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The Star of the Sea

Hugh O'Reilly

It was St. Bernard who gave impetus to the strong devotion to Our Lady that flourished in the later Middle Ages.

Titus Burckhardt speaks of the ambiance of the times: "Various currents flowed together and formed a new and reawakened cult of the Holy Virgin: the longing for the Holy Land, the true home, the need to turn to the maternal mercy of God, and the chivalric cult of the celestial Lady as the epitome of nobility of soul, innocence and beauty. St. Bernard himself, who knew how to call forth the highest spiritual powers of his contemporaries, is said to have been the first to use the chivalric mode of address Notre Dame (Our Lady) for the Mother of God." (Chartres and the Birth of the Cathedral, World Wisdom, 2003, p. 60).

This prayer to Our Lady comes from a homily of the great Cistercian Saint and Doctor:

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Auxilium Christianorum - Help of Christians
If squalls of temptations arise, or thou fall upon the rocks of tribulation, look to the star, call upon Mary.

If thou art tossed by the waves of pride or ambition, detraction or envy, look to the star, call upon Mary.

If anger or avarice or the desires of the flesh dash against the ship of thy soul, turn thine eyes towards Mary.

If, trouble by the enormity of thy crimes, ashamed of thy guilty conscience, terrified by dread of the judgment, thou beginnest to sink into the gulf of sadness or the abyss of despair, think of Mary.

In dangers, in anguish, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary.

Let her be ever on thy lips, ever in thy heart; and the better to obtain the help of her prayers, imitate the example of her life.

Following her, thou strayest not;
invoking her, thou despairest not;
thinking of her, thou wanderest not;
upheld by her, thou fallest not;
shielded by her, thou fearest not;
guided by her, thou growest not weary;
favored by her, thou reachest the goal.

And thus dost thou experience in thyself how good is that saying: 'And the Virgin's name was Mary'

Excerpt from St. Bernard, Hom. II, Missus est, 17;
Migne, P.L., 183, 70-b, c, d, 71-a. Quoted in Doctor Mellifluus 31
Posted May 7, 2011

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