Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, Pray For Us

Pope Francis has been Bishop of Rome for just more than a year, and yet it's already extremely clear that this pope loves Mary very, very much. From his visit to the Basilica of St. Mary Major the day after his election to the many acts of devotion to Mary in these first months of his pontificate, the world can watch a devoted son honoring his Mother and turning to her for help with every need.

He's led the youth of the world to the great Marian shrine of Our Lady Aparecida in Brazil, pausing to pray before the statue ensconced there and receiving a replica of Our Lady Aparecida from Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis. At the Holy Father's request, his pontificate was consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima at the shrine in Portugal on May 13, 2013, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima and the anniversary of the first Marian apparitions to Bl. Jacinta, Bl. Francesco, and Lucia. He consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Oct. 13, 2013, the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima.

But one devotion above all has a special place in his heart.

When Pope Francis was still Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, SJ, studying in Germany in the mid-1980s, he became very fond of a Baroque icon of Maria Knotenlöserin (Mary, Undoer of Knots) in the Church of St. Peter am Perlach in Augsburg, Bavaria.

Dating from around 1700, the oil-on-poplar wood painting is attributed to Johann George Melchior Schmidtner, and was painted because of a miracle.

In 1612 in the town of Augsburg, Germany, the nobleman Wolfgang Langenmantel journeyed to the University of Ingolstadt to visit Jesuit Father Jakob Rem four times over the course of 28 days in an attempt to save his marriage through the counsel and prayers of the holy priest. Together, the two men would pray and venerate the Blessed Mother.

Langenmantel brought his wedding ribbon with him on the final visit. At that time, it was a Bavarian tradition for the maid of honor to bind together the bride and groom by the arms to symbolize the newly formed bond of matrimony. Father Rem took the ribbon, held it up before an image of Our Lady, and untied the knots in the ribbon one by one. By the time he had finished, the ribbon was unknotted and dazzlingly white. The marriage healed.

In the year 1700, Fr. Hieronymus Ambrosius Langenmantel, the grandson of Wolfgang Langenmantel and canon or parish priest of the Church of St. Peter am Perlach, dedicated a family altar to Our Lady of Good Counsel. He commissioned a painting to commemorate Mary's powerful intervention to save the marriage of his grandparents.

The image portrays Mary dressed as the Lady of Good Counsel and surrounded by angels, untying the knots in the Langenmantel wedding ribbon. At the bottom of the image, Wolfgang, accompanied by the Archangel Raphael, journeys in haste to visit Father Rem and save his marriage.

But there's more to the image than a desperate nobleman's attempt to save his marriage. Mary's ability to solve the knottiest problems has been known to the great minds of the Church from her earliest days, whether the problem be the lack of wine at a wedding (Jn 2:1-12) or the dire need of the world for the Incarnation of the Son of God. In the second century, the Church Father St. Irenaeus wrote in his Against Heresies (Book III, Chapter 22):

And thus also it was that the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.

Saint Faustina repeatedly celebrated Mary's Immaculate Conception and her intercessory power in her Diary. For instance:

We unite ourselves with Your Immaculate Mother,
For then our hymn will be more pleasing to You,
Because She is chosen from among men and angels.

Through Her, as through a pure crystal,
Your mercy was passed on to us.
Through Her, man became pleasing to God;
Through Her, streams of grace flowed down upon us. (Diary, 1746)

In Mary, the new Eve, God untangles the knotted mess of fallen human nature and produces the Immaculate Conception. She has been undoing knots all throughout her life and afterlife, interceding for us now and forever in all our needs.

She will help us with every sort of knot - when we are ill or in danger; when our relationships are wounded or broken; when the affairs of our country and the world seem inextricably caught in a Gordian knot; when the minds of our academics and youth are stuck in a spiderweb of doubt and confusion; when our passions are attached to the wrong object or hopelessly snarled; whenever we are in need.

Just as a child will go to their mother with a knotted shoelace or a broken zipper, so too do we need to go to Mary, our Mother, with all the wounds and brokenness of our lives in this vale of tears. And this pope, this most pastoral of popes, knows so very well how much our age has need of a loving mother.

Several centuries after the image was painted, then-Fr. Bergoglio saw it and fell in love. Jorge Mario Bergoglio became a tireless promoter of devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, in Argentina, leading to the spread of the devotion throughout South America. The following prayer is attributed to Cardinal Bergoglio:

Holy Mary, full of God's presence during the days of your life, you accepted with full humility the Father's will, and the Devil was never able to tie you around with his confusion. Once with your son, you interceded for our difficulties, and, full of kindness and patience, you gave us [an] example of how to untie the knots of our life. And by remaining forever Our Mother, you put in order, and make more clear, the ties that link us to the Lord. Holy Mother, Mother of God, and our Mother, to you, who untie with motherly heart the knots of our life, we pray to you to receive in your hands (the name of person), and to free him/her of the knots and confusion with which our enemy attacks. Through your grace, your intercession, and your example, deliver us from all evil, Our Lady, and untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God, so that we, free from sin and error, may find Him in all things, may have our hearts placed in Him, and may serve Him always in our brothers and sisters. Amen

In 2005, Cardinal Bergoglio gave then-Pope Benedict XVI a chalice engraved with the image of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots - a Bavarian image for a Bavarian pontiff.

Now, the people of Argentina plan to present Pope Francis with a chalice of his own, made of silver and engraved with images representative of Argentina such as Our Lady of Lujan, as well as the image of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.

Let us follow Pope Francis' example of going to Mary with all our needs and entrusting to her our knottiest problems. Let us turn to our Mother for help and consolation, knowing that the perfect Son of so good a Mother could never deny her anything.

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