Digging frantically in my jewelry cabinet for the only necklace that seemed fitting for the evening, I spotted it toward the bottom of a drawer. Drat! It had gotten tangled up with several other necklaces.
The minutes on the clock ticked away sneeringly. Could I free this necklace without further undue delay? The more I tried, the worse the web of metal and clasps became. A tear slipped down my cheek. Finally, I grabbed another necklace in defeat.
My sadness and frustration that night was less about the chains in my hand and more about those that had formed around my heart. So many worries had been building, and I needed more than my flurrying fingers to help me. I needed grace.
We’ve all experienced such moments. Worries pile up singly until they collide into one big, messy ball, and the untangling proves elusive. It’s only at the point of surrender that grace can begin to enter in.
The Our Lady Undoer of Knots Novena – a favorite of Pope Francis – exists for such times when the tangled twists of our lives threaten to suffocate our souls.
The ancient devotion was inspired by a meditation of St. Irenaeus, martyred in 202. Borrowing from a comparison St. Paul had made between Adam and Jesus, he declared: “Eve, by her disobedience, tied the knot of disgrace for the human race; whereas Mary, by her obedience, undid it.”
The knots in our lives can manifest from family discord, misunderstanding, disrespect, violence, and hurt. They can bring anguish and despair. “These knots take away our peace and serenity,” Pope Francis has said, and “…can form a tangle which gets more and more painful and difficult to undo.”
During the World Meeting of Families in September 2015 in Philadelphia, the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul contained, at its outside entrance, a “Knotted Grotto,” a visual display of knotted ties representing the many worries people had brought to the City of Brotherly Love, along with a painting of “Mary, Undoer of Knots,” a Baroque work from around 1700 representing the devotion. It gripped me to see the hearts of humanity conveyed through the white, tangled ties, but gratitude quickly followed. Certainly, I realized, Our Lady, full of grace, is equipped to help release the tensions of our lives, one by one, just as she had done for Jesus.
Further endearing me to this devotion was the book of an author I met in Philadelphia, Marge Fenelon, “Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena: A Guided Meditation from the Holy Land.” For those seeking to learn more about this devotion, this book provides a lovely entry point.
Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, Pray for Us.