Last week I told you that on Saturdays during the month of May, I would write something about Mary, the Mother of God. On this, the second Saturday of May, let’s talk about one of Pope Francis’ favorite devotions: Mary, Untier of Knots.
As a Jesuit priest in the mid-1980s, Jorge Mario Bergoglio spent several months in Germany studying at the Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology in Frankfurt. It was during this time that he first saw a Bavarian painting of “Holy Mary, Our Lady Untier of Knots”. Impressed by the beauty and the spiritual significance of the painting, he acquired a copy and took it home with him to Argentina. There, with Fr. Bergoglio’s encouragement, devotion to Mary under this title became popular.
Later, as a Cardinal, Bergoglio had an image of Our Lady Untier of Knots engraved into a chalice which he presented to Pope Benedict XVI.
History of the Devotion
It’s not known who painted Our Lady, Untier of Knots; but since 1700, the painting has been venerated at the Church of St. Peter in Perlack, Germany. The inspiration for the image, though, goes back to the second century—less than 200 years after the birth of Christ. St. Irenaeus, one of the early Church Fathers, wrote:
“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.” (Adversus haereses, 3, 22)
Eve is the “co-peccatrix” (co-sinner along with Adam). Mary, then, is the “co-redemptrix” (co-redemptress alongside Christ crucified). People sometimes misunderstand, believing that Mary directly saves or redeems us. This is not the intent of the phrase; rather, it means that Mary, by her “Fiat” or “Yes” to God when asked to be the mother of the Christ Child, gives her consent and participates in the redemptive role of Christ.
And what are these “Knots” which Mary can undo?The website for Mary Undoer of Knots explains:
They are the problems and struggles we face for which we do not see any solution.
Knots of discord in your family, lack of understanding between parents and children, disrespect, violence, the knots of deep hurts between husband and wife, the absence of peace and joy at home. They are also the knots of anguish and despair of separated couples, the dissolution of the family, the knots of a drug addict son or daughter, sick or separated from home or God, knots of alcoholism, the practice of abortion, depression, unemployment, fear, solitude…Ah, the knots of our life! How they suffocate the soul, beat us down and betray the heart’s joy and separate us from God.
When Jorge Bergoglio brought this devotion to Argentina, he composed this prayer:
Pope Francis’ Prayer to Our Lady, Untier of Knots
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 capable 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 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.