Knock Shrine

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Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland
Location Knock, County Mayo
Country Republic of Ireland
Denomination Roman Catholic Latin Rite
Website http://www.knockshrine.ie/
Clergy
Rector Reverend, Fr. Richard Gibbons P.P.(Knock Parish)

Knock Shrine (Irish: Cnoc Mhuire, "Hill of Mary" or "Mary's Hill") is a Roman Catholic pilgrimage site and National Shrine in the village of Knock, County Mayo, Ireland, where observers stated that there was an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint John the Evangelist, angels, and Jesus Christ (the Lamb of God) in 1879.

Background[edit]

As at Lourdes and Fatima the visitations occurred at a time of immense cultural, social and economic change, and occurred to people whose traditional society was under threat from social change. In the 1870s, some parts of Ireland had experienced what proved to be the last waves of a famine. This brought back memories of the Great Irish Famine of the late 1840s. Poverty, unemployment, evictions and emigration were not uncommon.[1]

The appearance of railways brought new travel opportunities and challenges to close-knit communities. The 1870s saw the beginnings of land reform that would change Irish rural life, reform initially fought for through mass mobilization. The events at Knock occurred at the beginning of the Land War, and in the same area.[2] The land agent Captain Boycott, who was ostracised in 1880 on account of seeking rents from tenant farmers during a rent strike, so creating the verb to boycott meaning "to ostracise completely", was also based in County Mayo. In a time of change, symbols like the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph marked a reminder of stability and tradition in a society whose change many people found bewildering. Depending on whether one accepted the veracity of the accounts of apparition or the religious beliefs underpinning it, it could be seen either as a delusion by a marginalised traditional society clinging to old certainties, or, in a Catholic religious context, the appearance of the "Mother of God" to people marginalised by society to show her support and offer her comfort.[citation needed]

A similar apparition reported by another teenage girl at Lourdes, France, in 1858 had been well publicised across Ireland by 1879. In 1854, Pope Pius IX promulgated a bull proclaiming the feast of the Immaculate Conception for the Universal Church and brought a renewal in Marian devotion.[citation needed]

Visions linked to religious matters were not unknown in rural Irish faith communities. Primary education was in most cases founded and funded by local Catholics and had more doctrinal and rigorous religious content than the modern Irish primary school.[citation needed]

Apparition[edit]

The evening of Thursday, 21 August 1879 was a very wet night. At about 8 o'clock the rain beat down in driving sheets when Mary Beirne, a girl of the village, accompanying the priest's housekeeper, Mary McLoughlin, home, stopped suddenly as she came in sight of the gable of the little church. There she saw standing a little out from the gable, were three life-size figures. She ran home to tell her parents and soon others from the village had gathered. The witnesses stated they saw an apparition of Our Lady, Saint Joseph, and Saint John the Evangelist at the south gable end of the local small parish church, the Church of Saint John the Baptist. Behind them and a little to the left of Saint John was a plain altar. On the altar was a cross and a lamb (a traditional image of Jesus), with adoring angels.[3] A farmer, about half a mile away from the scene, later described what he saw as a large globe of golden light above and around, the gable, circular in appearance.[4] For nearly two hours a group that fluctuated between two and perhaps as many as twenty-five stood or knelt gazing at the figures as rain lashed them in the gathering darkness.[2]

Description[edit]

Altar sculpture at Knock, based on accounts of the apparition.

The vision of Mary was described as being beautiful, standing a few feet above the ground. She wore a white cloak, hanging in full folds and fastened at the neck. The crown appeared of a golden brightness; the upper parts of the crown appeared to be a series of sparkles, or glittering crosses. Immediately beneath the crown, where it fitted her brow, was a rose. She was described as "deep in prayer", with her eyes raised to heaven, her hands raised to the shoulders or a little higher, the palms inclined slightly to the shoulders.[4]

Saint Joseph, also wearing white robes, stood on the Virgin's right hand. His head was bent forward from the shoulders towards the Blessed Virgin. Saint John the Evangelist stood to the left of the Blessed Virgin. He was dressed in a long robe and wore a mitre. He was partly turned away from the other figures. He appeared to be preaching and he held open a large book in his left hand. To the left of St. John was an altar with a lamb on it with a cross standing on the altar behind the lamb.[1]

Those who witnessed the apparition stood in the pouring rain for up to two hours reciting the Rosary. When the apparition began there was good light, but although it then became very dark, witnesses could still see the figures very clearly – they appeared to be the colour of a bright whitish light. The apparition did not flicker or move in any way. The witnesses reported that the ground around the figures remained completely dry during the apparition although the wind was blowing from the south. Afterwards, however the ground at the gable became wet and the gable dark.[4] Soon the entire apparition wall was torn apart by pilgrims chipping out the cement, mortar, and stones for souvenirs and to use for cures.[5]

Church Commissions of inquiry[edit]

