With the hope of saving his marriage, a young man sought counsel from a Jesuit priest. During their talks, they would pray together, asking Mary's intercession. As they did so, the priest would untie the knots in the husband's wedding ribbon. Years after the man and his wife had reconciled, their grandson commissioned a painting --Mary Untier of Knots by Johann Schmidtner, which came to symbolize this unique devotion to Our Lady.
Almost three centuries later, another young Jesuit priest, Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis), while studying in Germany, came across a painting that depicts Mary patiently undoing knots in a long cord. He took a copy of the painting to Argentina and began to encourage the devotion. He realized that this picture portrayed how Mary can help us to undo the difficulties and hardships that represent the "knots" in our lives. When he became pope, many more people were inspired to take up devotion to Mary under the title of Our Lady Undoer of Knots, and have found consolation and encouragement through her powerful intercession.
The tradition of praying novenas has its roots in the earliest days of the Church. Christians have always prayed for various needs, trusting that God both hears and answers prayer. The word "novena" derives from the Latin term novem, meaning nine. In a novena we pray a prayer for nine days. "But," we might wonder, "doesn't God know our needs before we event ask? Isn't praying once for something enough?" Although we believe in God's love for us, something we need to remind ourselves of this. Although we know we are held in God's hands and that God will not let go, sometimes we need reassurance. What may appear to be mere repetition in a novena is really a continual act of faith and hope in our loving God.
Just as we pray for each other while here on earth, those who have gone before us and are united with God in heaven can pray for us and intercede for us as well. We use the term "communion of saints" to refer to this exchange of spiritual help among the members of the Church on earth, those who have died and are being purified, and the saints in heaven. Devotion to the saints can help us witness to our faith and encourage us in our commitment to lead lives of holiness and service as they did.