MANILA – There are many images that evoke the season of Lent in a Catholic’s mind: Jesus’ journey to Calvary, His crucifixion and death, and the Pieta.
It was the latter, the heart-rending depiction of the Virgin Mary cradling the lifeless body of Christ, that came to mind when I was reading the chapter on why Mary is called the Virgin Most Prudent in Joby Provido’s book, “A Sky Full of Stars.”
Launched last Holy Monday at Café Inggo in the Sto. Domingo Church compound in Quezon City, “A Sky Full of Stars” explains the 51 titles or epithets of Mary invoked in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“The Church gives Mary many titles, and the best collection of titles is in the Litany of Loreto, or another name is the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We say it after the Rosary. Now, there are some titles there that are quite obscure — Mystical rose, Tower of Ivory, House of Gold – and as I was growing up, I [thought], what do these mean?” shared Provido on how he found the calling to write the book.
Provido, who besides being a teacher of web design at the College of Saint Benilde has also studied theology courses at the University of Notre Dame, wrote “A Sky Full of Stars” in tranches for four years.
Before printing, the book had to receive a Nihil Obstat, as well as an Imprimatur (the latter is an official license from the Roman Catholic church to print a religious book), which Provido received in 2018.
“Digging up all the scriptures and doctrine that go behind these [titles] helps people understand why the Church calls Mary all these different things… The point of the Church in giving her names is to help us understand the virtues that she is showing us so we can emulate it. And so without that [understanding], we miss that connection. We are invoking, but we do not understand,” Provido further explained.
For example, we return to the Virgin Most Prudent chapter where Provido recounts how unlike the other apostles that forsake Jesus during His passion, Mary was undaunted in following her son in His path to Calvary. She stayed firm beneath the cross until He was brought down from it.
“Prudence”, Provido writes in the book, “told her (Mary) that it was the right thing to do: she put her son ahead of her own life.”
And while the Virgin Mary’s virtues comprise many of the titles, other epithets also relate to her roles in the Catholic faith. The title of the book, “A Sky Full of Stars,” was derived from one of these roles.
In the chapter about Mary as the Refuge of Sinners, Provido tells the story of a Cistercian monk that had a dream about the Virgin Mary. In the dream, Mary appeared with monks from different orders – sans any Cistercians.
Upon asking why the monk’s order wasn’t represented beside her, the Virgin answered him by opening her cloak and revealing his brethren underneath, signifying her love for them with their closeness to her.
It was a story that grew in popularity, prompting artists from that century to depict the Virgin with a billowing cloak sheltering people underneath. Eventually, this idea transformed into a vision of the Virgin Mary’s cape as the sky, with the cape representing her mantle of protection (or refuge) around the world.
Provido also wrote that centuries later, in the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe to Juan Diego in Mexico, the Virgin Mary appeared in a star-spangled blue cape – like a sky full of stars.
The book “A Sky Full of Stars” has an appeal that goes beyond Lenten reading. Chapters read simple and forthright, with well-researched short stories that inspire and entertain as much as they inform – all aiming to make the Virgin Mary (and venerating her) more accessible to the reader.
“We take out all of the evolution of language and cultural differences, so we can see her how the Church wants us to see her. And if we know it, we can fall in love again with Mary,” concluded Provido.
Local, international, and e-book editions of A Sky Full of Stars can be ordered online at ourcatholicfaith.net, as well as on Amazon. The local printed version of the book is also available in Café Inggo.