By Maggie Stead
The story of Knock began in August 1879 when fifteen people, aged from 6 years to over 70 witnessed an apparition at the gable end of the parish church. They all gave testimony to seeing Our Lady, St Joseph and St John together with the Lamb of God on an altar surrounded by angels and brilliant light.
The witnesses described Our Lady as dressed in white with a golden crown and a rose on her forehead, St Joseph and St John were also all in white with the greatest light coming from the Lamb and angels. All the testimonies were scrutinised and after the initial verification a final validity was given in 1936.
Since then, many have visited the area but it was not until the 1960s that the Parish priest at the time, Father James Horan, felt that the world should know about Knock. He set in motion the building of the Basilica and the creation of the Mosaic (see main photograph) which hangs within.
The mosaic depicts the Apparition and the witnesses and is made from a million and a half pieces of hand cut glass and marble. It was constructed by a team in Tavisanullo in Italy and then transported to Ireland in 350 sections. The Mosaic was donated by one man in memory of his wife and family.
The Basilica was completed in 1976 when Father James decided to visit Rome and ask the Holy Father himself to make a pilgrimage to Knock. His wish was granted with a visit in 1979.
At that time Knock had no airport and distances would have been difficult for the Pope so Father James decided to build one.
The land was obtained and building began and when the press asked Father James how it was to be paid for he replied.
” I have no idea but the money will come…”!
And of course it did from all over the world. The airport was completed by 1979 for Pope Paul II to make the pilgrimage.
Pope Francis is to make the pilgrimage to Knock this year where Monseigneur James Horan is now buried and revered by many as a Saint.
There are 139 acres at Knock where you can enjoy the peace and tranquillity, visit the Apparition Chapel and museum and of course attend mass daily We heard Mass in the Basilica where we all received a blessing with oil on forehead and on the palms of our hands, and listened to beautiful singing all under the magnificence of the Mosaic.
We felt privileged and humbled to be there with hundreds of other pilgrims.
The Apparition was a silent one so each one of us is invited to find it’s meaning for ourselves.
We also made pilgrimage to Ballintubba Abbey where we celebrated mass beneath a crucifix dating back 500 years and where Mass has been celebrated since St Patrick first baptised druids to Christianity in AD 450.
We also went to Attymass to visit the Memorial Centre to Father Patrick Payton. Fr Payton was the Rosary Priest because he had travelled the world encouraging people to say the rosary and coined the slogan “the family that prays together stays together”. Father Patrick was in Indiana on his travels where he met Father Stephen Gibson and suggested he came to Ireland to work.
Father Stephen celebrated Mass for us and also played his guitar which offered much joy and fellowship. He smiled at us and said “And I am still here after 35 years”.
On our last morning we attended mass in the Parish Church at Knock, where the strength of love and faith are all round, and again, the feeling of humility is strong.
At every mass, be it at Knock, Ballintubba or Attymass the message was the same…” Be good to one another”.
For anyone interested, the tour operator contact is: Knock Pilgrimages. Knockpilgrimages@gmail.com Telephone. 44(0) 1268 762 278