What has you tied in knots? Take it to Mary, the ‘undoer’

By: By Tom Dermody

The Blessed Mother has no shortage of titles. Earlier this month we honored Mary as Our Lady of the Rosary. Soon we will recall her under the titles of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe. We could fill this column with titles for Mary, including the Mother of Mercy, the Mother of Perpetual Help, the Queen of Peace, etc.

While studying in Germany, Pope Francis developed a special devotion to “Mary, Undoer of Knotsm,” inspired by an 18th century painting by artist Johann Georg Melchoir Schmidtner. The concept is taken from a chapter in a work by St. Irenaeus of Lyons in which he demonstrates a parallel between Eve and Mary, writing that the “knot” of Eve’s disobedience was undone by Mary.

It’s not surprising that the devotion is gaining popularity. We are often tied up in knots because of illness, family matters, money concerns, job stress and sin as well as societal knots such as poverty and war.

One of the most striking displays of faith seen during Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States was a “Knotted Grotto,” a dome-shaped lattice-work frame erected in front of Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul. The structure was simple. The response to it was astounding.

As designed by artist Meg Saligman, the project invited people to write prayer intentions on a white ribbon and tie it outside the grotto. Passersby were invited to pray for the intentions on one of the ribbons, untie it, and retie it inside the grotto — perhaps leaving their own intention to be prayed for by someone else.

Swelled by pilgrims to see Pope Francis or attend the World Meeting of Families, the grotto eventually held 150,000 ribbons with prayers asking for healing from anxiety or cancer, freedom from addiction, increased faith, or help for the poor or imprisoned.

In an unplanned gesture before the papal Mass Sept. 27, Pope Francis stopped his motorcade to visit the Knotted Grotto and its sea of prayer ribbons.
For centuries Catholics have lit prayer candles. We have the gift of the rosary. The newly redesigned website of the Diocese of Peoria, cdop.org, includes “Peoria Prays,” which invites prayer requests and promises the intentions will be remembered by the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Perhaps parishes, schools and even homes should take note of the response to “Mary, Undoer of Knots” and consider their own version of a Knotted Grotto to focus and invite prayer. Our Blessed Mother, the Queen of Heaven, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Our Lady of Victory, the Cause of Our Joy, will never tire of carrying our prayers to her Son, whose grace and mercy can loosen even the tightest of knots. — Thomas J. Dermody

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