The Advent season is a time the Church asks us to slow down. We are encouraged to spend more time in prayer in preparation for the reality of the huge-ness that is our Savior’s birthday.
If you are a fan of St. Ignatius’ imaginative way of praying, you know that spending time in the Scriptures of that first Christmas is an impossible thing to do without looking into the eyes and heart of Mary.
The Church does not tell us to worship Mary and it does not tell us to hold her as high as we hold the Trinity. The Catholic Church is all about following the Ten Commandments right beside Jesus, which means we honor His Father and His mother.
As a cradle catholic, I’d always been aware of the love we are supposed to have for our Holy Mother- especially coming from a Hispanic background.
Every time my family traveled to Colombia we’d see shrines dedicated to Mary all along our trip. I understood. She’s a big deal.
As I grew more serious about my faith and matured in theology I understood why we hold Jesus’ mom on such a pedestal.
It all made sense in my head and I loved the idea of her.
I just didn’t know her myself.
I would pray the rosary, but with little Marian faith or love behind it.
The closest I’d ever come to praying a novena was when our family would get together and pray the Christmas novenas with song and dance the nine days before Christ’s birth.
But, pray one of those serious long ones on my own? No way. I did not have enough self-control for that!
Or, I’d forget I was doing it by day three.
That was until I reached a moment of complete hopelessness and despair.
I had been battling an emotional situation for years and years with no moving past it in sight.
Through a miraculous little God moment, I was given a booklet on the Mary Undoer of Knots Novena.
Something about the painting on the front of the prayer book tugged at my heart.
Seeing that ribbon in such a tangled disaster on one side and then on the other side, once the ribbon passed through Mary’s hands, perfectly ironed out…it struck me.
I wanted her to untangle my darkest place.
I began the novena that night.
Those nine days were hell. Events took place that took me to the rock bottom of my emotions. I now know and see them as what they were, days of purification.
On the ninth day, the worst day of them all, my family happened to be visiting from out of town.
When the final blow was given to me that ninth day, my heavenly mother had brought my earthly mother for my physical need of love and tenderness.
I bawled in my mom’s arms like I had never done before.
With my mom living so far away, she was rarely able to be there like that for me.
It was exactly what I needed.
I consider this one of the greatest gifts of my life, having my mom there to hold me that night.
After that, came peace.
Nothing. But. Peace.
The days, months and years since that night, since that novena, have been filled with peace for my impossible emotional situation.
My heavenly mother had taken my ribbon of disaster, placed it before her Son, and it was ironed it out.
Of course there are still tough, tough moments, but the peace that I have in my heart for the situation makes me handle it all…truly with God.
Mary Undoer of Knots didn’t bring me back to the relationship with God that I had before.
That novena has taken me to a deeper, more beautiful relationship with Jesus than I have ever experienced before.
After all, that is what Mary is all about. Just like on that first Christmas day, all she wants is to give us her Son, to bring us into His heart. The only heart that loves freely and saves.
text ©Stephanie Stovall 2017