Star of the sea: pray for your children, pray for me

24th May, 2020

Hail Queen of Heaven, the Ocean Star, guide of the wanderer…Save us from peril and from woe.

Sometimes in our treasury of older hymns we find not only beautiful sentiments but valuable insights into our faith.

And on this day when the Bishops of Australia especially entrust our country to Our Lady, Help of Christians, on her feast day, let’s take a closer look at this beloved hymn.

This hymn, its text penned by Fr John Lingard (1771 – 1851) and its traditional tune reportedly first played in the village of Stella in England (hence the tune’s name) is an adaptation of the hymn ‘Ave Maris Stella’ and has become such a part of our liturgical and devotional lore.

Let’s take its endearing melody – it’s almost childlike in its composition – yet it simultaneously has the feel of a truly august anthem. If played within a specific tempo range, it can even have the feel of a majestic processional.

Consider its text – how much richness this hymn truly contains even just in its opening lines !! Modelled upon the text of the ‘Ave Maris Stella’ it quickly moves to imagery of the sea – it refers to Our Lady as the ‘guide of the wanderer’ recalling navigation by the stars; it also talks of us being ‘thrown on life’s surge’ – and even the text ‘save us from peril and from woe’ is reminiscent of seafarers of old – their long journeys over perilous seas often marred by disease, bad weather and the danger of being shipwrecked.

After this hymn’s second verse which alludes to Our Lady’s intercessory role with Jesus remembering Him as our Redeemer, the third verse triumphantly launches into a ‘quasi-extended’ doxology mentioning the Most Holy Trinity – the ‘source of life, grace and love…homage we pay on bended knee’.

So on this special day of our entrustment to Our Lady, let’s lift our hearts and minds with our hopes, our troubles, our worries…to our ‘Mother and Queen’, the ‘Star of the sea’ showing us the way to safe harbour…

Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us who have recourse to thee; Pray for your children, pray for me.




P. S. As we commemorate Our Lady’s feast with music each year, I always remember that it is also the anniversary of death of Archbishop Patrick Clune – died 24th May, 1935.

At the Cathedral’s re-opening in 1930, young children sang this very hymn as they processed through Victoria Square.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

May he rest in peace. Amen