At about 8 o'clock on Thursday evening the 21st August, 1879, Our Lady, St Joseph and St John the Evangelist appeared at the South gable of the Church at Knock.
Our Lady wore a large white cloak, fastened at the neck. Her hands and eyes were raised towards heaven, in a posture of prayer. On her head was a brilliant crown and where the crown fitted the brow, was a beautiful rose.
On her right was St Joseph, head bowed and turned slightly towards her as if paying her his respects. He wore white robes.
On our Lady's left was St John the Evangelist, dressed as a bishop, with a book in his left hand and right hand raised as if preaching. His robes were also white. Beside the figures and a little to the right in the centre of the gable was a large plain altar.
On the altar stood a lamb, facing the West and behind the lamb a large cross stood upright. Angels hovered around the lamb for the duration of the Apparition.
There were fifteen official witnesses to the Apparition which was enveloped in a heavenly light. They included men, women and children of various ages. They watched the apparition for two hours, in the pouring rain and recited the Rosary. It was so real that an old lady, Brigid Trench, went up to the gable and tried to kiss the feet of Our Lady.
Most Rev. Dr. John MacHale, Archbishop of Tuam, only six weeks after the Apparition, set up a Commission of Enquiry. Fifteen witnesses were examined and the Commission reported that the 'testimony' of all taken as a whole, was trustworthy and satisfactory.
Archbishop Gilmartin set up another Commission in 1936 to examine the three surviving witnesses of the Apparition: Mrs. Mary O'Connell (Mary Byrne), Patrick Byrne and John Curry. All three confirmed their original statements of 1879. Mrs O'Connell gave evidence under oath from her death bed and at the end of her statement she added: "I am quite clear about everything I have said, and I make this statement knowing I am going before my God."
The verdict of this Commission was that the evidence of the witnesses was upright and trustworthy, and concerning Mrs. O'Connell, it was reported that she left 'a most favourable impression on their minds'.
Knock Shrine recognised and honoured by the Church - September 30th, 1979 On September 30th, 1979, our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II came as a pilgrim to Knock Shrine, to honour it, in a very special way, in its Centenary year Knock was "the goal" of his journey to Ireland. Well nigh half a million pilgrims gathered to welcome the Vicar of Christ.
After the Commission had given its report and the news spread, through the media, thousands upon thousands of people came to Knock Shrine bringing their sick. Many extraordinary cures were reported in the newspapers at the time. That devotion both of priests and people has continued, down all the years.
Pilgrimages must always have a truly religious character. Pilgrimages should be made in a spirit of fervent prayer, self-denial and recollection.