Maud writes about Knock becoming anInternational Marian and Eucharistic Shrine
Some of the local people smiled on hearing the news, wondering what all the fuss was about. As far as many were concerned, Knock had always been an International Shrine. We knew that our Parish Priest, the Rector of the Shrine met, every year, with his counterparts, the Rectors of other Marian Shrines, such as Fatima and Lourdes. Sometimes Knock undertook to host that meeting here at home. We knew too that pilgrims from various parts of the world had been coming to Knock for years. Filipinos, Indians, pilgrims from the United States and from many African, European, Asian and South American countries are frequent visitors to the shrine. Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope Francis are a few of the more famous visitors. This occasion, however, was something altogether different. Knock was being given a new and unique recognition, a second Imprimatur, by the highest authority in the church. Father Gibbons described it as a historic milestone for Ireland’s national shrine. During the current pandemic, Knock Shrine online-outreach has been growing increasingly with thousands of people joining in every day from all parts of the world, particularly the English-speaking world. It is expected that once travel restrictions are lifted, Knock Shrine will welcome many more international pilgrims. In recent pre-Covid times, it usually welcomed a million and a half pilgrims each year.
The excitement in the village was palpable and our parish priest was clearly walking on air. The news spread like wildfire and the local media were all over the story. Knock Shrine, the Irish National Marian Shrine, was on the verge of being promoted. Pope Francis was about to designate the Shrine at Knock as an
International Marian and Eucharistic Shrine.
So, it was felt very fitting that a three-day celebration would be held in Knock, starting on March 19th, feast of St. Joseph. The masses were streamed live each day from the Apparition Chapel and the speakers were Pope Francis, Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna and our own Archbishop, Michael Neary – all of whom are known to love Knock.
As we are all aware, Pope Francis declared 2021 to be a special year in honour of St. Joseph. Knock Shrine is unique in that when Our Lady came to visit here, she did not come alone, but brought the family with her. St. Joseph, St. John and the Lamb of God feature prominently in the apparition scene as described by all of the fifteen witnesses.
They spoke lovingly of St. Joseph, praising him for his humble, hidden presence, his trust and acceptance, his support for Mary and his example of human fatherhood. Pope Francis also stressed the silence of the Knock apparition and stated that “silence is the most expressive language we have”. He recalled the words of Jesus: “When you pray, go to your inner room and pray to your Father in secret”. He reminded us too that the new official international status of Knock brings an added responsibility to those who live and work here. We are challenged to have our arms wide open as a sign of welcome to every pilgrim who may arrive from any part of the world.
Archbishop Thaddeus Okolo, the current Papal Nuncio in Ireland, was physically present in Knock for the special Mass on the 19th. He was born in Kano, Northern Nigeria, so, as soon as Mass was over, I ran across to the shrine grounds and welcomed him in my best Hausa just as he was coming out of the sacristy. He grinned broadly and, two minutes later, as he was being called away for a photograph, he shouted back to me: “My two nieces attend your St. Louis School in Lagos”. It’s a small world after all……… Deo Gratias!