The story of Knock began on the evening of the 21st of August 1879. Throughout the years, there are have been many milestones which have seen this small rural village grow to become an international pilgrimage destination.
‘I saw everything distinctly. The figures were full and round as if they had a body and were alive. They said nothing, but as we approached, they seemed to go back a little towards the gable.’
Patrick Hill, aged 11 years, Apparition Witness.
At the time of the Apparition, Knock was typical of the villages in the West of Ireland. It was a small collection of thatched houses with the parish church at its centre.
On the evening of the 21st of August 1879, Our Lady appeared at the gable of the church with St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist. Our Lady was dressed in white robes, with a cloak fastened at the neck. Her eyes and hands were raised in prayer towards Heaven. She wore a large crown and where the crown fitted her brow, a single golden rose. On her right stood St. Joseph, head bowed respectfully towards her. On her left, St. John the Evangelist holding a book of Gospels. He appeared to be preaching although no words were heard. He so stood that his back was neither turned to the Mother of God nor to the Lamb that stood upon a plain altar. Some saw angels hovering around the Lamb, while all present noticed that the light from the Lamb was brighter than the light from all the others present. The witnesses watched and prayed for over two hours in the pouring rain and while the wind from the south was driving against the gable, it remained perfectly dry. The witnesses present testified that the Apparition seemed to be so alive that they could not understand why they could not touch with their hands what they so clearly saw with their eyes.
One hundred years later, some 450.00 faithful attended Holy Mass at Knock, celebrated by St Pope John Paul II. He gave Our Lady a golden rose on that occasion and raised the Church of Our Lady of Knock to the status of a basilica.
Pope Francis prayed at the shrine in August 2019 for the people of Ireland, and especially for the victims of abuse:
As a remembrance of my visit, I have presented the shrine with a rosary. I know how important the tradition of the family rosary has been in this country. I warmly encourage you to continue this tradition. Who can tell how many hearts, of fathers, mothers and children alike, have drawn comfort and strength over the years from meditating on Our Lady’s participation in the joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of Christ’s life!
May Our Lady also look with mercy on all the suffering members of her son’s family. In my prayer before her statue, I presented to her in particular all the survivors of abuse committed by members of the church in Ireland. None of us can fail to be moved by the stories of young people who suffered abuse, were robbed of their innocence, were separated from their mothers, and were left scarred by painful memories. This open wound challenges us to be firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice. I beg the Lord’s forgiveness for these sins and for the scandal and betrayal felt by so many others in God’s family. I ask our Blessed Mother to intercede for all the survivors of abuse of any kind and to confirm every member of our Christian family in the resolve never again to permit these situations to occur. And to intercede for all of us, so that we can proceed always with justice and remedy, to the extent it depends on us, such violence.