Mary of the Day: March 19 – Apparition of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph at Knocks (Ireland)

Story of the apparition:
On August 21, 1879, Mary McLoughlin, a 45-year-old custodian of the church run by the archdeacon Bartolomeo Kavanagh, went to Mary Byrne’s nearby cottage at about seven in the afternoon. On the way, on the south side of the church, he saw, exchanging them for statues, the figures of Virgin Mary, of Saint Joseph and of Saint John the Evangelist, dressed as a bishop, and also an altar with a cross and a lamb, a traditional image of Jesus, with angels in adoration. McLoughlin thought that the archdeacon had obtained those statues in Dublin.

After half an hour Mary returned to the church with 29-year-old Mary Byrne to lock the door, and there they saw the figures, and they realized that it was an apparition instead. Mary then called her brother Dominick, her mother and sister, both named Margaret, and also alerted the people around her. The cousin, Dominick senior, his son Patrick, the domestic John Durkan, and the small six-year-old curry John came along. Meanwhile, Mary Byrne had rushed home to her friend Judith Campbell and seventy-five-year-old Bridget Trench, who later released a lively story of the apparition.

Our Lady was described as having a real human dimensions, slightly raised from the ground, dressed in white, with a rose on the brilliant crown. Patrick Hill reported seeing the eye sockets, with iris and pupils. It was described as “immersed in prayer”, with eyes turned towards the sky. Bridget Trench stated, “I went immediately to kiss the feet of the Blessed Virgin, but in the embrace I took nothing but the wall, and was amazed at how it was possible that I was not able to touch the figures I had seen and distinguished so clearly” .

St. Joseph was described in white robes, to the right of the Virgin, with her head tilted forward with respect to her; he appeared rather old, with graying hair and beard; St. John the Evangelist was to the left of the Virgin, with a long dress and a miter, in prayer, slightly turned over the others and holding a large book that looked like a Bible.

Those present recited the rosary, under the incessant rain, for more than two hours. The entire back wall of the church was illuminated by an intense light, and the images appeared diaphanous. Witnesses reported that the ground had remained completely dry during the event, despite the rain. After about two hours the apparition suddenly ceased, without the characters moving or talking.

An ecclesiastical commission of inquiry was created by the Archbishop of Tuam, John MacHale. The apparition initially aroused perplexities, because it differed from the other Marian apparitions in different aspects: the number of figures that appeared, the number of people involved, the lack of messages and the short duration.

After a new commission of investigation, in 1936 the apparition was recognized as worthy of faith and the cult was authorized. In 1979, on the occasion of the centenary, Pope John Paul II visited the sanctuary.


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