On a wet dark August evening in 1879, the villagers of this place had spent the day doing the usual work of the harvest time of the year – gathering winter fuel and fodder. As evening approached, the heavy mist that had been persistent throughout the day, turned to a steady downpour. The villagers gathered around the turf fires in their homes, taking comfort and shelter on a terrible night.Suddenly word spread throughout the village that something extraordinary was happening at the Church and so they hurried to the windswept gable where they witnessed a heavenly vision surrounded in a brilliant white light. Men, women and children gathered in prayer at the gable wall of the parish church.
The witnesses clearly saw the Blessed Virgin Mary dressed in white robes, her hands and eyes turned towards heaven in prayer. On her head was a gold crown and where the crown fitted the brow, a single golden rose. On her right, bowed respectfully towards her, was St. Joseph. He appeared older, his beard and hair were grey and, like Our Lady, he was barefoot. To Our Lady’s left stood John the Evangelist vested as a bishop, wearing a small mitre. He held an open book in his left hand and in its pages the lines and letters could clearly be seen. He appeared to be preaching but no voice was heard. He stood so that his back was neither turned to the Virgin or to the Lamb that stood upon a simple plain altar. Behind the Lamb was a Cross. The witnesses watched and prayed for over 2 hours and though they were wet, they noticed that no rain fell on upon the Apparition or on the gable.
Many have reflected on the rich symbolism of the Apparition. Those who saw it were immediately drawn to Our Lady’s presence, a reflection of the deep Marian devotion of all those present. And for many years after it was the presence of Our Lady that people were instinctively drawn to. Devotion to St. Joseph has always emphasised his role as the protector of the Holy Family and he appears at Knock as a secure gentle presence beside his wife, head bowed reverently toward her acknowledging and reminding us of her unique place in the history of the Church. St. John the Evangelist stands between Our Lady and the altar and Lamb. It is his Gospel that refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God. He appears to be preaching on the Eucharistic altar, cross and Lamb that is at the very centre of the Apparition. Unique to the Apparition is the presence of the Lamb of God upon the altar, a visual presentation of the gift and mystery of the Eucharist. This central element is not to be found in any other recognised Marian Apparition. Knock Shrine is honoured to have been officially recognised as an international Eucharistic and Marian Shrine by Pope Francis, through the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation.
The personal pilgrimage of Pope John Paul II in 1979, commemorating the centenary of the Apparition, inspired an even greater devotion to the Shrine and endorsed the indelible seal of Vatican approval. Mother Teresa of Calcutta visited the Shrine in June of 1993. One and a half million pilgrims visit the Shrine annually. One of the strengths of the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock is that the devotions there have developed along solid doctrinal lines. A pilgrimage to Knock is a journey through the basic elements of our faith. In the first place, there is the very experience of the pilgrimage itself. Pilgrims to Knock will find what pilgrims have always found. There is the chance to pray about what bothers us, and to give thanks for what gives us joy. To be with other praying people at a Shrine is to get a unique chance to stand back from life and let God throw light on its bits and pieces. To journey out from home on pilgrimage throws light on home. Travel broadens the mind, in more senses than one. What does a pilgrim find at Knock? A chance to pray, a chance to relax, a chance to find peace. The devotions that have developed in the course of one hundred years are guaranteed to touch the soul. Mass is the centre of devotions at Knock. Sometimes it is celebrated in splendour in the Basilica, often times quietly in one of the chapels. Pilgrims love the Mass at Knock. Knock is a reminder of the faith that has been passed down through generations. Some come searching for answers and consolation, others to reflect and find peace. One thing that is guaranteed is that you will leave Knock Shrine feeling refreshed and renewed. There are no strangers here, only fellow pilgrims. The Knock Shrine is situated in the eastern plains of County Mayo, Ireland. Formerly called, The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock, this Shrine is the National Shrine of Knock and is one of the world's leading Marian shrines. In Irish, “Cnoc Mhuire” means “Mary’s Hill”. The Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland is a Roman Catholic Church, the biggest in all of Ireland, and the official Parish of Knock. Currently the Rector and Parish Priest is Father Richard Gibbons. On August 21, 1879 fifteen men, women and children, ranging in age from 5 to 74 years old, witnessed an Apparition of Mary. A young girl in the village saw three life-sized figures in front of the gable of the church and gathered others to see what she had witnessed. The villagers describe an apparition of Our Lady, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist beside an altar adored with angels, a cross, and a lamb. For over two hours, the villagers watched the apparition in the pouring rain while praying the rosary.
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