Knock Basilica

An ecclesiastical Commission of inquiry was established by the Archbishop of Tuam, Most Rev. Dr. John MacHale, on 8 October 1879. The Commission consisted of Irish scholar and historian, Canon Ulick Bourke, Canon James Waldron, as well as the parish priest of Ballyhaunis and Archdeacon Bartholomew Aloysius Cavanagh. Depositions of witnesses were taken in the ensuing months. The deliberations of the Commission, referred only to the occurrence on 21 August 1879, which omitted "subsequent phenomena", and as a result, there exists no official record for events that occurred after that date.[6]

The evidence which was the Commission's duty to record, satisfied all the members and was deemed trustworthy. Among the considerations were whether the apparition emanated from natural causes, and whether there was any positive fraud. In the first cited particular, it was reported that no solution as from natural causes could be offered; and in the second consideration, that such a suggestion had never, even remotely, been entertained.[6] The Commission's final verdict was that the testimony of all the witnesses taken as a whole is trustworthy and satisfactory.

As most of the documents from the early years at Knock were assumed to have been lost, a second Commission of inquiry in 1936, was forced to rely upon interviews with the last of the surviving witnesses (who confirmed the evidence they gave to the first Commission), their children, press reports and devotional works printed in the 1880s, which portrayed the developing cult in a positive light. The surviving witnesses confirmed the evidence they gave to the first Commission.[3]

The growth of railways and the appearance of local and national newspapers fueled interest in the small Mayo village. Reports of "strange occurrences in a small Irish village" were featured almost immediately in the international media, notably The Times (of London). Newspapers from as far away as Chicago sent reporters to cover the Knock phenomenon. Canon Ulick Bourke joined Timothy Daniel Sullivan and Margaret Anna Cusack in developing Knock as a national Marian pilgrimage site. Knock pilgrimages combined traditional Irish practices like rounds of the church and all night vigils with devotions like the stations of the cross, benediction, processions, and the recitation of litanies. Priests associated with the Fenian movement often led pilgrimages to Knock.[2]

John White sees the silence of the apparition related to a cultural change occurring at that time. "It was necessary for Cavanagh to preach in English and Irish each Sunday as the schools saw to the replacement of Irish with English as the language of the young. This linguistic crisis may be connected with the silence of the Knock visions, as the oldest witness, Bridget Trench, had no English, while the youngest, six year old John Curry, was being educated with no Irish."[2]

Modern era[edit]

A number of cures and favours are associated with visitors to Our Lady of Knock’s Shrine and those who claim to have been cured here still leave crutches and sticks at the spot where the apparition is believed to have occurred.[7] Each Irish diocese makes an annual pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine and the nine-day Knock novena attracts ten thousand pilgrims every August.[8] The miracle is also known as Our Lady of Knock by the church.

  • On All Saints’ Day, 1945, Pope Pius XII blessed the banner of Knock from St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and decorated it with a special medal.[5]
  • On Candlemas Day in 1960, Pope John XXIII presented a special candle to Knock.[5]
  • On 6 June 1974, the foundation stone for the Basilica of Our Lady, Queen of Ireland, at Knock, was blessed by Pope Paul VI.[5]
  • On 30 September 1979, Pope John Paul II visited the shrine to commemorate the centenary of the apparition. During that historic visit, the Pope addressed the sick and nursing staff, celebrated Mass, established the shrine church as a basilica, presented a candle and the Golden Rose to the shrine and knelt in prayer at the apparition wall.[7]

The complex incorporates five churches including the Apparition Chapel, Parish Church and Basilica, a Religious Books’ Centre, Caravan and Camping Park, Knock Museum, Café le Chéile and Knock House Hotel. Services at the Shrine include organised pilgrimages, daily Masses and Confessions, Anointing of the Sick, Counselling Service, Prayer Guidance and Youth Ministry.[9] While the original church still stands, a new Apparition chapel with statues of Our Lady, St Joseph, the Lamb and St John the Evangelist, has been built next to it. Knock Basilica is a separate building showing a tapestry of the apparition.[7]

Recent history[edit]

Mother Teresa of Calcutta visited the Shrine in June 1993.[10]

Ireland's National Eucharistic Congress was held at the Marian Shrine in Knock over 25 and 26 June in 2011. An estimated 13,000 pilgrims attended.[8]

Though it remained for almost 100 years a major Irish pilgrimage site, Knock established itself as a world religious site in large measure during the last quarter of the twentieth century, largely due to the work of its longtime parish priest Monsignor James Horan. Horan presided over a major rebuilding of the site, with the provision of a new large Knock Basilica (the second in Ireland) alongside the old church. Horan secured from Irish Taoiseach Charles Haughey millions of pounds of state aid to build a major airport near Knock. The project was condemned by critics in the media. At the time the Irish economy was in depression with massive emigration. Contrary to the critics' expectation however, since 2003, flag-carrier, low-cost and regional airlines including Aer Lingus, MyTravelLite, Bmibaby, Ryanair, Aer Arann, flybe, Lufthansa and EasyJet have added routes to the UK and mainland Europe. Not all have proven successful, but by 2005 the airport was handling 500,000 passengers per annum. In 2004 and 2006 Ireland West Airport was voted the Republic of Ireland's best regional airport by the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland.[11]

