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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

Our Lady Undoer of Knots

Fr. Scott A. Haynes

Feast of Our Lady Undoer of Knots

- September 28 -

The devotion to Our Lady Undoer of Knots started with the events that led to the painting of the picture you see here, but the theology behind it goes back to the second century. Saint Irenaeus wrote at the time, "Mary's obedience untied the knot of Eve's disobedience." Hieronymus Ambrosius Langenmantel, a canon at the Monastery of Saint Peter in Augsburg [1] from 1641 to 1718, gave the painting to the church in the early 1700s. People say that the donation has something to do with something that happened in his family that still affects families today.

Wolfgang Langenmantel (1586-1637) was about to divorce his wife, Sophia Rentz (1590-1649). He asked Father Jacob Rem, a priest in Ingolstadt, for help. So, on September 28, 1615, Father Rem prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary and said, "In this religious act, I raise the bonds of matrimony to untie all knots and smooth them." He then lifted the wedding ribbon and untied the knots one by one. When the ribbon was being smoothed out, the white ribbon shone with an intense heavenly brightness that no earthly painter could replicate. The husband and wife were immediately restored in peace with each other, and the separation did not happen. The painting of "Our Lady, Undoer of Knots" was commissioned by their grandson as a thank-you and to keep the memory of this event alive.

The original Baroque painting of Mary Untying the Knots by Johann George Melchior Schmidtner is found in the Church of St. Peter am Perlach in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany. It is six feet tall and just under four feet wide. Even though the painting has been through wars, revolutions, and religious opposition, it has never been destroyed and people are still drawn to it today.

In the 18th century, devotion to Our Lady Undoer of Knots grew throughout Germany. During the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, when people were looking for help, they turned to the intercession of Our Lady Undoer of Knots. As the devotion to Mary under this title has spread worldwide, a chapel dedicated to Our Lady Undoer of Knots was built in Styria, Austria, in 1989. Another chapel was constructed in her honor in Formosa, Argentina, on December 8, 2000. The devotion has been growing in South America since 1998, when a booklet called Mary, Undoer of Knots Novena was published with permission from the church.

In the picture of Our Lady Undoer of Knots, Mary is shown floating in the air between heaven and earth, resplendent with light. The Holy Spirit, in the shape of a dove, is above her head to remind us that the third person of the Trinity hovered over her at the Annunciation when she who was full of grace became the Theotokos (Mother of God).

The Holy Virgin is dressed in crimson and has a deep blue mantle that shows how important she is as Queen of the Universe. Her position as Queen of the Apostles is shown by the crown of twelve stars on her head. The way her feet crush the snake's head reminds us that she has won the war over Satan. Angels are all around her, reminding us that she is Queen of the Angels and Queen of Heaven. She has a knotted white ribbon in her hands, which she is calmly untying. Two angels help her with the job. One angel gives her the knots in our lives, and the other angel gives us the ribbon without knots.

Mary's faith untangles the knots of sin, but what are these knots? These are our problems and struggles for which we cannot see a solution. There are knots of conflict in our family, disrespect, violence, knots of deep hurts between husband and wife, and the absence of peace and joy at home. There are also the knots of pain and despair when a couple breaks up or a family falls apart, the knots of a drug-addicted son or daughter who is sick or away from home or God, the knots of alcoholism, abortion, depression, unemployment, fear, loneliness, and all the other things in our lives that suffocate the soul, beat us down, steal our hearts' joy, and keep us from God. It's like when a ball of yarn gets tangled up and we're too impatient to untangle it. It's as hard to solve as a "Gordian knot."

The Lord sees the poor condition of our souls, how bad our relationships are, and evils of our society. This is not how God wants us to live. Christ died to set people free from sin, so that we live and grow in right relationship with Him and with each other. When we go astray, He always shows us the way back. He brings us to Himself through His Mother, which is also how He brings us back to Himself.

The first thing we need to do is put ourselves under the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of God, our help, our advocate, and our intercessor. We will be able to see how those knots were "made" and why they were made if we pray and listen to God’s still, small voice.
We will be able to see how those knots were "made" and why they were made if we pray and meditate.

With the help of Our Lady, the knots of our lives will be untied. Just as when you untangle a ball of knotted yarn, you begin with the easiest knots so you can see better when you get to the harder ones. Mother Mary can teach us patience so that we have the strength to keep going and never give up.

Christ is so good that not only does He want us to come back to Him, but He also wants to heal the wounds we made for ourselves by living outside of His will. He knows that our own sins and the sins of others have left us in a tangled mess. Who better than His good and wise Mother to put things in order? Just like a child goes to their mother with a mess of knots that they can't get out of, we go to Our Lady, our Heavenly Mother.

Our devotion to Our Lady Undoer of Knots is a present reminder that we are at war in the battle for our souls and our families. She will take our knots, which are made up of everything in our lives that is not God's will and untie them one by one.

Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, Pray for us!

[1] One of the oldest churches in the city of Augsburg the Church of St. Peter am Perlach dates back at least to the 11th century.


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