Feast of Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland
In the mid-1840s Ireland suffered a devastating famine which through starvation, disease and immigration saw the population fall from nearly 10 million to under 6 million in a few years. For over a hundred years that population continued to decrease as people left the desolated land to seek new life elsewhere.
After the famine there was a great sense of loss and fear in the land. The worst effected part of the country was the West where the population was totally devastated: hopelessness and despair reigned.
Our Lady of Knock, was seen by residents of Knock, a small town beset by poverty in County Mayo, Ireland on August 21, 1879, outside of the Church of St. John the Baptist. It is the only apparition known where Our Lord appears as a Lamb on the altar. Many have held that this privilege was given to Ireland as a result of the great faith and devotion of the people during the penal times.
The penal times occurred when English invaders would not allow the Mass to be said in public and the people took to the fields and hedgerows to hear Mass. There were even priest shot by English soldiers while they were celebrating Mass.
Knock is still a place of pilgrimage, drawing people from all over the world. It sits in one of the most beautiful and barren places in Ireland, near the Atlantic Ocean and very rural and unspoilt. You will find people there on every day of the year. The tradition is that you walk around the apparition chapel saying the rosary as you go. Saint John Paul II visited Knock in 1979 when he came to Ireland.
Hopefully I shall get to it this year on the 26th September when the Irish National Eucharistic Congress is being held. I always look forward to spending some time in the Basilica which has been recently renovated and which I have not seen since the work was carried out.