This past week I had the opportunity to visit Ireland on business. My wife and I took the opportunity after the conference to journey to the northwest part of Ireland and visit the small village of Knock. More specifically, we visited the Catholic Knock Shrine, who had been previously visited by Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa.
On the evening of the 21st August, 1879, Our Lady, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist appeared in a blaze of heavenly light at the south gable of the Church of St. John the Baptist. Behind them and a little to the left of St. John was a plain altar. On the altar was an empty cross and a Lamb on an altar. Everyone in the scene was still, except for adoring angels that unceasingly circled the altar completely focused on the Lamb. The Apparition was seen by fifteen people whose ages ranged from six years to seventy-five and included men, women, teenagers and children. The Apparition lasted for two hours. It was raining hard and the witnesses, drenched, got on their knees and prayed the rosary. The ground where the apparition was stayed dry. The entire Apparition was silent. No verbal messages were given.
They described the Lamb as amazingly radiant, projecting a white light that was reflected by the other figures, with Mary reflecting the most light. The Lamb was peacefully and attentively looking at the other figures, listening. Joseph had his hands together in prayer, his head bowed in respect, and he was looking at the Lamb. Mary was looking up to heaven, her hands open in prayer of worship, thanksgiving, and intercession. Everyone and everything was of white color, but Mary wore a brilliant golden crown. Over the forehead she wore a beautiful full-bloom golden rose. Next to Mary was St. John the Evangelist. He was the disciple that at the cross Jesus confided him to his mother and his mother to him. They both lived in Ephesus after that. St John is the author of the Gospel according to John and the Book of Revelation. St John is dressed as a bishop wearing a mitre. On his left hand he is holding an open Bible and it looks as if he is preaching.
What does this silent Apparition mean?
As soon as we entered the chapel were the Apparition took place, both my wife and I were bathed in the most wonderful feeling of peace and joy. It was as if we were hit by a wave. Silently we pondered the meaning of this Apparition. I'm sure there are wonderfully deep theological interpretations that perhaps even consider the significance of this event occurring not that many years after so many hundreds of thousands of people died in Ireland during the potato famine. This is simply a reflection of my feelings about this. Instead of learning anything new, the image helped reinforce the following for me:
- What beautiful life we live and how great to know that life is eternal. After physical death we have an eternity to look forward in the presence of God. The empty cross reminds me of the gift of resurrection.
- I'm thankful for Jesus' redemptive suffering in the cross, for dying for our sins, and for the daily sacrifice during mass. I'm reminded of the importance and power of the Eucharist, when we share and become one with Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb. "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." "Blessed are we who are invited to the Lamb's Supper."
- Mary and Joseph emphasize the importance of prayer. Pray, pray, pray! Prayer of worship, thanksgiving, and intercession. They along with St. John, emphasize the power of the communion of saints. The souls in heaven, in the Purgatory, and here on Earth are all spiritually united and we pray for one another. Mary and the saints intercede for us and our salvation. They bring us closer to Christ.
- St. John reminds me to love, study, and pray the Bible. To confidently share the wonderful news of God's love for us with others.
- I'm not sure why, but I don't think too much about angels. There have been many saints, I think Padre Pio was one, that often saw many angels in church during the moment of consecration. I'm reminded that our guardian angels are with us and join us in adoration.
- I'm also reminded of the importance of family, as the entire family is here, including St. John, as an "adopted" son.
- Finally, I'm reminded of the importance to make some room in our lives for silence and meditation, so we may hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit. "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10)