Aug 21 – Our Lady of Knock

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Knock

The Irish are an odd tribe.  I have been to Ireland, twice.  Whence landing at Shannon, white religious life size statuary appears roadside as the coach (bus) pulls away from the airport every count of ten.  1, 2, 3,…10.

If you see a ring of stones around a tree, DO NOT TOUCH!!!!! You would be disturbing the “wee people”, whose stone ring that is, which is ALWAYS very bad luck for you and the farmer whose land that is. The farmer is likely to come at you with his shillelagh.  You will get a lump on the head.  Seriously.  But, you will remember, next time.  Or, you haven’t REALLY seen the color GREEN, until you’ve been to Ireland?

“If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother.” -Mary D. McCormick, frequently to her six children.  “Young man, get your ass to Mass!” -Robert L. McCormick, upon learning his youngest son’s Mass attendance his first year in college was not regular.  “Is she one of us?” -Mary D. McCormick, inquiring, after long, pregnant pause, upon learning of a dating interest of her sons. “Are you in the state of grace?”-Mary D. McCormick, a secondary telephone greeting used with her children after “Hello?”  Requiescat in pace.

Sixteen hundred years, and counting, I trust, not withstanding recent convulsions in the Irish Church.  If Ireland goes, God help the Church.  He will have to, again.  Not every kind of barbarity and oppression could separate the Irish from their faith, except…from within?  Lk 22:48.  “Judas Iscariot was a bishop.” -Dr. Peter Kreeft.

Due to a very strong devotion of Irish Catholics to the Blessed Virgin Mary, a special exception is made for her name. In Irish, she is known as Muire and no one else may take that name similar to the way the name Jesus is not used in most languages.  This used to be universal, but now variations of the spelling are used, just not Muire.  So, you get Maire or Moire.

On the evening of August 21, 1879 Mary McLoughlin, the housekeeper to the parish priest of Knock, County Mayo, Ireland, was astonished to see the outside south wall of the church bathed in a mysterious light; there were three figures standing in front of the wall, which she mistook for replacements of the stone figures destroyed in a storm. She rushed through the rain to her friend Margaret Byrne’s house.

After a half hour Mary decided to leave and Margaret’s sister Mary agreed to walk home with her. As they passed the church they saw an amazing vision very clearly: Standing out from the gable and to the west of it appeared the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and St. John.

The figure of the Blessed Virgin was life-size, while the others seemed to be neither as large nor as tall. They stood a little away from the gable wall about two feet from the ground. The Virgin was erect with her eyes toward Heaven, and she was wearing a large white cloak hanging in full folds; on her head was a large crown.

Mary Byrne ran to tell her family while Mary McLoughlin gazed at the apparition. Soon a crowd gathered and all saw the apparition. The parish priest, Archdeacon Cavanaugh, did not come out, however, and his absence was a disappointment to the devout villagers. Among the witnesses were Patrick Hill and John Curry. As Patrick later described the scene: ‘The figures were fully rounded, as if they had a body and life. They did not speak but, as we drew near, they retreated a little towards the wall.’ Patrick reported that he got close enough to make out the words in the book held by the figure of St. John.

An old woman named Bridget Trench drew closer to embrace the feet of the Virgin, but the figure seemed always beyond reach. Others out in the fields and some distance away saw a strange light around the church. The vision lasted for about three hours and then faded.

The next day a group of villagers went to see the priest, who accepted their report as genuine; he wrote to the diocesan Bishop of Tuam; then the Church set up a commission to interview a number of the people claiming to witness the apparition. The diocesan hierarchy was not convinced, and some members of the commission ridiculed the visionaries, alleging they were victims of a hoax perpetrated by the local Protestant constable! But the ordinary people were not so skeptical, and the first pilgrimages to Knock began in 1880. Two years later Archbishop John Joseph Lynch of Toronto made a visit to the parish and claimed he had been healed by the Virgin of Knock.

In due course many of the witnesses died. But Mary Byrne married, raised six children, living her entire life in Knock. When interviewed again in 1936 at the age of eighty-six, her account did not vary from the first report she gave in 1879.

Love,
Matthew

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