I’d received my copy just days before leaving on a plane bound for Philadelphia this past September. I knew I might bump into its author, fellow Catholic writer/author Marge Fenelon, at the World Meeting of Families, so I slipped the book into my bulging bag, hoping to garner a “fresh from the press” author signature.
The size of the book, “Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena,” gave me confidence I could have it read by the journey’s end. And how perfect would it be, since I was on my way to see, along with thousands of others, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who is a devotee of the book’s topic. Everything had merged in a beautiful way.
And though breathless and sweaty by the time I found Marge in the large Philadelphia Convention Center, I was blessed to see her. She was smaller than I’d anticipated – we’d never met in person before – but a real delight. Our brief crossing was a special part of the day for me.
That said, the best-laid plans… Indeed, caught up in the din of the day, I forgot to pull out my copy of her book from my backpack during our brief meeting, and I didn’t realize my blunder until it was too late. To add to the plans-gone-afoul scenario, I didn’t have a chance to so much as crack the cover during that whirlwind trip. It stayed at the bottom of my suitcase as the literature and badges and trinkets accumulated through the days.
And so it is that my intended review comes much later than I had hoped. Even after I had a moment to open the book and begin taking it in, I discovered it was one that begged to be absorbed slowly. And so it became a treasure during my Wednesday night sessions at Adoration. A chapter a week approach, with a few weeks missed, was how I journeyed with this magnificent little book.
By the time I’d reached the end, the journey had become so much more meaningful than it could have been had I rushed through it at the airport last fall. For one, the book features Marge’s reflections from a trip she took alongside Pope Francis to the Holy Land, so like Marge, I’d had a chance to encounter our pontiff.
Adding to that, I worked on this article for The Forum newspaper, for which I write as a weekly faith columnist and features writer. Interviewing this local couple who had gone to the Holy Land only made my appreciation for Marge’s travels all the more interesting.
I’d also come to realize just how dear this devotion is to Pope Francis, as evidenced through his movements in Philadelphia. My friend Pat took this photo of the knots that people left at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Downtown Philly.
This was symbolic, a way of tying the pilgrims who’d journeyed to Philadelphia with the Holy Father. The day after this photo was taken, he touched these ribbons and blessed them with his prayers.
So when I finally got to the book, it came alive to me. Marge’s guided meditation was so real, I felt like I was right next to her as she explored the very relevant and deep topics of the different knots of life with which we all find ourselves entangled at one point or another: injustice, separation, confusion, hopelessness, grief/loss, discord, betrayal, envy/pride, and affliction.
I was first introduced to Our Lady Undoer of Knots by my friend Patti McGuire Armstrong, during a time my life seemed very much in tangles. Through this image, I was introduced to a mother who understands the brokenness and messiness of everyday family life, and how mired we can become.
Through Our Lady Undoer of Knots, we can begin untying, with the Lord’s help and Mary’s intercession, the knots that complicate our lives to the point of seeming insurmountable. Alone, we are helpless. With our Lord and his mother, we have what we need to make progress.
Marge brings the reader with her as she observes the trek of Pope Francis in the Holy Land, and offers us insight from the heart of an ordinary soul. Through her, the spans of time and space shrink, and we are able to glimpse what God wants for us — healing and wholeness.
Chapter by chapter, knot by knot, we come away more equipped to begin unraveling the knots that have bound us for so long. And through Marge’s little but profoundly insightful book, we can start the journey with a gentle companion. What a gift.
Q4U: What are the knots that keep you bound? What have you done to begin untying them?