Sunday, March 11, 2007


The Irish people suffered a great deal for their faith over the centuries. According to an article by John O'Connell:

The Irish people since their conversion to Christianity have possessed a particularly strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary—a devotion they received from St. Patrick. Through many centuries of persecution the Mother of God’s intercession has assisted and comforted the Catholic people of Ireland. The Irish suffered greatly for the one, true Catholic Faith, but in the 19th century they encountered especially bleak times.

True, in 1829 the Catholic Emancipation Act officially ended persecution against Catholics, but persecution against Catholics in Ireland persisted. In the 19th century, Ireland experienced potato crop failures several times, including the great potato famine, along with a deadly epidemic of typhoid fever. While the Irish and their children were starving, Catholics were bribed with the promise of food or money if they would apostatize from the ancient faith. With great heroism, most of the Irish Catholics kept the faith. Mary Immaculate, Cause of our Hope, helped to sustain the persecuted Church in Ireland.

In 1879, at Knock in County Mayo there was a miraculous occurence.

County Mayo was in the center of a region of Ireland that had suffered great distress in the 1870's. Various famines and economic dislocations produced by forced evictions had created yet another wave of Irish immigration. It was into this environment that the Lord again sent His Mother to visit with His oppressed children.

The Apparition at Knock took place on 21st August, 1879, eight years after Pontmain in 1871. The two apparitions are broadly similar, in that they both took place in the evening and only lasted for three hours or so, and similarly, in both, no words were spoken.

On the evening of Thursday, 21 August 1879, two women from the small village of Knock, Mary McLoughlin and Mary Beirne, were walking back to their home in the rain when they passed by the back of the town church. There against the wall of the church stood the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, and an altar with a lamb and a cross on it. Flying around the altar were several angels. The women called several other people to the church. They too saw the apparition. What they and thirteen others saw in the still-bright day was a beautiful woman, clothed in white garments, wearing a large brilliant crown. Her hands were raised as if in prayer. This woman was understood by all who saw her tobe the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Queen of the Angels. Other villagers, who were not involved with the apparition, nonetheless reported seeing a very bright light illuminating the area around where the church was located. There were subsequent reports of inexplicable healings associated with visits to the church at Knock.

Another article says:

It is recorded that Mary said nothing at all during these apparitions. She simply came to her people, to be with them in their hour of need.

A few years ago, a sesquicentennial Mass recalled the suffering of Ireland on the western seaboard during that decade of awful starvation in the 1840s. The term "An Gorta Mor" referred to that great famine, that great hunger, that great calamity.

The years preceding the apparitions were the most tragic years in the history of Ireland. Famine and unimagined misery engulfed the entire Catholic country. Ships took away cattle and grain, and the people were left to starve. Priests often anointed as many as 40 parishioners a day with "extreme unction" as they faced death. The magnitude of such suffering was unimaginable.

Today, worldwide help, together with the news media, would flock to aid these unfortunates. There was no such help in the 19th century. As the threat of famine seemed to decrease slightly, evictions from the land increased.

The west suffered more than other parts of Ireland. An Gorta Mor tells us of the terrible starvation and death in that decade of the 1840s. A million people died of "the sickness," the result of starvation. Three million lined up daily at the soup kitchens; 2 million emigrated, but thousands did not survive the crossing, dying in the "coffin ships"; another million emigrated before the end of the century.

The population of Ireland had been halved. The Irish had then become the most emigration-oriented people in the entire world.

Perhaps Our Lady was silent because there was nothing more to say to those who had already suffered so much for the sake of the Gospel and from political oppression.

Here are the words of the Hail Mary in Gaelic:

Sé do bheath' a Mhuire, atá lán de ghrásta, tá an Tiarna leat.
Is beannaithe thú idir mná agus is beannaithe toradh do bhruinne losa.
A Naomh Mhuire, a mháthair Dé, guí orainn na peacaithe, anois is ar uair ar mbás. Amen.

And here is an old Irish litany in honor of the Blessed Virgin:

Great Mary,
Greatest of Marys,
Greatest of Women,
Mother of Eternal Glory,
Mother of the Golden Light,
Honor of the Sky,
Temple of the Divinity,
Fountain of the Gardens,
Serene as the Moon,
Bright as the Sun,
Garden Enclosed,
Temple of the Living God,
Light of Nazareth,
Beauty of the World,
Queen of Life,
Ladder of Heaven,
Mother of God.

Pray for us.



Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I felt really moved by this article on the famine. I am an irish reader and my great grandparnts generation suffered greatly.The famine was never spoken about in families as this experience I believe left a residue of shame and guilt on those who survived that comes down to us to this day. We are now a wealthy country but our feeling of self worth are very damaged and consequently our drinking and drug taking is now a problem. The faith is still here and we have resisted several attempts to legislate for abortion but the youth really need to rediscover their heritage. I will be visiting Knock Shrine next monday on the feast of St. Joseph as he also appeared with Blessed Mother in Knock.
Dia is Mhuire Duith (god & Mary be with you)
Slan agus beannacht. (Goodbye & blessings for you)
Mary Sheehan

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Mary Rose, for the wonderful reflections. Please pray for me at Knock on Saint Joseph's day, and for my family.

My ancestors were from Ireland and I am writing a novel about the Irish in Canada.

Thank you so much for stopping by! I will be writing about Ireland every day this week until St. Patrick's day.

elena maria vidal said...

And thanks, Lily, for adding an "Amen" to the prayer!!

Anonymous said...

I always pray for the souls of those in my family tree who emigrated. I recently found the details of my great grand uncle who entered Ellis Island in 1905 and was killed in San Francisco in 1912. I had a mass said for his soul. There is a great feeling of connectedness between all who share an irish ancestry. I will certainly remember you and your family at Knock. I love your site

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Mary, for your kind words and prayers. Yes, there is a deep connectedness between those of us with Irish blood. I experienced this profoundly when in Lourdes and I stayed at the Astoria hotel. I met many Irish pilgrims and I really felt as if I was with family. We sang Irish songs at the piano bar and has some wonderful discussions.

Ann Murray said...

It is heartening for me, an Irish woman, living in Ireland, to read both yours and Don Marco's posts on Our Lady of Knock. I too have had the privilege of being there, and although secularization has indeed got its foot firmly in the door of Irish Catholic life, I'm happy to say that pilgrimages to Knock and to Lourdes and Fatima are very much in demand. Popular devotion is still strong thank God, and our young people are doing great things, enriching not only their own lives but the lives of a great many others not only at parish level but also international level by participation in Habitat for Humanity projects and World Youth Day. Perhaps you may get a chance to visit Ireland again...a thousand welcomes await..

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Veritas! Yes, I hope to visit Ireland! It would help with the research I am doing for my novel about the Irish in Canada in the 1820's.