"Look to the star; cry out to Mary!"

-St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Dear Friends in Christ,

“Look to the star; cry out to Mary!” This heartfelt saying of St. Bernard of Clairvaux perfectly captures the spirit of the Nativity of Mary, a day when we celebrate the dawn of our salvation in Christ with the birth of his Immaculate Mother to her holy parents, Sts. Anne and Joachim.

From the early days of the Church, the faithful have invoked Our Lady as Star of the Sea, praying “Ave, Maris Stella,” “Hail, Star of the Sea,” to capture two important truths about the Blessed Virgin Mary. The first is that like a star rising above the sea, she is visible just above the horizon. Her indispensable contribution of consenting to be the Mother of the Messiah is the first moment of an entirely new era. With Mary’s birth, the age of prophecy is over; the age of fulfillment has begun.

The second truth is that like a star, Mary is pure and full of light. And it is this truth that I want to reflect upon with you today, because it will help us to think about how we need to respond to the special challenges of our age.

When we think about Mary’s likeness to a star, we may be struck by how our conception of stars is so very different from that of a St. Bernard or the magi who followed their star to Bethlehem. They thought of stars as made of a mysterious fifth element—literally, the quintessence—a glowing, never-changing but always-moving ether, the stuff of the firmament. Today, thanks to discoveries by Galileo, Hubble, and many in between, we know that stars are glowing balls of burning gas, that some of the points of light we see in the night sky are actually clusters of thousands of stars or galaxies containing millions of them, and that all of these points of light are moving in an ever-expanding universe that is unbelievably immense but nevertheless finite in extent.

Yet across this change in our conceptions about what stars are, we still experience them as the lofty, pure, shining lights that gladden our hearts in the darkness of night.

And in this continuity amid change we have an image of our Catholic faith in general. “O, how late have I loved you, beauty ever ancient and ever new,” prayed St. Augustine. And with that phrase he captured the perennial condition of Christians in the world. We are together on a pilgrimage back to the Father, a pilgrimage to eternity. The most important truths do not change, but the circumstances in which we find ourselves often do. The task of the Christian is to keep walking the straight and narrow way that leads to life, not being distracted by the new things that soon will be old.

In recent days, there has been much talk about ChatGPT and the power of artificial intelligence. There are plenty of dystopian movies that dramatize our fears about “AI” even as there are just as many investing schemes that promise boundless wealth from its power.

At the end of the day, however, we Christians know what really matters is not lightning-fast computers that can mimic human art, but instead the minds and hearts of men and women being converted to their Savior, to follow his way, and to be incorporated into his family by that loveliest of commands, “Behold, your mother” (John 19:27).

At the Augustine Institute, everything we do is meant to serve the spiritual lives of ordinary men and women, to help them to say “yes” to God and to experience abundant life by loving and living his law. Whether it is the video content on, the lessons in the Word of Life curriculum, the meditations on the Amen app, or the academic fellowship of our Graduate School of Theology, the Augustine Institute’s labors are all for the sake of readying men, women, and children to accept the countless graces the Father wishes to bestow on them in Christ, through the Spirit, and thanks to the intercession of the Holy Mother of God.

To this end, in the coming year, we will develop and release several new resources to help Catholics better understand, live, and share their faith. These include:

  • An all-new FORMED platform that aggregates inspiring and educational content from the Augustine Institute and over 140 content partners.
  • The Masters in Catholic Education program which will teach those who will share the faith with future generations.
  • The Masters in Biblical Studies program which will form the next generation of scriptural scholars and teachers.
  • Two video series on the Eucharist to revitalize belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and to support the efforts of the National Eucharistic Revival.
  • The Word of Life middle school curriculum which will renew Catholic education and engage students, parents, and teachers.
  • A new Symbolon series which will inspire those entering the Church through RCIA and those seeking to deepen their understanding of the faith.
  • A multi-year Confirmation program which will form young adults during a pivotal stage in their faith journey.

Your financial support and your prayers for our mission are essential to our work. Our Lord has summoned all of us to join his Mother to be “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Your sacrificial giving will help shine that light. Please know of our sincere gratitude and prayers for you.


Tim Gray
President, Augustine Institute