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Kathryn Swegart recounts the story of the Blessed Mother's 1879 apparition in Knock, Ireland.

County Mayo, Ireland August 21, 1879: Heavy rain drenched the fields of Northern Ireland, beating down on the little church of St. John the Baptist. Adjacent to the church was the rectory where Father Bartholomew Cavanaugh resided. Mary McLoughlin, as the housekeeper, was busy washing dishes in the sink. She glanced out the kitchen window to see a strange sight. Bright lights shone on the south side of the church.

Squinting through the rain, she saw three mysterious figures. Were they replacements for statues destroyed in a recent storm? Fear overtook her and she ran to a friend’s cottage to share what she had seen. The friend, Margaret Byrne, listened carefully. It seemed wise to send another witness to the scene. Margaret’s daughter, Mary, agreed to go.

Braced against the storm, the women dodged mud puddles and arrived at the church. Now it was time for a close look. Were these statues or something more mysterious? Here were figures of Our Lady, St. Joseph, and a bishop holding a book. Mary wore a white robe and gold crown. They stood next to an altar. On the altar was a lamb holding a cross. Angels hovered over the altar. They looked more closely. Was there movement? Indeed, there was. The three figures were aglow and were two feet off the ground.

Convinced of a miracle, Mary Byrne ran through the village knocking on doors. In no time, fifteen people gathered at the site. They stood in wonder at the mysterious vision. Despite the mud, they knelt and prayed the Rosary. Not a word was spoken by any of the glowing figures.

Patrick Hill was among the witnesses. He was a young man and brave enough to draw closer. He could gaze into Our Lady’s eyes, so close that he could see her irises. He also could see lines on the book held by the bishop. It was later determined that the bishop was St. John the Evangelist. The vision lasted several hours.

An investigation by the Church determined that the vision was “quite probable” and worthy of devotion.




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Why did God choose this humble village as a site for an apparition? Some speculate that it was His way of comforting the poor people of Ireland. #CatholicMom

Why did God choose this humble village as a site for an apparition? Some speculate that it was His way of comforting the poor people of Ireland. Only 54 years prior to the heavenly visit, Irish people were devastated by the potato famine, also known as the Great Famine. More than a million died and another million fled to America.

In the month of March, we turn our minds to St. Patrick and his missionary work in Ireland. Millions of Americans claim Irish heritage. I am one of them. My grandparents never spoke of the Great Famine that drove their parents across the stormy Atlantic to settle in Boston. Perhaps the thought of it was too painful.

Now thousands of the faithful visit the shrine of Our Lady of Knock each year. In 1976, a new church was erected. It is called Our Lady Queen of Ireland. Three years later, Pope John Paul II visited Knock to pay his respects to this silent apparition, humble as the poor villagers who witnessed the great event.

Learn more about Our Lady of Knock at KnockShrine.ie.



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Images: (top, bottom) EamonnPKeane at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; (center) Canva