“And the Lamb will conquer and the woman clothed in the sun will shine her light on everyone” (from the hymn, Lady of Knock)
Here is the eyewitness testimony of Patrick Hill pertaining to the extraordinary vision (depicted above) he witnessed at the south wall of a small church in Knock, Ireland, St. John the Baptist, on the night of August 21, 1879:
“I am Patrick Hill; I live in Claremorris; my aunt lives at Knock; I remember the 21st August last; on that day I was drawing home turf, or peat, from the bog on an ass. While at my aunt’s at about eight o’clock in the evening, Dominick Byrne came into the house; he cried out: ‘Come up to the chapel and see the miraculous lights, and the beautiful visions that are to be seen there’. I followed him; another man by name Dominick Byrne, and John Durkan, and a small boy named John Curry, came with me; we were all together; we ran over towards the chapel. When we, running southwest, came so far from the village that on our turning, the gable came into view, we immediately beheld the lights; a clear white light, covering most of the gable, from the ground up to the window and higher. It was a kind of changing bright light, going sometimes up high and again not so high. We saw the figures – the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and St. John, and an altar with a Lamb on the altar, and a cross behind the lamb. At this time we reached as far as the wall fronting the gable: there were other people there before me; some of them were praying, some not; all were looking at the vision; they were leaning over the wall or ditch, with their arms resting on top. I saw the figures and brightness…. It was raining. I saw everything distinctly” (edited).
There is a tradition in Ireland, writes Mary Purcell in her summary of the apparition at Knock, that Saint Patrick, while on a missionary journey in the west of Ireland, blessed the remote village of Knock and predicted that one day it would become a center of devotion.
This prediction has come true, notes Purcell, as Knock has become a major Marian pilgrimage center. The Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, chose to bless Knock by appearing there in an apparition that occurred on August 21, 1879. Since this apparition was witnessed by eighteen people – including Patrick Hill, who was one of the fifteen official witnesses – its level of credibility is, on a merely human level, powerfully trustworthy.
The Mother of God appeared at Knock to remind us of the incredible importance of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The apparition took place at about 8 pm at the south gable of the Church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. The priest there, Father Cavanagh, was deeply devoted to Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception and had no bank account because “all that he ever had went to the poor” (Purcell, p.125).
The apparition of the Blessed Mother that evening was witnessed by about eighteen people, and there were 15 official witnesses who gave testimony to two “Commissions of Enquiry,” these witnesses ranging in age from six to seventy-five. Patrick Hill was age sixteen at the time. Their testimony was found trustworthy and satisfactory in 1879 and 1936. Pope John Paul II visited Knock in 1979. Mother Teresa of Calcutta also visited the Shrine.
What was seen, as Purcell says in synopsis, was “an extraordinary brilliant light surrounding the gable wall of the church” with the figures of Our Lady, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist. “Besides them and a little to the right was an altar with a cross and a figure of a lamb” (see representation above). According to the Shrine website, this extraordinary apparition lasted approximately two hours in the “pouring rain,” accompanied, in part, with the “reciting [of] the rosary.” And although the witnesses to the apparition were “saturated” by the pouring rain, “not a single drop of rain fell on the gable or vision.”
The complete written testimonies of the fifteen official witnesses to this extraordinary apparition are available at https://www.knockshrine.ie/history/witnesses-accounts/
What was the meaning of the apparition? Reverend Dr. M. O’Carrol explains: “The first lesson of the apparition is the Mass. Everything seems to point to that – the altar with the sacrificial Lamb, the gestures of Our Lady, the presence of Saint John in vestments, and the respectful attitude of Saint Joseph….” (Purcell at 143, citing Father M. O’Carroll). At Knock, where no words were spoken, Mary was pointing us to Jesus: to the Lamb of God who is both our sacrifice and our supernatural sustenance at Holy Mass.
“Mother, in this shrine [of our Lady of Knock] you gather the People of God of all Ireland and constantly point out to them Christ in the Eucharist and in the Church. At this solemn moment we listen with particular attention to your words : “Do whatever my Son tells you”. And we wish to respond to your words with all our heart. We wish to do what your Son tells us, what he commands us, for he has the words of eternal life” (Homily of Pope John Paul II, Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, September 30, 1979).
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
Sources: The information for this note is gathered from A Woman Clothed With the Sun (Image Books); and official Shrine Information on the internet; see https://www.knockshrine.ie/history/. This note is simply an edited compilation of information and facts from those two sources. The Feast of Our Lady of Knock is on August 17.
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