by Ken Rolheiser
Marriage and Mary untier of knots

There’s a joke about a tourist in Ireland asking one of the locals for directions to Dublin. The Irishman replies: “Well sir, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here”.

If I were giving advice about embarking on a married life I would say, “Do not start out without our Mother Mary.” In my life I prayed for some years for a good marriage partner, and Mary answered that prayer when I met my wife.

After 48 years of a great marriage and many family blessings, the years take their toll. Health issues arise. And we still need Mary. Sometimes after a disagreement I am in one room praying to Mary and my wife is in another. And with Mary’s help peace returns.

And that brings me to the story of Mary, the untier of knots. A Baroque painting of Mary Untier of Knots, by Johann George Melchior Schmidtner, in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany illustrates the story.

Wolfgang Langenmantel (1586-1637) was on the verge of separating from his wife and sought help from Father Jacob Rem, the Jesuit priest in Ingolstadt.

In a solemn ritual act, 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 smoothen them," meanwhile elevating the wedding ribbon and untying the knots one by one.

While smoothing the ribbon out, the white ribbon attained such an intense brightness, that not even the palette of any painter could have reproduced it.

Immediately peace was restored between the husband and wife. And devotion to Mary the untier of knots grew in eighteenth century Germany. More recently a chapel was built in 1989 to Mary whose intercession was sought during the Chernobyl Power Plant disaster. (Source: America needs Fatima September 28, 2017)

This devotion to Mary continues to grow. On December 8, 2000, a chapel was dedicated to the Virgin Mary Untier of Knots in Formosa, Argentina. Devotion continues to spread in South America thanks to the booklet, Mary, Undoer of Knots Novena.

We have many knots in our lives. Our country and our allies have knots in their worlds that make quite a mess at times. I’m reminded of the joke about the string that tried to order a drink in a bar. The bar tender wouldn’t serve a string.

So the string went back to his table, tied himself in a knot, messed up his hair and went to order another drink. “Hey, aren’t you a string?” the bartender asks. “Nope, I’m a frayed knot,” replied the string.

We may feel frayed by the tangles of life that take away our serenity. But peace comes back when we ask for Mary’s help. Politically we need the kind of leadership Shakespeare alluded to in Henry V where Henry is praised for his ability to “unloose” the Gordian knots of politics.

This brings us to the fascinating story of Gordius, father of King Midas who fashioned a knot so elaborately that, like King Arthur’s sword, whoever could undo the knot would become ruler of Asia.

Alexander the Great wrestled with the knot. Frustrated, he drew his sword and sliced it in half (there are other versions of this) and went on to conquer Egypt and large parts of Asia.

To draw the metaphors of this article to a happy conclusion I turn to Mary at the Wedding feast at Cana. When your marriage runs into difficulties, turn to Mary. She will tell Jesus, “They have no wine.”

(590 words)