By Fr. Dominic Feehan, SHM
On August 21, 1879, at approximately 8 o’clock in the evening, fifteen people from the village of Knock in Coounty Mayo, Ireland, witnessed an apparition of Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, a Lamb and a cross on an altar at the gable wall of their Parish Church. The witnesses watched the apparition in the pouring rain for two hours, reciting the Rosary. Although they themselves were drenched, not a single drop of rain fell on the gable wall or vision.
There were fifteen official witnesses to the apparition, most of whom were from the village of Knock and surrounding areas, and ranged from the ages of 5 to 74. Each of the witnesses gave testimonies to a Commission of Enquiry in October 1879. The findings of the Commission were that the testimonies were both trustworthy and satisfactory.
Here is a combined account from those witnesses: “The entire back wall of the church was bathed in a brilliant light, which could be seen from quite a distance away. Everything was raised about two feet off the ground. There was an altar, on top of which stood a Lamb with a Cross. The altar and Lamb were surrounded by Angels, hovering above. Around them were golden stars or small brilliant lights, glittering like glass balls.”
“To the left of the altar were the three figures: St. Joseph on the left, Our Lady in the middle, and St. John the Evangelist on the right. St Joseph’s hair and beard were gray and he leaned in a respectful manner toward Mary. St. John was dressed in Mass vestments with a bishop’s miter on his head, a book in his left hand, and his right hand raised in blessing. Our Lady was life-sized; the other two were smaller.”
“The Virgin’s eyes were raised toward heaven with hands outstretched. Mary was beautiful. She wore a white gown and sash. A veil flowed from the back of her head to her feet. On top of her head was a gold crown. Between the crown and the edge of the veil was a gold rose. Mary was almost iridescent.”
Many miracles such as healing miracles have been documented at the Shrine. Miracles began as soon as ten days after the apparition. A young girl, Delia Gordon, had experienced deafness and pain in her left ear. While visiting the apparition site, her mother put a small piece of cement from the wall of the church into her ear. Afterward, during Mass, Delia experienced an excruciating pain in her ear, followed by a complete healing of her deafness and no further pain. This is just one case of over six hundred documented miracles, which took place over many years at Knock. It is further proof of the powerful miraculous intercession of Our Heavenly Mother.
Archdeacon Cavanagh was the parish priest of Knock at the time of the Apparition until his death in 1897. He was known to practice special devotion to Our Lady and he worked tirelessly to serve the ever-growing number of pilgrims. Some months before the Apparition, Archdeacon Cavanagh made known to his parishioners his plan to say one hundred Masses for the souls in purgatory which our Blessed Mother wished released. These Masses were completed shortly before the Apparition.
The Archdeacon’s workload increased significantly following the Apparition. His number of daily Masses and confessions grew, and his correspondence increased greatly. He kept a diary of the cures and healing miracles that took place and gave regular talks. Archdeacon Cavanagh was widely known for his humility, gentleness and piety. He died a holy death on December 8, 1897.
Knock Shrine is located in County Mayo in the west of Ireland. It is the National Marian Shrine where over 1.5 million pilgrims visit each year. From the time of the apparitions, huge numbers of pilgrims from all walks of life have made their way to the Shrine in order to seek the heavenly assistance of Our Lady. Numerous cures and conversions have been and continue to be experienced by many pilgrims. It is a place of great peace where one can rest away from the busy affairs of life. The apparition of Knock is a powerful message of hope for all Christians. It invites us to reflect on the importance of the Eucharist, on living the message of the Gospel and on raising our eyes towards heaven in humble and confident prayer. Our Lady of Knock continues to give hope and healing to many pilgrims.
© HM Magazine Nº207 March-April 2019