Our Lady of Knock: A vision of miracles

December 10, 2013

Although St. Patrick is the saint most commonly associated with Ireland, the Blessed Mother also made a special appearance to help the Irish people in a time of great need.

County Mayo was in the center of a region of Ireland that had suffered great distress in the 1870s. 

Various famines and economic dislocations produced by forced evictions had created yet another wave of Irish immigration. For many, it brought back memories of the Great Irish Famine of the late 1840s. It was into this environment that the Lord again sent His Mother to visit with His children.

On the evening of Thursday, Aug. 21, 1879, two women from the small village of Knock, Mary McLoughlin and Mary Beirne, were walking back home 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 13 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 to be 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. 

Ten days after the first apparition, the first reported miracle occurred. A young girl, born deaf, was instantly given the gift of hearing. 
At the end of 1880, some 300 cures, apparently miraculous, had been recorded in the diary of the parish priest. 

One of the pilgrims, who had been cured soon after the apparition, testified many years later that he had seen “as many as half-a-dozen pilgrims simultaneously undergoing their cure, or getting relief, and in vision I see the lame walk, my case included, the sightless seeing, the withered skins expanding.”

The Church officially investigated the apparition at Knock in 1879, and again in 1936. It was found that the witnesses were believable and that there was nothing contrary to the faith. 

As the news spread, pilgrims by the thousands arrived there with their sick. A large number of unusual cures were reported. Those who claimed were cured left their crutches and canes at the site, and many of those supports were attached to the wall. 

Pilgrims snatched plaster and bits of cement off the apparition wall for relics in 1879 and the 1880s. 

In the fall of 1880, a statue of Our Lady of Knock was erected where she had been seen during the vision. This place in Ireland had become a place for pilgrimage: one-and-a-half million visitors trek there annually. 

Four recent popes have honored Knock. Pius XII blessed the Banner of Knock at St. Peter’s and decorated it with a special medal on All Saints’ Day, 1945. It was the Marian year. On this occasion, the Pope announced the new feast of the Queenship of Mary. 

Pope John XXIII presented a special candle to Knock on Candlemas Day in 1960. He had always regarded it as one of outstanding shrines devoted to Our Lady. Pope Paul VI blessed the foundation stone for the Basilica of Our Lady, Queen of Ireland, on June 6, 1974. 

Pope John Paul II made a personal pilgrimage to the Shrine to the shrine on Sept. 30, 1979. He addressed the sick and the nursing staff, celebrated Mass, established the shrine church as a basilica, presented a candle and the golden rose to the shrine, and finally knelt in prayer at the apparition wall.