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A pilgrimage with Our Lady, Undoer of Knots

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View from the church Dominus Flevit (where Jesus wept) Jerusalem (CT/photo by Greg Hartman)
View from the church Dominus Flevit (where Jesus wept) Jerusalem (CT/photo by Greg Hartman)

By Patricia McGeever

A novena is a devotion consisting of nine days of prayer or service. A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place, also a religious devotion. Catholic author Marge Fenelon combines the two practices in her book, Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, A Living Novena, and takes the reader on what she calls “an armchair pilgrimage.” Fenelon spoke about her book in October at St. Andrew Parish in Milford. More than 100 people gathered to hear about the book and the journey to the Holy Land that led her to write it.

“The purpose of the book and the purpose of my coming forward with these presentations is for peace,” she told those gathered. “Peace in the world, peace in our homes and peace in our hearts.”
Ever since Pope Francis revealed his devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, more people around the world have begun praying to the Blessed Mother under that title. The novena encourages those who pray it to present their problems and concerns, or ‘knots,’ to Mary so she can untie them.

Fenelon traveled to the Holy Land in 2014. She was there the same time as Pope Francis. Her novena visits nine sacred sites associated with the Holy Father’s pilgrimage and reflects on a ‘knot’ at each stop. The knots relate to each location and to our everyday lives. She said she relied on her impressions of each site to help her pair a knot with each place.
“The knots came to me after much prayer and meditation,” she said by email. It’s a combination of looking at the history and significance of each location and then trying very hard to accurately hear what the Holy Spirit was saying to me.”

Fenelon has chosen the knots of injustice, separation, confusion, hopelessness, grief and loss, discord, betrayal, envy and pride and affliction. Each day of the novena begins with a quote from Pope Francis and ends with a series of questions that allows for examination of conscience.

Fenelon’s main goal with the book is to lead the reader into a deeper relationship with the Blessed Mother. She also wanted to share her journey to the Holy Land with others.
“On a number of occasions, I’ve been literally given trips abroad. Some have been through fellowships or other journalistic awards,” she said via email. “Others have been gifted to me by extremely generous friends. I simply cannot accept such gifts without giving back.”

She traveled to the Holy Land as a member of the Catholic Press Association and was hosted by the Israel Ministry of Tourism. She was one of six journalists to make the trip as part of Pope Francis’ historic pilgrimage.

“I simply had to pay it forward, so to speak, and so I tried very hard to take readers along with me through the pages of the book,” she said via email.
Her connection to the Holy Land is something she has in common with many parishioners at St. Andrew. Her visit was to help benefit HOPE, Holy Land Outreach Promoting Education. It’s an exchange program between teachers in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and teachers of the Latin Patriarchate Schools in the Holy Land.

Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, A Living Novena is already in its fifth printing and was awarded second place in the 2016 Association of Catholic Publishers Excellence in Publishing in the Inspiration category.

“I put my heart into it and I had no idea this is where it would lead,” says Fenelon.

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