On May 13, 2017, Cardinal Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan celebrated a requiem mass when John Curry, the youngest witness to the Knock apparition, was reinterred in St. Patrick's Old Cathedral cemetery in Lower Manhattan after being disinterred from an unmarked grave on Long Island.[12]

Purported solar phenomena[edit]

In October 2009, Knock received national attention when many people reported observing "miraculous" solar phenomena similar to the Miracle of the Sun widely believed[citation needed] to have occurred at the time of the Fatima apparitions. The phenomena had been "prophesied" by self-proclaimed Dublin-based mystic Joe Coleman[13] a few weeks earlier. The reports were met with scepticism. Archbishop Michael Neary said such events were "to be regretted rather than encouraged".[14]

When the pilgrims had left the shrine after this event, the manager had to call in industrial cleaners to remove the rubbish left, including spilt food and drink.[15] He also said that he would review whether gatherings would be allowed, citing health and safety issues as one problem.[15]

In December 2009, an ophthalmologist from University Hospital Galway issued a warning that there had been a significant spike in the number of cases of solar retinopathy "all of them linked to events at Knock", with the observed patients having had "a significant reduction in their vision". The reports of people having observed the sun "dancing in the sky" were characterised as merely "sort of a cheap trick" caused by the extremely bright sunlight: "If you stare at the sun for long enough you're going to get some visual disturbances." The warning about the dangers of staring directly at the sun continued: "Not only will you get reduced vision but also a condition called metamorphopsia".[16]

Parish Priest[edit]

The parish priest at the time of the apparition was The Very Reverend Bartholomew Aloysius Cavanagh, who was also Archdeacon of the diocese.[17] Widely considered a holy priest in spite of his siding with landlords against the growing Land League movement, he was appointed parish priest of Knock-Aghamore in 1867, and was about 58 at the time of the apparition. He died in 1897 and is buried in the Old Church.

Cultural context[edit]

An Irish anthropologist, Dr Peter Mulholland, took Coleman's "visions" and prophesies as a case study. Exploring a range of theories, he highlights the interaction of social context, family structure and the Catholic tradition in generating the kind of quotidian life experiences that have sustained "magical devotionalism" and facilitated the spread of New Age healing beliefs and practices' in modern Ireland.[18][19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The Apparition at Knock", Knock Shrine Association of America
  2. ^ a b c d White, John. "The Cusack Papers; new evidence on the Knock apparition", 18th-19th Century Social Perspectives, 18th–19th - Century History, Issue 4 (Winter 1996), Vol. 4
  3. ^ a b "The Story of Knock", Knock Shrine
  4. ^ a b c Fr. James OFM. "The Story of Knock", Knock Shrine Annual, 1950
  5. ^ a b c d Haggerty, Bridget. "Our Lady of Knock Shrine - Place of Mystery and Miracles", Irish Culture and Customs
  6. ^ a b Carey, F. P. "Knock and its Shrine" (PDF). catholicpamphlets.net, 2012. Retrieved 12 May 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c Geraghty, Joan. "Knock Shrine, the holy site", Mayo News, 18 July 2012
  8. ^ a b "Ireland: new Parish Priest for National Shrine at Knock", Independent Catholic News, 3 February 2012
  9. ^ "Knock Shrine", Tourism Ireland
  10. ^ "Knock, Ireland's National Marian Shrine", Mayo, Ireland
  11. ^ History of Ireland West Airport
  12. ^ Barry, Dan (13 May 2017). "A Worldly Accomplishment Is Rewarded With a Heavenly One". The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved 18 May 2017. 
  13. ^ "The Virgin Mary is very angry..." Irish Times. 8 October 2009. 
  14. ^ "Archbishop enters row over Knock 'sun miracle'". Irish Independent. 27 October 2009. 
  15. ^ a b Shrine staff forced to clean up mess left by Knock pilgrims, John Cooney, Irish Independent, 3 November 2009
  16. ^ Eye fears over holy shrine 'visions', BBC News, 2 December 2009.
  17. ^ Archdeacon Cavanagh
  18. ^ "Ireland's New Religious Movements - PDF Sample". Scribd.com. Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  19. ^ 'Marian Apparitions, the New Age and the FÁS Prophet' by Peter Mulholland. In Ireland's New Religious Movements, Olivia Cosgrove, Laurence Cox, Carmen Kuhling and Peter Mulholland (eds) 2011

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • John MacPhilpin. The Apparitions and Miracles at Knock. PJ Kennedy. 1904
  • Sister Mary Francis Clare. Three Visits to Knock. PJ Kennedy. 1904
  • Neary, Tom, I Saw Our Lady'

Coordinates: 53°47′32″N 8°55′04″W / 53.792099°N 8.917659°W / 53.792099; -8.917659