Pope Francis will make a two-day pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima on May 12 and May 13. This Mother’s Day weekend, Catholics will celebrate the 100-year anniversary when Our Lady of Fatima first reportedly appeared to three children in Portugal. At the Shrine, Pope Francis will lead the faithful in saying the rosary, after which he will celebrate Mass.
Pope Francis has a special devotion to Our Lady, one that actually developed later in his life, inspired by two separate encounters. The first occurred when he was a cardinal and Pope John Paul II led his community in praying the rosary.
“I felt that this man, chosen to lead the Church, was following a path up to his Mother in the sky, a path set out on from his childhood. And I became aware of the density of the words of the Mother of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego: ‘Don’t be afraid; am I not your mother?’ I understood the presence of Mary in the life of the Pope. That testimony did not get forgotten in an instant. From that time on, I recite the 15 mysteries of the rosary every day.”
The second encounter that increased his devotion took place in 1986, when he was studying theology in Germany. While on sabbatical, he visited the Church of St. Peter am Perlach, in Augsburg, Bavaria, where he saw the seventeenth-century painting of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. The nephew of Wolfgang and Sophia Langenmantel commissioned the painting to honor Our Lady for interceding in their troubled marriage and providing healing.
Pope Francis, then Father Bergoglio, took a postcard of Mary, Undoer of Knots back to Argentina with him. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he would attach a copy of the image to his letters, and devotion to the image spread throughout Argentina and Brazil.
Pope Francis’ prayer to Mary, Undoer of Knots is as follows:
Holy Mary, full of God’s presence during your life, you accepted with full humility the Father’s will, and the devil was never capable of tying you up with his confusion.
Once with your Son you interceded for our difficulties, and full of kindness and patience, you gave us example of how to untie the knots in our life.
By remaining forever our Mother, you put in order and make more clear the ties that link us to the Lord.
Holy Mother, Mother of God and our Mother, to you who untie with a motherly heart the knots of our life, we pray to you to receive in your hands (the name of the person), and to free him/her of the knots and confusion with which our enemy attacks.
Through your grace, your intercession and your example deliver us from all evil, Our Lady, and untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God, so that we, free from sin and error, may find Him in all things, may have our hearts placed in Him, and may serve Him always in our brothers and sisters.
With the celebration of Mother’s Day this weekend, it’s worth reflecting on our relationship with our spiritual mother, Mary. We shouldn’t be afraid to go to Mary to seek her intercession for any problems we may have, whether small or great.
We should remember that this is the caring, thoughtful woman who intervened at the wedding of Cana. The Gospel tells us that it was Mary who noticed the wine ran out, and she brought the need to Jesus. He listened to her and then took care of it, turning the water into wine. While running out of wine may sound like a small problem, she also endured the death of her son, the worst kind of heartache imaginable.
What we know about Mary is that she cares. She cares enough to make herself known to bring people to her son throughout the whole world. Whether you know her as Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, or any of the other names she goes by, know her first as your “mother.”
This Mother’s Day, let’s pray for Pope Francis as he journeys to Fatima, that Our Lady will continue to guide and protect him — and that she will do the same for each one of us.
Kim Griffin is a member of the Parish of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia.