Novena in Honor of Dulce Nombre de Maria
Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica
Hagatna, Guam

6th Day: September 3, 2008

Based on 1 Cor 3:1-9 / Lk 4:38-44

A cute little book I read in 1999 is entitled Mary: The Star of the Third Millenium. Frankly, I don’t remember much of what I read. All I remember is the title intrigued me and captivated my curiosity. Why would another title among so many be added to our Lady? And what importance does it have for us all 7 years already into the much hyped third millennium?

In retrospect, I like the title. First of all, I am captivated by stars since I was a child. Growing up in the country side, with no street lighting whatsoever, dark nights afforded children that we were, so many hours of star gazing, and so much time solving the riddle of the stars on dark, starry nights. Secondly, I like what stars stand for – dreams and visions, goals that transcend time and space, dreams of distant and far flung places that I could only picture in the imagination, ambitions in life that any boy would invariably have while growing up. The image of the star, so near and yet so far, so available and yet so unreachable, has always been equated with lofty dreams and goals in life.

As I grew older and hopefully wiser, I later learned that the star meant so much more to people, and most especially to mariners and sailors, who plied the deep blue seas and who depended on the bounty of the high seas for their livelihood. They literally had to rely on the north star, the star of the sea upon which they sought direction and guidance as they set sail to the wild blue yonder for adventure or for sheer survival.

I also learned that that physical image of the north star, the star of the sea, would gradually be applied figuratively, and – it must be said – affectionately, to the Blessed Mother, who became known as Maris Stella, the star of the sea!

One thing I asked my guests to do during my 25th anniversary celebration of my priestly ordination last December 8, 2007, was to sing along with me a latin hymn I have learned to love as a high school student back in the day: Ave Maris Stella. Hail Star of the Sea.

It was a hymn replete as much with poetry as with pathos. It was a passionate loving plea to a woman considered as the star of the sea, the sure-fire guide that would deliver all lost souls out in the tempestuous sea of life. What a great and fitting image that was! And how apropos a woman who is considered mother of all who believe in Jesus, her Son.

I would like to go a little on the personal side for now. When I got to know the Salesians as a 13 year old kid, one of the first things I learned was the special love and devotion they had for the Blessed Mother. Don Bosco, to me, was immediately associated with a woman in blue and pink, with a scepter on one hand, and the child Jesus on the other. Mary, Help of Christians was Don Bosco’s Madonna, and the Salesians back then in 1968 lost no opportunity to speak about her, always with a certain glow in their faces, and a twinkle in their eyes. I was impressed. And I lost no time in introducing my mother to Mary Help of Christians. I gave her what the Salesians gave me, stampitas, and copies of the novena to MHC and everything written about her. My mother was an instant devotee. She was hooked. And she remained so till she died many years later. When she died, I learned that the original copies of those stampitas and novenas, were still part of her daily bunch of prayers which she recited without fail from 1968 till the day she died, all neatly bound together with a rubber band for easy retrieval everyday. I also learned that she had been saying a special prayer for me since the day I entered the seminary till her last day on earth. She prayed in season and out of season. She called on her in good times, and in mostly lean times. She cried out to her and fled to her protection when we were inundated and overwhelmed by the waves of trials and difficulties as a big family with modest means. With so many of us to send to school, and limited resources to get by, I knew in my heart, that Mary as Star of the Sea was always there waiting to be called upon. And call upon her often, she did. This I know for sure.

Young people now probably can’t relate much with the idea of a guiding star. People don’t look to the physical stars anymore for guidance. No, they look for Garmin and GPS gadgets. Peole now are no longer accustomed to search for anwers from the stars. No, they look for horoscopes, that is, literal guidance, not so much from the Star, but from the positioning of physical stars and alignment of planets.

But I have come from so many miles away, from far-flung poor Philippines to do what Jesus also meant to do, as we read in the gospel of today: “I must go to other towns also, for this is what I was sent to do.” Yes, I come here today and the past 5 days, with a purpose – and that purpose is to tell myself first of all, and you my newfound friends that Mary was, is, and will remain the star from which I gather strength. The ancient Romans used to quip “robur ab astris,” … find strength from the stars. They meant that literally … I mean this now figuratively and literally at one and the same time. Mary remains for me the star of strength, the star of hope, the star in my sea marred at times by tranquility, and often by storms.

I have been a priest for 25 years. I have been an educator for (a teacher) for 31 years. Although I would choose, given the chance, to do it all over again, I must tell you that those years were not exactly a walk in the park. There were times when the sea was swollen with waves of difficulties, and times when there was tranquility and order. There were times when the stars I sought for were easy to spot in the dark firmament, and times when, no matter how hard I tried, I saw no everlasting hills. There were times when, to quote Christian Rosetti, “look right, look left, I dwell alone, no everlasting hills I see … my life is like a falling leaf, O Jesus quicken me.”

Again, I am reminded of what the ancient Romans also loved to say: AD ASTRA, PER ASPERA… to the stars, through difficulties! The star kept people going, and going and going, much like an Eveready battery. To the stars, yes … but in the meantime, one has to go through the rough terrain of life.

And this is where Mary comes in. Mary, the star of the sea …

Hail, star of the sea,
loving Mother of God,
and also always a virgin,
Happy gate of heaven.

Receiving that Ave
from Gabriel's mouth
confirm us in peace,
Reversing Eva's name.

Break the chains of sinners,
Bring light to the blind,
Drive away our evils,
Ask for all good.

Show yourself to be a mother,
May he accept prayers through you,
he who, born for us,
Chose to be yours.

O unique virgin,
Meek above all,
Make us, absolved from sin,
Gentle and chaste.

Keep life pure,
Make the journey safe,
So that, seeing Jesus,
We may always rejoice together.

Let there be praise to God the Father,
Glory to Christ in the highest,
To the Holy Spirit,
One honor to all three. Amen.