Mary, Undoer of Knots

As I was researching art related to Pope Francis’ visit to inspire my students, I stumbled upon a beautiful installation called “Mary Undoer of Knots” by Meg Saligman. It is based on the painting of the same name, a personal favorite of Pope Francis.

I found a video describing Meg Saligman’s project and found myself mesmerized by her work. She built a grotto outside of The Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, hung a huge print of “Mary, Undoer of Knots,” and tied white strips of fabric into knots on fences, wires, and walls. Some were woven into the grotto, where a fountain offered the tranquility that comes from being near living water.

Each strip of fabric contains a struggle, a concern, a prayer from a different person. Some were sent through the Project Home website, or in person. At the time I showed my students the video, there were 30,000 strips. There must be close to 100,000 now.

All of the problems are tangled together and offered to Mary to untie. I had my students write their own concerns on labels that we joined together on posters in our own version of the installation. We even listened to a beautiful song called “Help Us, Mary,” which was composed by E.A. Alexander to accompany the installation. 

On my visit to Philadelphia on Tuesday, I was running out of time and realized that I probably wouldn’t make it to see “Mary Undoer of Knots,” especially because I thought it was far away from the Franklin Institute, where I was visiting the Lego Vatican. But as we pulled around Logan Square, I saw thousands of white strips flapping in the wind next to the dome of the Cathedral.

“There it is!” I told Patrick. “It’s just too bad there’s no parking available.”

And a spot right next to the installation materialized.

I don’t want to say a whole lot about “Mary, Undoer of Knots,” because the pictures will tell the story. However, I was helping a friend through a crisis, wrote down his name, and since then, things are looking up! Also, I got to meet Meg Saligman, the artist. I almost burst into tears when I met the mind and hands behind such a powerful project, but instead, I thanked her. I’m sure I’m not the only one.   

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.