Our Lady Undoer of Knots
The devotion to Our Lady of Knots is not a new devotion but is slightly unusual as it is not based on an apparition such as Lourdes or Fatima or a geographic connection such as Our Lady of Paisley.
The concept of Mary untying knots is derived from a work by St. Irenaeus of Lyons, he presents a parallel between Eve and Mary, describing how "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."
While the devotion is fairly new, the story started in Germany in the 1600’s. The painting of the same name as the devotion hangs in the Church of St Peter am Perlach in Augsburg.
The painting was commissioned by a priest who served at the church, Canon Hieronymus Ambrosius Langenmantel.
Over the centuries there is a story that has been passed down to explain why Canon Langenmantel asked Schmidtner to paint such an unusual image of Our Lady. According to the story, the canon’s grandparents were quarrelling so fiercely and so often that they had decided to separate. A Jesuit priest, Father Jakub Rem, visited the unhappy couple, hoping to persuade them to resolve their differences. Apparently, Father Rem was not making much progress with the Langenmantels, because at one point he turned to an image of the Blessed Mother that was in the room and prayed, “I raise up the bond of marriage, that all knots be loosed and resolved.” Mary answered the Jesuit’s prayer — the couple reconciled and remained together. The painting and altar were their grandson’s thanksgiving to Our Lady for her intercession on behalf of his family.
In 1986, Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio was studying in Germany. While there, he visited the Church of St. Peter in Augsburg and saw the image of Our Lady Undoer of Knots.
Touched by the image, he bought a postcard of it and began invoking Mary’s help under this title. Later, as auxiliary bishop and then archbishop of Buenos Aires, he encouraged others to venerate Our Lady Undoer of Knots. The devotion spread rapidly in Argentina and then into Brazil, where there is a popular shrine with a replica of the original image. Now as Pope Francis he continues to promote this lovely devotion.
At The Faith of Mary, the Marian Vigil, Saturday 12th October 2013,
Pope Francis said the following;
The first aspect of her faith is this: Mary’s faith unties the knot of sin (cf. Lumen Gentium, 56). What does that mean? The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council took up a phrase of Saint Irenaeus, who states that “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; what the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith” (Adversus Haereses, III, 22, 4).
The “knot” of disobedience, the “knot” of unbelief. When children disobey their parents, we can say that a little “knot” is created. This happens if the child acts with an awareness of what he or she is doing, especially if there is a lie involved. At that moment, they break trust with their parents. How often does this happen! Then the relationship with their parents needs to be purified of this fault; the child has to ask forgiveness so that harmony and trust can be restored. Something of the same sort happens in our relationship with God. When we do not listen to him, when we do not follow his will, we do concrete things that demonstrate our lack of trust in him – for that is what sin is – and a kind of knot is created deep within us. These knots take away our peace and serenity. They are dangerous, since many knots can form a tangle which gets more and more painful and difficult to undo.
But nothing is impossible for God’s mercy! Even the most tangled knots are loosened by his grace. And Mary, whose “yes” opened the door for God to undo the knot of the ancient disobedience, is the Mother who patiently and lovingly brings us to God, so that he can untangle the knots of our soul by his fatherly mercy. We might ask ourselves: What knots do I have in my life? Do I ask Mary to help me trust in God’s mercy, in order to change?