about Stella Maris that you may or may not have known.
Behind the Name
The title “Stella Maris” first arose back in the 5th Century when St. Jerome translated Mary’s Hebrew name Miryam, which means “drop of the sea” to the Latin “Stilla Maris”. Mary later went from a “drop in the ocean” to the “star of the sea” when “Stilla Maris” became “Stella Maris”. This was most likely due to transcription error, or a peasant dialect and it stuck throughout the centuries.
Mary, Star of the Sea, has been a beloved title for those who make a living by or on the sea, as she is the calmer of storms and a guiding light. Before the time of GPS technology, sailors solely relied on key stars to help them navigate where they were going. During the Middle Ages, the North Star actually went by the name “Stella Maris”. Sailors can always rely on the North Star to lead them, as it remains fixed in the same location throughout the night. Similarly, Mary remains firm in heaven helping to guide souls and offering her protection.
A Guiding Light
Just as sailors call upon Mary to intercede as a guide and protector as they face stormy seas, we can do the same as we sail the stormy seas of life. St. Bernard of Clairvaux so beautifully 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 at the star, call upon Mary.”
Mary is our guiding star to Jesus and can calm the storms in our own lives. Just as sailors back in the Middle Ages did not have access to a navigation system that could lead them to safety during their travels, we do not have access to a map that will lead us straight to heaven. However, we can call upon Mary, the greatest saint in heaven, to lead us to Jesus and the shores of heaven.
Throughout the centuries and into the modern day, strong devotion to Mary as Star of the Sea has led to many churches, schools, lighthouses, and colleges including the name “Stella Maris”. Many hymns and prayers also emerged during the Middle Ages, such as the beautiful Gregorian chants Ave Maris Stella and Alma Redemptoris Mater.
At Stella & Tide, we've created a collection of catholic jewelry dedicated to this beautiful title of our Blessed Mother called the Stella Maris Collection. Our hope is that you can wear these pieces as a reminder that Mary can calm the storms of our lives and is the Star of the Sea we follow to Christ.
Mary, Star of the Sea, pray for us!
Thank you for this wonderful essay. “Star of the Sea” has been one of my favorite devotions for years. Our second-born daughter is Elinor Marisa in honor of Stella Maris, so today is her name day. I had a deep epiphany many years ago while standing on the pier in San Clemente, California in the dark of evening and saw the first star, and realized that, in a way, I was seeing Mary—in my heart if not with my eyes. This title, along with Mystical Rose, are my heartfelt favorites.
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