It was a grey and rainy evening on 21st August 1879, when Mrs Mary McLoughlin, 45, housekeeper to Archdeacon Kavanagh, locked up the small parish church of St. John Baptist at Knock, a little village in County Mayo, Ireland. To her amazement she noticed a shining light enveloping the south gable of the Church and went to call her friend, Mary Beirne. Soon other villagers came to see what was happening, until eventually fifteen people, young and old, men and women, were witnesses to an apparition that lasted about two hours or more. They took out their rosaries and knelt to pray in the rain as they gazed in wonder at the beautiful vision on the whole gable of the Church that evening, flooded with a heavenly light.
Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, with her eyes raised to Heaven in prayer, appeared with St. Joseph, her faithful spouse, protector of the Holy Family. They were in company of Mary’s adopted son, St. John the Evangelist, the Apostle of Love who proclaims the Word, wearing a bishop’s mitre with a book in his hand, gesturing as if he were preaching. All were dressed in shining white, and together they are all directed towards Jesus, in the form of the Sacrificial Lamb of God. He stood at the junction of the great Cross and the altar, a wonderful symbol of the Holy Eucharist; there at the foot of the Cross the Son of Man with His offering, now Risen through His Glorious Resurrection. At the back numerous angels hovered in adoration. No words were said at the apparition, but it was an apparition full of symbols and messages in the tableau on the altar.
There was something very significant in this apparition at Knock, that many see as a sign of heavenly compassion for the people of Ireland at a time of great suffering and distress in the country. Great political unrest reigned, and in the wake of the Great Famine of the 40s, they were now being threatened with another. The Eucharistic vision of Knock was, in a way, a heavenly reward for the courage and steadfastness of the Irish people. They had always been true to the Mass, and for their faithfulness they had suffered much from the time of the Reformation and during those long harsh Penal years. As a Benedictine monk from Buckfast Abbey wrote after visiting the Knock Shrine, “It would seem that Knock is meant to be not only a Shrine of Our Lady, but also that its mission is to increase still further the wonderful love for the Mass which has been so marked a feature of Irish piety throughout the centuries.” Yet even though it was a vision given to the Irish, in the Universal Catholic Church, this was a vision for all the Church’s members everywhere.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
1324 The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”
1325 “The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit.”
1326 Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.”
Finally, there was no urging to pray the Rosary at Knock, but as we dwell on it now we see how each of the mysteries of the Rosary (including the mysteries of Light), the whole Gospel, is represented in the vision at Knock. Mary may not have brought the rosary beads to Knock, but she brought the mysteries. The Rosary is the most wonderful prayer. It is a journey with Jesus from Bethlehem to Calvary, and on into Glory in every moment of the life of Jesus. In every single event He gave glory and praise to His Father, and the grace of salvation to us. In this voyage of discovery as we pray the Rosary and reflect on the mysteries as the Hail Marys flow by, we enter into the wonders that God has done for mankind.
Prayer to Our Lady of Knock
“Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, you gave hope to your people in a time of distress and comforted them in sorrow. You have inspired countless pilgrims to pray with confidence to your Son, remembering His promise: “Ask and your shall receive, seek and you shall find.” Help me to remember that we are all pilgrims on the road to heaven. Fill me with love and concern for my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those who live with me. Comfort me when I am sick or lonely or depressed. Teach me how to take part ever more reverently in the holy Mass. Pray for me now, and at the hour of my death. Amen. Our Lady of Knock, pray for us.”