The months of August and September are brimming with big Marian feast days.*
I love them all — the Assumption, the Queenship, Our Lady of Sorrows. But the celebration of Mary, Star of the Sea (on September 27) has special meaning for me at this time in my life.
I recently came across these beautiful words from St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and they immediately struck a chord in my soul:
Whoever you are that perceive yourself during this [life] to be drifting in treacherous waters, at the mercy of the winds and the waves, rather than walking on ﬁrm ground, turn not away your eyes from the splendor of this Guiding Star. …
Look at the star, call upon Mary. … With her for guide, you shall not go astray. While invoking her, you shall never lose heart. … If she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.”
As I read this beautiful depiction of our Stella Maris, I can easily see myself as the drifter that St. Bernard describes. But I’m not surrounded by storms and tempests, drowning in a raging sea.
Instead, I picture myself exactly as I am: a stay-at-home mom of four, in the middle of a typical day (which, at the moment, happens to be in the kitchen at dinner time, with a baby in my arms and hungry children on all sides).
Motherhood is a lot like navigating the ocean.
I don’t know very much about old-fashioned seafaring. But I think it’s safe to say that setting sail on vast and deep and unknown waters — in nothing more than a really big wooden bucket that’s completely at the mercy of hurricanes and sharks — may be something like life with a three-year-old. (Not to mention a newborn and the rest of my crew.)
The analogy seems to fit for all stages of motherhood.
From the amazing moment you first discover that a new little human is growing in your womb, you leave that safe and familiar harbor called life as you’ve always known it. And your proverbial ship — your life, your heart — never docks there again.
Each woman’s own adventure of motherhood takes place in uncharted waters, and she has to adjust her compass and find her bearings again and again — with every new baby, every milestone, every joy and sorrow of family life.
But loving and caring for her crew, and keeping them on course, can be a daunting task for any mama.
In some seasons, her ship may sail peacefully along; but at other times, it crashes violently against the rocks. Sometimes the skies are clear; but often, the mama seems to lose her way and wonders how she will keep her ship afloat. We’ve all experienced how the waters of motherhood can go quickly from serene to treacherous.
But, dear mamas, you are not alone in the storms. Our Lady is the Star of the Sea.
The sailors of old looked to the constellations while navigating dangerous voyages. There has always been one especially constant and bright star to point the way due north, so that travelers need only find the North Star to know their way.
And so Mary is our North Star as we navigate the beautiful and frightening seas of motherhood.
Not only does she lead the way in our spiritual lives, pointing us toward Heaven and her Son; she also shines as a perfect model of true motherhood. If we can learn to emulate Mary’s virtues, her spirit of self-sacrifice, and her joyful fiat, our ships will be strong and will more readily withstand life’s hurricanes.
Whether we’re drowning in toddler tantrums or sleepless nights or sickness or busyness or that one child we just can’t seem to reach — Our Lady, Star of the Sea, longs to guide us safely across the tumultuous waves.
“Look at the star, call upon Mary. … With her for guide, you shall not go astray. While invoking her, you shall never lose heart. … If she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.”