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How Pope Francis spread devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots

Pope Francis speaks at the at the Grotto of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens on May 31, 2021, against the backdrop of an image of Our Lady, Undoer (or Untier) of Knots. / Credit: Vatican Media

CNA Staff, Sep 28, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Of the many devotions Pope Francis has promoted during his pontificate, perhaps none is better known than his devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots (also referred to as Our Lady, Untier of Knots), whose feast day is observed Sept. 28.

The devotion’s origins can be traced back to Augsburg, Germany, in 1612. Husband and wife Wolfgang Langenmantel and Sophia Rentz were on the verge of divorce, and Langenmantel sought help from Jesuit Father Jakob Rem. The priest took the ribbon from the couple’s wedding ritual, and together they prayed to Our Lady to untie the knots of their marital difficulties, asking for the Blessed Mother to smooth out the ribbon that had bound them together. 

The divorce did not happen, and together the couple lived out their married life. Years later, to commemorate the turn of events, their grandson, Father Hieronymus Langenmantel of St. Peter’s Monastery in Augsburg, commissioned Johann Melchior Georg Schmidttner to paint “Untier of Knots” in about the year 1700. It is still housed in St. Peter’s Church in Augsburg today.

While it has been reported that Pope Francis encountered the painting while studying in Germany, the pope pointed out in a 2017 interview with German news outlet Zeit that he has never been to Augsburg. What happened, he explained in the interview, was that a nun whom he had met while in Germany sent him a card at Christmas with the image on it. 

The picture made an impression on the future pope, who noted that Father Langenmantel based his actions on a quote from St. Irenaeus: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith” (“Against Heresies,” 3, 22, 4, as quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 494).

The pope said he liked the image so much that he started sending postcards of it, too. Replicas of the image were painted in the pope’s home country, Argentina, and devotion there spread. Once Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope in 2013, devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots spread throughout the world.

Francis has talked about the devotion throughout his pontificate, even praying specifically to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots in 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here is a prayer to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots from Pray More Novenas:

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 exist in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exists 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 request here]

I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once 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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