One of Mary's names we honor her by, is "Stella Maris." In the Netherlands, where I was raised, the sea plays a great part in the pride of this nation, and so, Our Lady was often depicted in statuary and images as "Star of the Sea."
A very old statue is found in the Basilica of Maastricht, in the Dutch province of Limburg. The miraculous statue of Our Lady, Star of the Sea in Maastricht, is the most important Marian shrine of the Netherlands. The statue dates back to about 1435.
The title (Star of the Sea) most probably has its origin in the
Biblical passage 1 Kings 18:41-45, which speaks of a cloud above the sea, no bigger than a man's hand, which is seen from Mount Carmel. The tiny cloud's scriptural significance is as the sign of hope
that heralds the end of a long drought.
The Netherlands is a nation of seafarers (shipbuilding is a big industry) and the Dutch mariners have experience with great dikes and marine structures to keep the sea out, because most of Holland is below sea level.
The Blessed Mother has been a protectress of seafarers all throughout history in many places in the world. In addition, places on islands, or peninsulas often have Churches that are named "Stella Maris" or equivalent.
In our own State of Florida, we have a fraternity in such a place, called Stella Maris Fraternity, which meets at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, in Key West, at the end of the Florida Keys.
There are churches dedicated to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in almost every place on earth, and many of these churches are very old. Some are near large Navy bases in areas that are located close by the sea.
Let us continue to pray for the men and women in our armed forces who are at sea, at war, or in the air, as we celebrate Independence Day (July 4th). May Our Lady, Star of the Sea, protect those whose service to the nation involves duty on or near the water.
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
July 3, 2011