Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Our Lady of Knock

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 is a post from Don Marco about Knock from earlier in the summer.

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...

We must not forget that also at Knock were St John, St Joseph and the altar with the lamb. I have read many interesting interpretations. One was that this event marks the opening of the age of the events in the Book of Revelation hence St John and the altar with the lamb sorrounded by the angels. Also St Joseph as patron of the church. There is much food for contemplation in this. Also the altar is the centerpiece and maybe it acknowledged the devotion to the mass in ireland.
Mary Rose

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you for pointing out those mysteries, Mary Rose. So it is in Ireland that the Apocalypse begins....

Ann Murray said...

Our Lady of Knock,pray for us all.

Anonymous said...

Excuse my ignorance, but where in Ireland is Knock (in relation to Dublin, that is, the only place there I do know!)?


elena maria vidal said...

Knock is in County Galway, I believe, in the west of Ireland. It is on the other side of the island from Dublin.

Anonymous said...

Actually Knock is in the next county to Galway, County Mayo. There is an airport close by, Knock Airport. County Mayo was one of the poorest counties in Ireland and suffered terribly during the great famine. There is a wonderful story about the saintly parish priest. He offered 100 masses for the souls of the dead and had just completed the 100th Mass on the day Our Lady and St Joseph & St John appeared.
Mary Rose

elena maria vidal said...

Oh, County Mayo, thank you, Mary rose. What a beautiful story....