Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Mary, Untier of Knots

St. Irenaeus (b. ca. A.D. 130) wrote about the Incarnation of Christ in the 22nd chapter of the third book of his Adversus Haereses. The chapter concludes with these lines:

Luke, commencing the genealogy with the Lord, carried it back to Adam, indicating that it was He who regenerated them into the Gospel of life, and not they Him. And thus also it was that 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.

The devotion to Our Lady as one who "unties knots" has its deep origins in this truth. Eve, the mother of all born, sinned and tempted her husband to do likewise, thereby bringing about the fall of man; Mary, the mother of all re-born, said yes to bringing the Christ into the world, thereby bringing about, through her Son, our redemption. What Eve knotted up, Mary loosens.

The devotion has its proximate origins in the early 17th century, when Wolfgang Langenmantel -- a German of noble birth -- and his wife, Sophie, were experiencing hardships in their marriage. Herr Langenmantel would pay visits to Father Jakob Rem to seek advice and counseling. During these times, he and Father would ask the Virgin's prayers, and on their last visit together, on September 28, 1615, something strange happened: Herr Langenmantel gave to the priest the ribbon that was used to bind his wife's and his hands together during their wedding ceremony. The ribbon was snarled, but Father held it up toward a painting of Our Lady of the Snows and prayed that she would "untie the knots" that had found a place in the couple's marriage. The ribbon untangled. And the Langenmantels' marriage was healed.

In honor of this miracle, their grandson, who'd become a priest and canon lawyer, commissioned the painter Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner to make a painting of Our Lady as the one who "unties knots." Since 1700, it hangs in the church of St. Peter am Perlach in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany, and pilgrims --- and, especially, those experiencing marital problems -- flock to see it. 

The painting depicts the Virgin surrounded by angels and standing on a serpent, as foretold in Genesis 3:15:

I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.

In her hands, she holds a knotted ribbon which she patiently untangles. Underneath, Herr Langenmantel is shown walking toward a monastery, guided by the Archangel Raphael.

In English, Our Lady in this style is known as "Untier of Knots," "Undoer of Knots," "Mary who Unties the Knots". In Italian, she's known as "Maria che Scioglie i Nodi"; in French, "Marie qui défait les Nœuds," in Spanish, "María Desatanudos" or "María, Desatadora de Nudos"; in German, "Maria Knotenlöserin"; and in Polish, "Maria Rozwiazujaca Wezly." But whatever the language used to ask for the Blessed Virgin's assistance, she is always there, as your Mother, to help you "untie the knots" in your life -- the problems that harrass and trouble you, the sins that hold you back, the addictions that plague you.

Because the devotion was local for so long and has only become popular on a worldwide scale relatively recently, I don't have very old, traditional prayers related to it. But I offer what I have, as given by parish priests: a prayer (below), and a novena which incorporates that prayer, the Act of Contrition, a meditation, and the Rosary. You can download the novena in pdf format (9 pages): Novena to Our Lady, Untier of Knots.

Prayer to Mary, Undoer of Knots

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life. You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots. Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of His children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. No one, not even the evil one himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone. Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with your Son and my Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot (mention your intentions). I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once and for all, you are my hope. O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution and with Christ the freedom from my chains. Hear my plea. Keep me, guide me, protect me, O safe refuge! Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me. Amen.

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