August 21st, 1879 is the anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at a small village church in Knock, Ireland. Known as Our Lady of Knock, it is one of the major Marian apparitions approved by the Church and dearest to the Irish people.
On the 21st August, 1879, at about 8 o’clock, Our Lady, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist appeared in a blaze of Heavenly light.
Interestingly, a few months prior to the apparition, Archdeacon Cavanagh, the parish priest, announced to his parishioners his plan to say 100 Masses for the Holy Souls in Purgatory whom Our Lady wished to release. The last of these Masses was completed shortly before the apparition occurred. In addition to the figures of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. John, the vision also included a lamb and a cross on an altar surrounded by angels—a symbol of the Mass and the Holy Eucharist.
The apparition occurred outside against the south wall of the church, as seen in the photograph below where the people are gathered. Today the church has been extended with a partial-glass ceiling to incorporate this outside wall as an inside wall. Erected against the south wall are statues resembling as closely as possible the vision as it appeared to eyewitnesses on that August night.
According to the Knock Shrine website, here is what happened:
The Story of Knock began on the 21st August, 1879 when, at approximately 8 o’clock in the evening, fifteen people from the village of Knock in Co. Mayo, witnessed an Apparition of Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, a Lamb and cross on an altar at the gable wall of the Parish Church.
The witnesses watched the Apparition in the pouring rain for two hours, reciting the Rosary. Although they themselves were saturated not a single drop of rain fell on the gable or vision. There were fifteen official witnesses to the Apparition, most of whom were from the village of Knock and surrounding areas and ranged in age from just 5 years old to 74 years old. Each of the witnesses gave testimonies to a Commission of Enquiry in October 1879. The findings of the Commission were that the testimonies were both trustworthy and satisfactory.
The vision lasted for approximately three hours before fading.
The Knock Shrine website also exhibits historic photos, the hand-written testimonies of all 15 eyewitnesses, and stories of pilgrims who have visited the apparition site. Here is one eyewitness testimony:
“The Virgin stood erect, with eyes raised to heaven, her hands elevated to the shoulders or a little higher, the palms inclined slightly towards the shoulders or bosom. She wore a large cloak of a white colour, hanging in full folds and somewhat loosely around her shoulders, and fastened to the neck. She wore a crown on the head, rather a large crown, and it appeared to me somewhat yellower than the dress or robes worn by Our Blessed Lady.”
Ten days after the apparition the first miraculous cure occurred. By 1880, Fr. Cavanagh had over 300 cures recorded. Ever since, Knock has been a place of pilgrimage known for bringing healing, peace, and conversion of heart. Here is a testimony of a modern pilgrim to the Knock Shrine:
“This is my first visit to Knock. I came because my 84 year old mother wanted to come so my wife, my sister and I came with her. I was nonplussed at the idea but have been taken completely by surprise by the wondrous peace that engulfs this magical place. This visit has renewed and strengthened my faith. I leave, I hope, a better person.”
Have you been to the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock? If so, please comment below and tell us about your experience.
This article has been updated and was originally published in August 2015. ©The Catholic Company