Sunday 15 September 2019

140 years of prayer: Shrine celebrates apparition of Virgin Mary

Faith: Mary McCarthy, Josephine Lynch and Ann Marsh from Limerick visit the shrine.
Photo: PA
Faith: Mary McCarthy, Josephine Lynch and Ann Marsh from Limerick visit the shrine. Photo: PA

Aoife Moore

Knock Shrine is celebrating 140 years since the reported apparition of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint John the Evangelist, and a lamb.

The shrine, in Co Mayo, has welcomed thousands of pilgrims and visitors since the apparition on August 21, 1879.

According to reports, 15 local people who were reciting the rosary saw the apparition on the gable wall of the parish church and, despite the poor weather and fading light, were able to clearly make out the figures.

Witnesses said they saw a cross on an altar, and a lamb surrounded by angels, in front of which was Mary, wearing a white cloak and hovering a few feet above the ground, deep in prayer, with her eyes raised to heaven.

Saint Joseph, also reported to be wearing white robes, stood to the right of Mary.

Saint John the Evangelist was partly turned away from the other figures, and was dressed in a long robe.

An ecclesiastical commission of inquiry was established in the months after the reported sighting, by the Archbishop of Tuam, Rev Dr John MacHale.

Depositions of witnesses were taken in the ensuing months, and their evidence was deemed trustworthy and satisfied all commission members.

Thousands of pilgrims have since travelled to the holy site, seeking cures for illness, attending special services, and praying for special intentions.

Two popes have also visited - Pope John Paul II in 1979 to mark the centenary of the apparition, and Pope Francis in August 2018.

Nancy McCormick, from the Limerick Action Centre for the Lady of All Nations, who visited the shrine for the anniversary, said it was important to remember the apparition despite the amount of time that had passed.

"Today is a celebration of the Lady of all Nations," she said.

"Our lady, who appeared here in Knock, is everyone's mother, regardless of their faith, she's the mother of people who don't even know her, and I've come to say a prayer for peace in our hearts," she said.

Milestone

"She chose this place. From all over the world, millions of prayers have been said here since then and we have such modern ways now, but it's important to come back here and say a prayer."

A series of events was held yesterday to celebrate the milestone, led by the current Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary.

A seminar was held by historian Nollaig Ó Muráile who unveiled a detailed, 3D model of the village of Knock on the day of the apparition.

A new processional statue of Our Lady of Knock was dedicated during a Novena ceremony.

Commissioned to celebrate 140 years of Ireland's National Marian Shrine, the statue will be used in all daily rosary processions.

Later in the day, a Witnesses Walk was held remembering the parishioners who saw the apparition.

Irish Independent

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