As the Church prepares to celebrate Mary as the Mother of God and brings to a close the year 2013, the year of “two Popes,” it seems timely to reflect on a particular Marian devotion brought to the world’s attention by Pope Francis.
The Holy Father has shown himself to be deeply devoted to the Virgin Mary, and one of her titles that he loves best is Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.
US-based Our Sunday Visitor prepared a pamphlet explaining the history of this title of Our Lady.
ZENIT spoke with Heidi Busse, the Parish Content Manager for Our Sunday Visitor, about the pamphlet.
ZENIT: Who is Our Lady, Undoer of Knots?
Busse: While this devotion is new, the image of Mary Undoer of Knots and its story are not. It began in 1612 with a miserably unhappy marriage.
A German nobleman Wolfgang Langenmante and his wife Sophie were on the brink of divorce. Desperate, Wolfgang sought advice from Father Jakob Rem, a Jesuit priest. The story goes that at their last visit, Wolfgang handed his wedding ribbon to Father Jakob who lifted it up to an image of “Our Lady of the Snows” and prayed, “I raise up the bond of marriage, that all knots be loosed and resolved.” (At the time, a bride and groom were “tied” together in the wedding ceremony with a ribbon, symbolizing their unbreakable union.) The unknotted ribbon became bright white — a sign of Mary’s intercession — and the Langenmantes’ marriage survived.
ZENIT: The pamphlet gives a summary both of the origin of the devotion, and how it came into Pope Francis’ life. Could you explain that for us?
Busse: Pope Francis’ introduction to the devotion came while he was in Germany in 1986 studying for his doctorate. While visiting the Church of St. Peter am Perlach in Augsburg, then-Father Jorge saw a painting of Our Lady untying the knots in a white ribbon. He was captivated by it and the story behind it. He bought a postcard of the image and brought the devotion with him back to Argentina. The devotion is now rippling throughout the entire Catholic world.
One of the first things Francis did after being elected was to visit the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and dedicate his tenure as Pope to Mary’s care.
ZENIT: Is this devotion spreading quickly? How and why? (I saw that Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia recently mentioned he has an image of Our Lady Undoer of Knots on his desk — given him by then-Archbishop Bergoglio)
Busse: The devotion does seem to be spreading quickly and I think that has to do with the way it speaks to those of us living in the modern world. We all have knots in our lives. We all need prayer to help us with the knots that can seem impossible to untie: marriage troubles, money problems, unemployment, illness, loneliness. Fears and worries of all kinds. Mary’s intercession is very powerful and asking for her help with our daily struggles will only bring us into deeper relationship with God.
ZENIT: How can a Catholic approach Our Lady, Undoer of Knots?
Busse: The prayer that we have in the pamphlet is attributed to Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Saying this prayer every day is a wonderful beginning. The full novena can be found at www.desatadora.com.ar, which is the International Fraternity of the Virgin Mary, Untier of Knots.
ZENIT. The pamphlet is one of many parish resources supplied by Our Sunday Visitor. Could you explain the parish division of OSV?
Busse: The mission of Our Sunday Visitor is to provide materials and resources that will help Catholics deepen their relationship with Christ and their commitment to the Church. Pope Francis encourages all those involved in catechesis and faith formation to “go forth and open doors.”
Our parish division is dedicated to opening doors with our new, Alive in Christ school and parish curriculum, to pamphlets, bulletin inserts, prayer cards and more.
If you’d like to learn more about our parish materials, visit www.osvparish.com to browse all of our parish products.
To buy the pamphlet on Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: https://www.osvparish.com/Shop/Product?ProductCode=P1565