In the northwestern coast of Ireland, there sits a County Mayo, and within that green, lush county lies what was once called the Knock Parish Church. Presently, the name of this place has been elevated; it is now known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, for it was here that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared on the night of August 21, 1879.
That date is now becomes the annual feast day of Our Lady of Knock.
It was a heavy downpour that evening when Mary McLoughlin, the parish housekeeper, looked out through the window of the kitchen and noticed a mysterious light illuminating the stone wall.
Even through the rain, the light was visible, and so were three figures standing in front of the wall. The housekeeper thought they were the replacement statues for the ones destroyed by a storm a year or so earlier. Somehow afraid, she ran through the rain to the home of her friend Margaret Byrne.
She stayed about half an hour and then decided to leave. Margaret’s sister, also called Mary, agreed to walk with her. So, as the two women passed the church, an amazing sight was clearly visible to them. Then, they were sure they were seeing the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, and St. John. There was an alter at the left hand side of St. John and on the altar was a lamb. At the back of the altar was a cross and on each side of the altar but above it were adoring angels.
Mary Byrne ran home to tell her family.
News quickly spread and suddenly, 15 people were kneeling in the pouring rain praying the Rosary. They ranged in ages from 6 to 75, and even though these people were soaked to the skin, not even a drop of rain fell on the vision they were watching.
Witnesses said that the Blessed Mother stood erect with her eyes toward heaven and that she wore a large white cloak hanging in folds; and on her head was a large gold crown.
Unlikely to the apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes , La Salette, and at Fatima where the Beautiful Lady spoke to the seers, rather at Knock she remained silent. Nothing was said. Not a word spoken. All the people present at the apparition saw the image, and they all attested to the same thing about the unspoken word.
The following day, a group of villagers went to the local priest and told him the story. So, he contacted the bishop of Tuam. The bishop set up a commission to have an interview with the people who had witnessed the vision. The hierarchy was extremely doubtful that what they heard was true.
However, the people were not so skeptical, and pilgrimages to Knock began in 1880. Two years later nobody else other than Archbishop John Joseph Lynch of Toronto visited the site and claimed he had been healed by the Virgin of Knock. And that was quite a lofty endorsement.
Most of the witnesses died, but Mary Byrne married and raised six children as she lived her entire life in Knock. Mary Byrne was interviewed again in 1936, when she was 86, her account was still the same as it was back in 1879.
The apparition of Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John at Knock transformed the quiet village as thousands of people now came to commemorate the vision and ask for healing from Our Lady.
In 1976 a new church, called Our Lady Queen of Ireland, was built and it holds more than 2,000 people. And it really needs to be enlarged as more than half a million visitors come to Knock each year.
The Catholic hierarchy in Ireland approved the apparitions formally as worthy of devotion and Pope St. John Paul II sealed it all when, he visited the shrine in 1979.