Stories from The Grotto

  • Ribbons of Prayer

    Ribbons of Prayer

    Philly knots grotto weaves threads of life and faith

    In the shadow of Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, a massive public art installation intertwines the hopes, pains, joy and sorrows of life, elevating them to a form of prayer and art. 

    Called the Mary, Undoer of Knots Grotto, locals and visitors alike are able to tie ribbons of knots to the grotto’s structure, each representing personal problems. They can also remove a knot to pray with, carrying the struggles of others.

    “Throughout time and across all cultures, a knot has been used to symbolize tension and struggle,” according to the grotto’s official website, The image of Mary, Undoer of Knots is said to be Pope Francis’ favorite image of the Blessed Mother.

    A work by Philadelphia artist Meg Saligman, the ongoing project by Philadelphia’s Project HOME and the World Meeting of Families, is drawing together all walks of life.

    Sometimes reminiscent of Himalayan prayer flags waving in the wind, here are just some of the stories of those who tied knots at the grotto.

  • We Feel Right Here

    We Feel Right Here

    “We’re sisters, two of the seven siblings in our family. Our knots were about them. The hurts, the sadness and sorrows. We’ve been back everyday to knots for each of them. Untying these knots and praying for them allows us to give them a freedom from their hurt. Tying our knots, we’re asking God to hear us. We find such peace here, it just feels right. We feel right here. When we see the knots that other people have, we find gratitude.”

  • Walking Down The Aisle

    Walking Down The Aisle

    “I wrote on both sides of my knot for my family and my brother who wants to be a priest. I feel special to pray for someone else’s knot to relieve someone of their burden. I’m actually going to become a Poor Clare in Chicago and I enter the convent this Friday. One time I was in the Chapel and I something told me to go down the middle aisle, then the sister started playing the organ while I was walking down the middle of the aisle.”

  • Seeing Beauty At Death's Door

    Seeing Beauty At Death's Door

    "I'm a hospice nurse. It's hard but I love it. When you're nearing death, it's mostly the family I see changes in... The things that are not that important tend to melt away, there's no pretenses with death. The things that are most important bubble up to the surface: faith, family, love and relationships. People band together, there's forgiveness and you see mercy, you see people struggling with their own selfishness and it's more on the part of the family that the person is trying to prepare themselves for eternity. I feel freer as a nurse to show them the heart of healthcare. I walk into a home and love them. It shows our humanity and that's really beautiful."

  • Her Name Was Josephine

    Her Name Was Josephine

    "My mom died this Easter Sunday, so I tied a knot for her hoping she'd see it. She was really into the Pope and I have a shrine for her in my house. I got her these Pope Francis stamps at the post office to give her. She was 90. We took my mom into hospice Wednesday and she held on until Easter. We stayed there around the clock with her. I’ve got some of her jewelry, this is her ‘J’ ring and this is 'J' for Josefine. That's my memory of my mom."

    In the tradition of Mary, Undoer of Knots, Pope Francis' favorite artwork, locals and visitors of the grotto are able to add or remove knots, symbolizing their personal struggles and sharing the burdens of others. Learn more about this Philadelphia prayer installation at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul by visiting and Pope Is Hope.

  • This City Is Alive

    This City Is Alive

    This city is alive like no other and the Pope isn't even here yet! Trekked all over town, and yes I did the Rocky Steps, and I've met so many incredible people. Consecrated men and women, Nigerians, Filipinos, Irish, everywhere!

    The ‪#‎PopeIsHope‬ team is phenomenal and such a great team to join on this journey. This city is sharing its heart and I'm so excited and thankful to be able to witness this history.‪#‎GoodIsWinning‬ 

  • When He Saw Me

    When He Saw Me

    Making eye contact with someone is an intensely personal experience. And then realizing during the mania of the papal visit, that Pope Francis did make eye contact and look directly at you, is incredibly surprising and intimate. 

    Looking back I wish I was more present, but I know each step along the way was guided. I had been standing for easily five hours by the time he arrived in his Fiat, yet I felt nothing but joy and elation and he turned around and waved at us.

    I had a camera in both hands, and I tried waving back, and at the same time, my heart was exploding.

    "Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for the way in which each of you has answered Jesus’ question which inspired your own vocation: “What about you?”. I encourage you to be renewed in the joy and wonder of that first encounter with Jesus, and to draw from that joy renewed fidelity and strength. I look forward to being with you in these days and I ask you to bring my affectionate greetings to those who could not be with us, especially the many elderly priests and men and women religious who join us in spirit."

    -- Pope Francis, Sept. 26, 2015
    Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia