If we give the problems of our lives to Our Blessed Mother, she shall undo all the knots for us!
When I was a little girl, my Father’s Aunt, the late Mother Joseph Obeid from the Convent of the Sisters of Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus in Lebanon, came to visit her sister, my paternal grandmother, and by extension, us.
Mother Joseph – or Aunt Mere Joseph as we called her – was a force to be reckoned with. She was a nun in the oldest sense of the word. She ate little, fasted often, prayed much, and adopted strict discipline in all areas of her life from her dress to her behaviour.
At one point during her visit, she cornered my younger sister and sat her down to teach her how to crochet. Mere Joseph was very skilled with needlework and would embroider the vestments of the priests using gold thread as part of her vocation.
There my sister sat for hours and hours and hours under Mere Joseph’s watchful eye. Mother Joseph was not a modern nun. She was a nun from the past. It was not good enough to try your best. If the work were not completed perfectly, she would make you unravel it and redo it from scratch. All of that discipline may seem admirable, until you realise that my sister was only 8 years old at the time that she was being taught this skill!
I did not last very long in my lessons with Mere Joseph and the crochet hook. Although I sat for a while, her demand for perfection was beyond my limited means then – and remains beyond my limited means now. In my past, working as an accountant, I clung fiercely to the “Materiality Rule”, which could basically be translated to mean, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, near enough is good enough.”
But my sister sat there and crocheted and unravelled and crocheted again. She still crochets today. And though, from the brief period of time that I spent sitting with my Great Aunt I have some very basic skills with a crochet hook, I am definitely not the family expert in the matter.
But crochet and embroidery, knitting and needlework, is an interesting sort of pastime.
Like my later Great Aunt, Mere Joseph, my maternal grandmother is also very talented with needlework, having worked as a seamstress as a new migrant to Australia. Her skill with wool is legendary in our family, and each of her many grandchildren and great grandchildren have received blankets and jackets and booties knitted lovingly by her tired old hands.
My own mother does not crochet or embroider at all… She has never exhibited much talent for the art.
But my mother has always played a crucial role in this practice of needlework in our home. When we work with skeins or thread or wool, often the design is created and then re-worked and re-created over and over again as the artist works towards perfection.
When that happens skeins of thread and wool often become tangled.
This reminds me of life. Just as the design is formed and then changed and reformed, so too do our lives change. We travel along with our life moving in one direction and we think that we are organised, and then, without warning we become sick or financially or socially insecure, relationships breakdown and plans go awry.
When I see a tangle like that in the wool, I cannot do anything with it. The knots and mess overwhelm me and my impatience usually causes me to want to snip the thread. The problem, though, when you cut a single thread in a reel, is that you can unwittingly destroy the whole reel. Sometimes, if you cut just one thread, you will cause such a tangle to the rest of the thread that it will never be restored and the wool needs to be disposed of.
It is the same with life. Though we may seek to discard our suffering, Saint Augustine explained it wonderfully, when he said… “Let us understand that God is a physician, and that suffering is a medicine for salvation, not a punishment for damnation.” The thread should not be cut. Neither should the suffering.
My mum is not like me. She is not impatient. My mum will sit for hours with a tangled reel and slowly and painstakingly remove the knots, one knot at a time for others…
Watching her complete this horribly frustrating task, another mother is called to my mind.
Saint Irenaeus said… “Eve, by her disobedience, tied the knot of disgrace for the human race; whereas Mary, by her obedience, undid it.”
So, while I watch my mum unravel the wool for others into whose work it will go without acknowledgement of her contribution, I pray a little prayer to that Most Holy Mother, who does the same with the thread that comprises my own life…
“Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone. Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot… I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once and for all. You are my hope.”
Because though at times my life appears to be hanging by a thread, if the thread is connected to a knot within Her Holy Hands, then I know that it shall come undone…
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.