The Stella Maris Mass was celebrated at Westminster Cathedral on 22 September to mark the feast of Our Lady Star of the Sea and to pray for seafarers, with Bishop Nicholas presiding. It was attended by Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) supporters, volunteers and staff.
In his homily, Bishop Nicholas reflected on Mary pondering on the life of her Son. ‘She can’t have known that she and Jesus would suffer all of this when she said that huge ‘yes’ to Gabriel,’ he said.
Pointing to Michelangelo’s depiction of the Pietà, he explained that, despite the weight of Mary’s suffering, ‘she is still strong. Crushed? Yes. But defeated? No. What you see in her face is hope.’
It was this hope that she shared with the Apostles which must have been a ‘consolation’ and ‘a light in their darkness’. As Mary explained those parts of the Scriptures which were about her Son and which she had pondered, ‘hope must have risen like the Ocean Star in their hearts’.
Bishop Nicholas explained that Mary ‘waits to give us strength too’ and that ‘never was it known that anyone who fled to Mary’s protection was left unaided’. He encouraged everyone to pray and remember the words of the Memorare . ‘If we do, we shall surely feel the light of the Ocean Star beginning to rise in our hearts, just as surely as the Apostles were warmed by Mary’s love and wisdom as she gently prepared them to greet her Risen Son.’
Following the Mass, Cardinal Vincent hosted a reception at which he paid tribute to AoS and the work of their port chaplains. Caring for seafarers, he said, is a ‘profoundly Christian thing to do’.
‘An astonishing percentage of the things sold in our shops in the UK arrives by sea, underlining our dependence on those who work on these ships. To care for them is a profoundly Christian thing to do. It is also very important for the wellbeing of the country,’ he said.
Paying tribute to the work of port chaplains, headed: ‘For many of the ships, [the support from port chaplains] is hugely important in terms of seafarers’ religious belief and practice. Really this is great work that goes on.’
AoS, a registered charity and agency of the Catholic Bishop Conference of England & Wales, has port chaplains in Tilbury as well as in 40 other ports up and down Great Britain who visit seafarers on board their ships to offer pastoral and practical support.
For more information about the work of Apostleship of the Sea port chaplains, please visit www.apostleshipofthesea.org.uk
Photos: Sophie Stanes / Life Through A Lens Photography