Our Lady, Star of the Sea
Ave Stella Maris
It’s already the end of September! And you know what that means. A lot, actually. This is a busy week, with Star of the Sea today, the feast of the Archangels tomorrow, and also the harvest moon on the same day. Wow. But we’re focusing on today, so that means Star of the Sea, who has always been important to me since nearly the beginning.
"And while current alternative energy sources are developing well, [Frost said,] they ultimately fall short. What we need is something powerful and effective, and we need it quickly. And that is where you come in, my dear." He paused to let the uncertainty sink in. "You have a rare ability, and I mean that not only in regard to humanity in general, as you have known your whole life, but also among our smaller society of Stars."
[Cascadia] could hear the capitalization of that word. So, that was what they were called. She immediately thought of the church near her home and prayed: 'Ave Stella Maris.'
-Octave of Stars, Episode 07
I don’t remember exactly where the label of Star came from in regards to the main crew, but as soon as that was finalized, and I knew I needed a church scene, the next question was the name for it. The church in Octave is one of the very few places that are actually named, the others being Grace’s Diner and the Frost Tower (though that has another joke in it), so I knew it needed to be important.
Across from the fountain was the back entrance to the chapel of the parish church that took up the northern part of the block. The exterior of the building was stone, carved with similar aquatic patterns as the fountain, owing to the church's designation as Star of the Sea. The statue of the Virgin Mary stood watchful over the double doorway, her hands outstretched in prayer atop carved ocean waves. Cascadia kept her hand on the stair rail so she could keep her eyes on the statue. She had always felt particularly close to this representation of the Blessed Mother, a calmer of storms and refuge for the troubled.
-Octave of Stars, Episode 02
Although I spent most of my life in Idaho before settling in Indiana, I was actually born in California, in the little seaside town of Santa Cruz. We lived in a house that bordered a park, and bordering the park was a Catholic church, Our Lady Star of the Sea. It was where I was baptized, and where we went for Christmas, but not Easter. My mother is Mexican, so therefore Catholic, but my father was only barely tolerant of the church at that time. Nevertheless I passed by the building every day on the way to the park, so Mary was watching over me even then.
Which was good, since it took many years of struggle for my faith to fully ripen. I spent most of my young life actively opposed to the Church (I blame all the Evil Church tropes in the video games of the late 90’s), but God knew what he had in mind for me when he had me fall for a Catholic girl in high school. I went with her to Mass as an observer, and nine years and two children later, I was getting confirmed on Easter.
When I first started writing this article, I thought that since my faith is so new, it’s so different for me to think of things in terms of the spiritual instead of the physical. Mary claimed me under the Star of the Sea when I lived there, St. Dominic put the black-and-white seed in my heart when I was born at a Dominican hospital. But then I realized it has already been ten years since my confirmation. Not exactly as new as I thought. And it was a good thing, too, otherwise Octave would never have ended up the way it is.
After the Gospel, the priest remained at the ambo and gave his homily. He was nearly bald, with round glasses and a rounder face, and always had a contented smile. He told a story about how the ancient translators of the Bible took the Virgin Mary's Hebrew name and translated it into Greek, which in Latin became 'stilla maris', or 'drop of the sea.' An error by a copyist turned it into 'stella maris,' or Star of the Sea. His point was, despite these human errors, nothing happens by accident with God. He makes no mistakes; even if His works don't make sense, or appear to be errors to us, they are still part of His plan.
-Octave of Stars, Episode 02
I had several early readers ask if this was a true story. I could only answer that it was as true as I could reckon it. It’s in the Catholic Encyclopedia, which seems accurate enough, and even if it wasn’t, it’s a perfect vehicle to make a point. I never thought that I would be writing Catholic fantasy, or Catholic anything, for that matter. I was fully prepared to take my writing down the same progressive, modern path that the rest of the culture is headed down. But that wasn’t the end goal. More was needed of me; even though the delays and the contradictions kept piling up, I wasn’t meant to write anything without the critical faith elements in place.
Cascadia doesn’t actually recite the Ave Stella Maris during the story (it should actually say ‘prayed the Ave Stella Maris’ and its a little backwards but it’s been printed so there) and I never got a chance to read the hymn until the Star of the Sea novena this year, as suggested by Voyage Comics. The text has a few awesome similarities to the story as well.
Break the captives’ fetters,
Light on blindness pour,
All our ills expelling,
Every bliss implore.
-Ave Maris Stella (a different translation)
The plot of the story is certainly about breaking the fetters of captives! The line about light immediately made me think of Lumina, especially when she arrives in the atrium of the tower near the end. How cool is that? It’s kind of like the passage from Isaiah 43:2 that’s mentioned in the story also. I had already started writing Octave when my wife and I were working through the Augustine Institute’s Bible in a Year (which has an excellent cover, by the way), and as soon as I saw that I wrote it down. It was the perfect addition to the theme of the book.
Azalea quoted: "'When you pass through waters, I will be with you, through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you.' That's super adorable."
-Octave of Stars, Episode 07
Every time we sing Be Not Afraid in church, my kids lean over and whisper “It’s Ash and Cascadia’s song!” Yes, it certainly is.
So what’s the main takeaway? What should we learn from all this? I think that’s largely up to you. I’m definitely not one of those big thinkers who brings amazing theological insight to seemingly mundane incidents. I’m a writer, and I weave threads of stories and ideas that I’ve gathered over the years into a cohesive whole. There are some threads in Octave of Stars that are brighter and shinier than others, but it’s still up to the reader to find out how they make sense to them. Hopefully you can find a few for yourself also.
The one thing I can recommend is that we all take a moment today to ask: Our Lady Star of the Sea, pray for us!
Interested in reading more? Octave of Stars is available right now from ZMT Books in both ebook and paperback.