A Sky Full of Stars
By Joby Provido
Central Book Supply, Inc.
THE influence of a Jewish girl has crossed oceans of time and space. Thousands of years after her birth, Mary, whom according to Christian texts was chosen by God to bear his only son, Jesus Christ, into being, is venerated today as The Mother of God.
Prayers are said every day to Her, including the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a repetition of the names and titles ascribed to the Virgin (numbering over 50). These are usually said after the rosary, or after a group prayer, and includes such epithets as Mother Most Chaste, Mystical Rose, and Refuge of Sinners.
A book by Joby Provido called A Sky Full of Stars explains in detail the origin and meaning of the titles of Mary. The book was launched earlier this week in Sto. Domingo Church’s Café Inggo. The origins of the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for example, was explained in the book — it was approved by Pope Sixtus V in 1587, and history places the prayers’ origin from Marian devotions in the Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto.
The book’s title, A Sky Full of Stars, is derived from Mary’s title of Refuge of Sinners. In the 13th century, a Cistercian monk had a dream that Mary was surrounded by monks from other orders, but Mary assured the favor of his order by spreading her cloak, and revealing the Cistercians taking refuge in it. The dream became a popular motif in art, expanding the Virgin Mary’s cloak to shelter many people. Eventually, the Virgin’s cloak began to be depicted as the sky to represent an all-encompassing shelter, with the stars under it symbolizing everyone who seeks refuge.
“I didn’t understand the titles,” said Mr. Provido when asked why he wrote the book. Outside his religious devotion, Mr. Provido teaches web design at the De La Salle — College of Saint Benilde. To answer his questions, he looked to ecumenical letters, papal encyclicals, Church proclamations, and other writings from eminent theologians.
“It’s people who have a devotion to Mary,” he said about the book’s target audience. “People who have been praying the litany who don’t undertand the titles.”
Protestant movements during the Reformation, continuing until today outside the Catholic Church do not always agree with Mary receiving such veneration, and even argue that Marian devotions approach idolatry. Mr. Provido hopes that the book can reconcile such differences. “Maybe if they read the book, they’ll understand why we’re saying all of these things… they are meant to show us her virtues that we’re supposed to follow.”
The world has changed the face of Christian faith, or, in the hearts of others, has erased it completely. An invocation to Mother Mary, usually an appendix for a rosary session that may have already gone long enough, can be easily ignored. What then is the use of the Litany right now, in the 21st century? Studies show that the repetition of phrases, like in Christian prayer and other forms of meditation, positively affects brain activity. Mr. Provido agrees with this, saying, “It slows us down, it keeps your mind clear.” He points out, however, that the words are not meaningless — “We’re meditating also on her virtues.”
More importantly, he cites the Litany’s space in people’s lives by placing it in perspective of today’s world: wars are fought, children are killed, cathedrals burn. “The one thing that comes to mind is a sense of hopelessness. You hear a lot about people committing suicide — it stems from a lack of hope. I think when we look at the examples of Mary, when we meditate on [Her] virtues, it’s always about hope.”
The book is available online through ourcatholicfaith.net, Amazon (physically and through Kindle), and at Sto. Domingo Church’s Café Inggo. — Joseph L. Garcia