OUR LADY OF KNOCK
It rained all day in the little village of Knock in County Mayo, Ireland, on that memorable twenty-first day of August in 1879.
At seven o’clock that evening, fifteen-year-old Margaret Beirne was sent to lock up the church. After she had done so, she noticed a brightness over the building. This was most strange, especially on a rainy day, but Margaret was not curious enough to investigate the matter.
A little later Mary McLoughlin, the priest’s housekeeper, passed within a short distance of the church. She was on her way to see Mrs. Beirne and her daughter Mary, both of whom had just returned from a short trip. Miss McLoughlin noticed a strange light at the south gable of the church. In the light she saw three figures representing the Blessed Virgin, St Joseph and a bishop. Standing beside the figures was an altar on which were a cross and a lamb. She decided that the pastor had probably bought some new statues in Dublin. She did not mention the incident while at the Beirne home.
WHEN THEY CAME WITHIN VIEW OF THE CHURCH, THEY SAW THE LIGHT AND THE FIGURES
About eight or a quarter after, she decided that it was time to go home. Mary Beirne, Margaret’s older sister, offered to walk part way with her. When they came within view of the church gable, they saw the light and the figures.
“Oh, look at the statues!” Mary Beirne exclaimed. “Why didn’t you tell me that Father got new statues for the chapel?” Mary McLoughlin answered that she knew nothing about them. When they came closer, Mary Beirne cried out, “They’re not statues. They’re moving. It’s the Blessed Virgin!” And she ran home to get her mother and her brother.
SHE RAN HOME TO GET HER MOTHER AND HER BROTHER
The news spread and other people also came to see. Fourteen persons in all saw the figures. A fifteenth witness, Patrick Walsh, lived half a mile from the chapel. From his fields he saw a large globe of golden light at the southern gable. He had never before seen such a brilliant light. The next day he enquired about it and learned of the apparitions.
The other fourteen people all testified that they saw the Blessed Virgin clothed in white garments, wearing a large brilliant crown. Her hands were raised as if in prayer and her eyes were turned towards heaven.
At Mary’s right was St Joseph. His head was inclined towards the Blessed Virgin as if paying her respect. He was somewhat aged, with a grey beard and greyish hair. At Mary’s left stood St John the Evangelist, vested as a bishop, his left hand holding a book and his right hand raised as if in preaching. To the left of St John was an altar on which were a cross and a young lamb. One witness said he saw angel’s wings hovering about this altar.
The figures stood out from the gable wall and were about a foot and a half or two feet above the ground. The gable was bathed in a cloud of light.
THE VISION LASTED FOR ABOUT TWO HOURS
The vision lasted for about two hours. The rain was falling all the while, but the figures and the spot above which they stood were perfectly dry.
Fourteen-year-old Patrick Hills, one of the witnesses, tells us that “the figures were full round as if they had a body and life. They said nothing; but as we approached them they seemed to go back a little towards the gable.”
Of our Lady he says: “I distinctly beheld the Blessed Virgin Mary, life size, standing about two feet or so above the ground, clothed in white robes that were fastened at the neck; her hands were raised to the height of the shoulders as if in prayer, with the palms facing one another, but slanting inward towards the face… Her eyes were turned towards heaven. She wore a brilliant crown… and over the forehead where the crown fitted the brow, a beautiful rose. The crown appeared… of golden brightness… The upper parts of the crown appeared to be a series of sparkles, or glittering crosses. I saw her eyes, the balls, the pupils and the iris of each. I noticed her hands especially, and face… The robes came only as far as the ankles. I saw the feet and the ankles; one foot, the right, was slightly in advance of the other.
I DISTINCTLY BEHELD THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
“At times… all the figures appeared to move out and again to go backwards. I went up very near. One old woman went up and embraced the Virgin’s feet, and she found nothing in her arms or hands. They receded, she said, from her.”
Patrick Hill also tells us that he came so close to the figure of St John “that I looked into the book. I saw the lines and the letters.”
FIFTEEN PEOPLE IN ALL SAW THE FIGURES
Mary McLoughlin ran to tell the priest, Archdeacon Bartholomew Cavanagh, about the figures. He understood her to say that they had disappeared, and he did not go out to look. “I have regretted ever since that I neglected to do so. I shall always feel sorry that the sight of the apparitions has been denied me, but God may will that the testimony to His Blessed Mother’s presence should come from the simple faithful and not through priests.”
– From: “The Woman Shall Conquer” by Don Sharkey, Prow Books/Franciscan Marytown Press, Libertyville, IL, 1954