Our Lady of Knock: Icon of the Domestic Family

The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared on August 21, 1879 in a small Irish village named Knock. The apparition, when compared to others, is quite unique. There were 15 official witnesses of the apparition, and it is said that there were more. And Mary wasn’t the only one who made an apparition at Knock. She came with St. Joseph and St. John, and a lamb on the altar also appeared in the sky.

Unlike other apparitions, such as Fatima, where Mary audibly spoke to witnesses, the message in Knock was silence. We are then left to interpret the signs and symbols of the apparition in order to derive Mary’s message. I wish to suggest the following: that the apparition in Knock is an icon of the Domestic Church.

The Home and Altar

The gospels record two home-takings of Mary. The first occurs in the gospel of Matthew, when Joseph wishes to divorce Mary quietly. But he is persuaded by an angel in a dream to not be afraid to take Mary into his home. As Joseph welcomes Mary and the Christ child into his home, we see the formation of the domestic family, that our God came to live among us in a family.

Similarly, the gospel of John records Jesus’ words from the cross telling John to behold his mother, and Mary to behold his son. This is the second home taking of Mary, of someone welcoming Mary into their home. The apparition at Knock encourages us to welcome Mary into our homes and our hearts just as Joseph and John did.

Next we have the Lamb on the altar. This immediately calls to mind the importance of the Eucharist, and how Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. If Knock is an icon of the domestic church and an invitation for us to welcome Mary into our homes, the presence of the Lamb and Altar suggests how each household must make Sunday Eucharist a priority. Also, recalling the words of Holy Mass that Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the lamb’s presence invites God’s holy people to seek forgiveness from God and one another.

Silent Apparition

Then there is the silence of the apparition. The lamb on the altar glorified invites families into Eucharistic adoration. Realizing that might not be as practical for some domestic churches, the silence in the apparition lends itself to the notion of spiritual adoration, by which a person adores as they are able.

Silence is a gift, and in that silence we hear the voice of God. If Knock is an icon of the domestic family, could the silence of the apparition be inviting families into silent prayer together? To pause a few moments each day to be still and listen for God’s voice?

Another interesting fact about Knock is that The apparitions takes place after the parish priest celebrated a series of Masses for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Could Mary be inviting us to pray for the poor souls of our families and also our parish family. When is the last time you prayed for your loved ones who have passed away? As a family, consider taking up this practice.

Avatar photo


Fr. Edward Looney is a priest in the Diocese of Green Bay, a Marian theologian, author, columnist, media personality, podcaster, film enthusiast, and fellow pilgrim. He is the host of the podcast, Hey Everybody! It’s Fr. Edward. You can follow him on social media at the handle @FrEdwardLooney.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage