I have learned that the more a person learns about a particular subject or person, there exists a direct correlation in an increased amount of titles or synonyms to describe them. For example, I had a lot of nicknames as an infant and toddler because of my parent’s love for me. I have inherited that same knack to create multiple appellations for my children, too.
Within the Catholic Church, our honor toward Mary, the Mother of God, lends itself to a burgeoning of titles to reference her. Doing some research, I learned that she has over 2,000 names and Marian titles given to her! I will barely scratch the surface of this topic, but reflecting on these five specific Marian titles, hope can be provided on a daily basis.
1. Mary, Undoer of Knots
I became aware of this unique title through my reading of a biography of Pope Francis shortly after his election. Mary as Undoer of Knots is his personal favorite Marian devotion. Below is the prayer associated with this devotional practice:
Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exist in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exists in my life. You know very well how desperate I am, my pain, and how I am bound by these knots. 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.
There is something tangible and raw and this prayer. Life is messy. Sometimes due to my own fallen nature, and occasionally because of the sinfulness of others, my life becomes knotted. My personal struggles develop into a Mobius strip of suffering. Reciting the prayer and asking for Mary as Undoer of Knots to help straighten me out is both a peaceful and confident feeling.
2. Star of the Sea
Mary as Star of the Sea is a Marian title and devotion I am now keeping personally. Historically speaking, though, this Marian title is as ancient as the sea. From early in the Church’s history, this appellation has been associated with Mary. Throughout the Holy Scriptures the sea and oceans viewed as dangerous waters to transverse. During the night, stars helped to guide sailors to safety. In an analogous way, Mary acts as a guide, not our source of salvation (that is reserved for God alone!), but toward salvation. Mary as our Mother, is a protector of her children against the tumultuous waters of life. According to the great Early Church Father, St. Ephraim, Mary is “the safe harbor of all sailing on the sea the world.” Centuries later, Pope Leo XIII uses similar language to describe Mary. He called her “safe harbor of travelers.”
Traveling is a universal experience among mankind. Mary as Star of the Sea reminds of the importance of reliance on others, to guide in times of strive and tumult.
3. Refuge of Sinners
Because the first woman, Eve, is associated as the bringer of suffering into the world through her fall in the garden of Eden, Mary is traditionally seem as the New Eve. The word refuge originates from a French word meaning “to flee.” It makes sense for us to connect this Marian title to the person of the Mother of God. Moms are people who their children flock or flee to in times of suffering or distress. As the most perfect and universal mother, Mary is a sure person to seek refuge from against the prowess of Satan and temptation.
4. Destroyer of Heresies
Nearly everyday, the enemy bombards us with temptation, even the temptation to despair or lack in faith. Mary along with being the Mother of God acts as a bastion against theological error.
Pope Pius X in his encyclical letter Pascendi Dominici Gregis refers to Mary under the Marian title of Destroyer of All Heresies. The reason for this is that Mary stands for the opposite of all the errors of the Devil. According to St. Louis de Montfort in True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, “What Lucifer lost by pride Mary won by humility.” Along with with rejecting the erroneous pride of Satan, Mary being the Mother of God safeguards the truth that Jesus is fully human.
5. Mirror of Justice
Holy and perfect as she is, Mary does not act as God, she merely reflects and points to Jesus as the true and authentic source of justice. Mary, Mirror of Justice refers back to Old Testament wisdom literature. According to Wisdom 7:26, “For she is the reflection of eternal light, the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of his goodness.” So too, Mary spotless from original sin, acts as a model for holiness and justice to the Fallen World.
One significant beauty of the Catholic Church is the great diversity that exists within its universal walls. Marian titles and devotions are a gift to help bring us closer to God. I hope that I have shed some light on the significance of these five titles of Mary. I pray that we may continue to gain insight and guidance through our spiritual mother and her Marian titles and always be pointed towards Christ!