From May 11th we went on an inspiration trip to Ireland with readers of the Dutch Catholic Newspaper (Katholiek Nieuwsblad, KN). The KN-tour, organized by the VNB, with Pim Walenkamp as tour guide and me as spiritual guide, was an introduction to faith, culture and nature in this beautiful country. An important goal was the pilgrimage site of Knock (Irish: Cnoc Mhuire = Hill of Mary).

The Marian apparition in Knock takes place on 21 August 1879. It rains cats and dogs when two women pass the church. They see a bright light on the back wall of the church. In that light they see Mary, Joseph, the apostle John and on an altar a lamb and a cross. Fifteen villagers gather in the pouring rain and see the apparition that lasts two hours. They pray the rosary, everyone is soaking wet. Although the wind is right on the wall, the place of the apparition remains dry. Nothing is said, not by Mary, not by Joseph or John, not by the people.

This apparition reminds us the words of Jesus on the cross to Mary and John: "Woman, see your son there" and "See your mother there" (John 19, 26-27). Standing by the cross, Mary became the mother of the Church and the Church took her into her home. At the cross, Mary and John do not say anything, they listen to Jesus. Saint Joseph who appears here has always been the silent one. Thus Mary appears as the praying mother of the Church, the new family, with Saint Joseph as protector. The lamb stands for Jesus, who is led to the slaughterhouse like a lamb. The Irish people must have felt the same way. After the great Irish famine (1845-1851), in which about a million people died and another million people emigrated, another famine broke out in 1879 (the last one). The apparition in Knock must have been an enormous consolation, that heaven had seen the need of God's children and that Mary appeared here as a praying mother.

It is not difficult to see the importance of Knock for our time. The Church, as God's family on earth, is becoming small. She is persecuted in many places and the secular world robs her children. We may ask Mary to pray with urgency for her children. In turn, Mary encouraged us to listen to the Church, which continues to proclaim the Good News of Christ today. Saint Joseph is at her side as a protective father who is close to us, especially nowadays.

Father Michel Hagen
Translation of an article written in Dutch in KN 31 May 2019/22, #11.

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