An icon of Mary Undoer of Knots is seen at the Church of St. Peter am Perlach in Augsburg, Germany. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

We Need to Look to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, during the Pandemic

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Father David BonnarIn her wisdom, Holy Mother Church provides specific options for Gospel texts on various occasions. Over time, preachers come to know these texts through and through. One of my favorite suggested texts for funeral liturgies that I find poignant is John 19:17-18, 25-30. This text takes us to the foot of the cross in which Jesus, before he dies, has a simple but ever so powerful exchange with his mother and the disciple whom he loved.

Jesus says to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son” (Jn 19:26). Then Jesus says to the disciple whom he loved, “Behold, your mother” (v. 27). In this moment, Jesus invites both Mary and John to look and to behold each other, even as he is pouring out his life on the cross. This is for me a revealing moment in which Jesus asks Mary to look after his beloved disciple and the Church. Jesus also wants this disciple to look to Mary. This is a look that is to continue throughout time as all generations behold Mary as blessed. Mary looks at us and encourages us to “do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). We, for our part, look to Mary throughout the year to intercede on our behalf, not just in our private prayer, but in the many Marian celebrations that unfold during the liturgical year.

Undoer of Knots
Mary, Undoer of Knots. Public domain

Recently, I participated in my final Zoom meeting for a Catholic high school board. After six years of service, my term has expired. During the meeting, the director of schools was briefing us on the reopening considerations for schools. As you might imagine, this is a fluid situation that changes every day, it seems, across the country. There are so many levels to this issue that involve not just Catholic schools offices but the states and counties, as well. Added to the complexity, is the question of sports. Should there be sports in this time of pandemic?

The director of schools aptly described this whole issue as being filled with knots. She said, “It is all knotted up.” Then she issued a plea. “We need to pray to Mary, Undoer of Knots.” Sure enough, we concluded the meeting by praying the prayer to Mary, Undoer of Knots.

When I was a little boy nothing frustrated me more than knots. One thing I discovered back then was whether it was my shoe or a fishing-rod line, I could not undo the knot. I needed the help of my mom and dad.

The pandemic has yielded all kinds of new knots in our lives. If you don’t believe me, then ask a bride and groom who were scheduled to be married during this time. Or ask a family who lost a loved one and realized that they could not ritualize the moment without facing some restriction or limitation. Or ask a person who lost their job and does not know what is next. Or simply ask someone who graduated from high school this year. Needless to say, there are so many knots that we simply cannot undo.

The call to seek the intercession of Mary, Undoer of Knots, sparked my curiosity. It turns out this title originates with a Baroque painting located in a popular church in Bavaria, Germany. Evidently, Pope Francis saw this image when he was studying in Germany and encouraged veneration of this title in Latin America.

The idea of Mary untying knots also comes from a work from St. Irenaeus who contrasted the knot of Eve’s disobedience and the loosening of it through Mary’s obedience.

It is noteworthy that from these two sources a Marian devotion has emerged seeking the intercession of Mary, Undoer of Knots. I think we all need to look to Mary, Undoer of Knots, to help us in this time of pandemic, knowing that she is always looking at us.

Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, pray for us!

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 16 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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