On March 29th, my husband and I, along with our two daughters, ages 15 and 6, nestled together for a 90-minute bus ride from Galway, Ireland to Knock in County Mayo. While praying the Rosary, we soaked in the beauty of the countryside. We spotted countless farms with distant sheep and cows nursing their newborn babies. It was a common sight in Ireland, but a rare pleasure for my family to witness.
Mike, Hayley, Hannah and I were eager to visit the Our Lady of Knock Shrine, where Mary appeared to the Irish people 128 years ago this month. Curious about the Shrine, my youngest, Hannah asked, "What door do we knock on when we get there?" Amused at first, I later realized that our family's pilgrimage was like "knocking" on the door to Our Lady's heart. Many years ago, the distressed Irish had "knocked" on that same door as they encountered potato famines, starvation, disease, and death. Mary heard their fervent prayers, answered them, and gave them hope to go on by means of her apparition at Knock.
I worried about the dark storm clouds that loomed to our right. Getting caught in the rain without knowing the distance of the walk to the Shrine, coupled with Hayley's harsh cough, was enough to make me think twice about getting off the bus. However, we came to pay homage to Our Lady, Queen of Ireland. The weather wouldn't keep us away.
As we stepped off the bus, rain started falling, a torrential downpour mixed with wind and hail. While my family shivered through the half-mile hike to the Shrine, I wondered why Our Lady of Knock chose to greet us this way. After all, we had come so far to make a pilgrimage. Little did I know then of the multitude of weary pilgrims that persevered on the road before us, desperately seeking miraculous cures from infirmities.
Shortly after we arrived at the Shrine, the sun came out long enough for us to take photos. We were like children in a candy store moving from one delicacy to another. There was much to see, but we only had a few hours before we returned to Galway.
We toured the Basilica blessed by Pope John Paul II on September 30, 1979. Afterward, we were happy to go to confession in the beautiful Chapel of Reconciliation.
As family members filled bottles with holy water from white, limestone outdoor fonts, I received free materials from a lovely lady in the Shrine's society office. These books helped me to understand Knock's spiritual significance, and learn about Archdeacon Cavanaugh, a holy priest at the time of Mary's Apparition.
We assisted at Mass and received Holy Communion in the antiquated church. We also prayed in the Apparition Chapel at the site where 15 people witnessed a glorious sight for two hours (Our Lady did not speak) during a rainy evening on August 21, 1879.
The snow-white marble statues of Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. John, and the Lamb of God with hovering angels in adoration helped us to visualize the miraculous Apparition. On the long flight home to the States, we had an opportunity to think about our wonderful pilgrimage to Knock. We were very blessed to have visited there, and our oldest daughter miraculously made a full recovery from her illness. At Knock, knock we did. Our Lady had heard our prayers.
Prayer to Our Lady of Knock:
Our Lady of Knock Queen of Ireland, you gave hope to your people in a time of distress and comforted them in sorrow. You have inspired countless pilgrims to pray with confidence to your Son, remembering His promise; "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find." Help me to remember that we are all pilgrims on the road to heaven. Fill me with love and concern for my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those who live with me. Comfort me when I am sick or lonely or depressed. Teach me how to take part ever more reverently in the holy Mass. Pray for me now, and at the hour of my death. Amen. Our Lady of Knock, pray for us.