Coming across a knot when you are doing needlework is aggravating. The Mother of Jesus must have experienced knots, maybe as she sewed the swaddling clothes or the seamless garment that the soldiers gambled for at the cross. An unusual devotion is to Mary as the Untier of Knots—not the knots in thread or yarn but in our lives. This month of May, which is dedicated to Mary, is a good time to remember that our heavenly mother is ever ready to help undo our problems, especially “knotty” relationships.
The devotion apparently originated in the 17th century when a German artist painted Mary holding a white ribbon filled with knots. As the ribbon falls from her hands, it is free from knots and caught by an angel. This angel looks out at us as if to say, “See what she can do for you.” There is a prayer to Mary under the title Virgin Who Unties Knots, a novena, as well as a chaplet, which is a small circle of beads with set prayers. Already in the second century St. Irenaeus highlighted this role of Mary when he wrote, “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience..”
Last Sunday I spoke about Mary at a church. Afterwards a worried mother told me that just the day before she had decided to pray to Mary for safety for her son who was going to college. The fact that I spoke about Mary confirmed for her that she had made the right decision, and she brought my book The Catholic Companion to Mary. A neighbor was concerned about her friend who was coming apart in the face of a newborn and a husband out of work. My neighbor told me that she didn’t know what to until she decided to put her friend in Mary’s hands. An organization called Mary’s Touch collects and shares accounts of people who have been helped by our Blessed Mother. When St. Juan Diego was worried about his dying uncle, Mary gently chided, “Do not worry. Do you not know that I am your mother?” She reminds us of this too today.
Has Mary ever untied a knot in your life?