Marge Fenelon is a Catholic, author, speaker, and columnist.She has been writing for Catholic and secular publications for nearly two decades. More than fifteen years ago, she decided to leave behind the secular business world in order to focus her talents and energies on serving the Church and Catholic media. She is a longtime contributor to a variety of Catholic and secular publications, including Our Sunday Visitor and National Catholic Register. Her column, “The Whirl,” runs in the Milwaukee Catholic Herald, and has won favorable reviews from laity and clergy alike. Her blog, “Catholic to the Core,” is on Patheos Catholic. She is the author of several books related to Marian devotion and Catholic family life.
This week she stops by the Catholic Book Blogger to discuss devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots and specifically her latest book Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena. Here is what she had to say.
PETE: Can you tell us a little about the history of the devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots?
MARGE FENELON: The devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots dates back to the seventeenth century. A German nobleman, Wolfgang Langenmantel, was having marital difficulties with his wife, Sophie. The couple was on the brink of divorce, so Wolfgang sought the counsel of Jesuit Father Jacob Rem, a holy priest known for his wisdom. In the course of their sessions, Fr. Rem was inspired to have Wolfgang bring in his marriage ribbon – an old custom in which the bride and groom’s hands are bound together with a silk ribbon during the wedding ceremony. Together, Wolfgang and Fr. Rem presented the ribbon to the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking her to undo the knots that had occurred over the years. She did undo the knots, Wolfgang and Sophie were reconciled and enjoyed a long and happy marriage thereafter. Many years later, the couple’s grandson, Hieronymus, commissioned an artist to create a painting depicting the story of Wolfgang and Sophie’s reconciliation. The painting became known as Our Lady, Undoer of Knots and the devotion developed from that.
PETE: How did your devotional “Our Lady, Under of Knots: A Guided Meditation from the Holy Land” come about?
MARGE FENELON: It was primarily prompted by the Holy Father’s devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, plus my own devotion to her under that title. I traveled to the Holy Land with the Catholic Press Association as part of Pope Francis’ historic pilgrimage there in May, 2014 and was deeply touched, not only by my own experiences and impressions while there, but also by the Pope’s words and actions while he was there.
In dialoging with my editor at Ave Maria Press, it became clear that these three things were converging within me – my Holy Land experiences, Pope Francis’ Holy Land experiences, and our mutual devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.
The conclusion was to form a novena to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots and to incorporate the Holy Land experiences into the days of the novena. The most effective way to do this, it seemed, was to craft an armchair pilgrimage built into a novena. Thus, it’s a living novena, because each day of the novena takes place in a particular Holy Land site.
As you “walk” through the novena, you walk along beside Pope Francis and me in the Holy Land. You experience what we experienced and hear Pope Francis’ words as he visited the various sites. Through the reflections, you’re led into deeper self-examination and resolve to surrender the knots in your life, one by one, to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.
This is definitely not a single-sitting kind of book. It’s meant to be read and worked through slowly, one chapter at a time, over the course of nine or more days or even one per week for nine weeks. It will take you time to digest all that’s packed into it, and you’ll want to go back to it again and again as you encounter new knots in your life.
This book was a year in the making, and provoked serious spiritual warfare for myself and my family as I worked on it. Because of that, I have no doubt that Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena will bear great fruit for those who pray through it.
PETE: How has this devotion impacted your own life?
MARGE FENELON: I first heard about Our Lady, Undoer of Knots during the homily of a very knowledgeable and well-traveled priest. He’d seen the original painting in Germany, and was himself devoted to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. He spoke of the novena’s great power to untie the knots in our lives, and encouraged us to pray it. At the time, I was going through a really tough time, and so decided to give the novena a try. It worked. I could immediately see the knots beginning to loosen in my life.
PETE: How can people benefit from a devotion to Our Lady, Under of Knots?
MARGE FENELON: You can never go wrong by placing yourself and your cares into the hands of Our Lady. In specific regard to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, you will grow closer to the Blessed Mother and to her Son. The knots in your life not only make things difficult for you, but also they bind you in sinful ways that can separate you from God. Turning the ribbon of your life over to Mary will release you from your sinfulness and unbind you from all that threatens to separate you from God and your fellow man.
Exorcists have given witness to the power of the Our Lady, Undoer of Knots novena. During one exorcism, Satan declared his hatred and fear of “she who unties the knots.”
Not only will Our Lady, Undoer of Knots help to untie the knots in the ribbon of your life, but also she will banish the evil one from you and those you love.
More than that, the devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots will open your heart to the Blessed Mother, who is truly your mother. She loves you beyond measure and yearns for your love in return. She will never, ever leave your side or let you down. All you need to do is turn to her.
PETE: Do you have any future book projects you can tell us about?
MARGE FENELON: I have a couple of projects in mind, but there’s nothing concrete yet. I can tell you that both projects have the underlying theme of hope. I feel that’s a special part of the mission God has given me as a writer – to bring hope to others.
PETE: Time for my signature ending question. This is a blog about books. What books are currently on your bookshelf to read?
MARGE FENELON: I’m working on three right now: Teresa Tomeo’s “Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag,” Sarah Reinhard’s “Word by Word,” and Pope Francis’ “Church of Mercy.” When you look at my bookshelves, you’ll see lots of resource books on Church teaching and Mariology – all volumes I use in my writing. You’ll find some of the classics. You’ll also find a wide selection of books related to the Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt, to which I and my husband belong. And, I’m almost embarrassed to admit, you’ll find lots of non-fiction stories about animals, particularly ones about dogs. I’m a special fan of Jon Katz and his Bedlam Farm books. I’m an avowed dog lover, and reading uplifting and occasionally tear-jerking stories about animal companions takes me away from the worries and pressures of daily life. I suppose you could consider it a form of escapism.
Other books by this author:
Imitating Mary: Ten Marian Virtues for the Modern Mom (Catholicmom.Com Books)