Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Untying The Knots That Paralyze Us

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published April 11, 2013

When I first saw Pope Francis step onto the balcony, shortly after he had been elected pope, I noticed how calm and joyful he seemed.

Here he was, a man who had gone from being a humble cardinal in Buenos Aires to becoming shepherd for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics—and yet he didn’t seem ruffled at all.

I wondered what his secret was.

Over the next few weeks, my admiration for him grew, especially when I heard that he had personally telephoned his newspaper deliveryman in Buenas Aires to cancel his paper. He has also invited the gardeners and street sweepers to the Masses he celebrates at the Vatican’s Santa Maria residence.

April112013 Murray Untying The Knots That Paralyze UsOur new pope treats people as if each one were important and special, no matter how lowly they might be in society’s eyes—which is exactly what Christ did. Pope Francis evidently isn’t tied up in knots about social standing and expectations.

And perhaps his secret is this: He has a special devotion to the Blessed Mother in her role as “undoer of knots.”

The knots are difficult situations in our lives which result from sin, and which drag us down. They may have been there for years, and sometimes involve our relationships with other people.

A novena to Mary designed to ask for help in untying these knots comes from a book called “Against Heresies” written by St. Irenaeus of Lyons, who noted that “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.”

One of the prayers to Mary says, “God has granted you great power over all the demons. I renounce all of them today, every connection I have had with them ….”

Some of the devilish knots we inherit from parents, but then we go on, sometimes unknowingly, to tighten them ourselves. As the years pass, these painful obstacles constrict us more and more—and we add additional snarls along the way.

In my life, knots involve relationships with other people that center on guilt and obligation, and my impossible attempts to sense what they’re feeling before they say a word.

So, for example, if I send an email to a relative who doesn’t answer it for, say, a week, during that time I will imagine the worst, as in “She’s angry” or “She’s crossed me off her list.”

Obviously the only way to find out why the person hasn’t answered the email is to come out and ask, but this particular knot involves not confronting people, but instead, stewing in imaginary juices. Often, I will discover later that the person was ill, or had a family emergency, or simply forgot.

In my family, there were certain cues you could count on as a sign of how someone else felt about you. If you got all dressed up in your Sunday best and your father never said a word—which was how it usually went—that meant he didn’t see you, didn’t love you and in an odd way, you were rendered invisible.

Many people, I suspect, are haunted by this invisibility knot, which is a heartfelt seeking for approval and love that often gets derailed because it centers on human beings instead of the Lord.

So many snarls haunt us in this fallen world in which Satan prowls about, intent on dragging us down. For parents, a knot may involve trying too hard to control their children’s lives, so the kids develop their own knots, which involve excessive dependency on the parents.

And sometimes our clinging to things—and other people—too tightly can become a burden because we resist change, insisting on old ways of doing things even if they are causing us pain.

Perhaps Pope Francis at one time experienced many painful obstacles in his life—or why else would he have become devoted to this particular aspect of Mary? But over time, it seems he has learned to surrender his troubles into her hands—and through her intercession, he apparently has found peace.

One of the prayers from this novena to Mary says it all: “I entrust into your hands this knot which robs the peace of my heart, paralyzes my soul and keeps me from going to my Lord and serving Him with my life.” Mother Mary, pray for us!

Artwork by Jef Murray ( Readers may contact the Murrays at