On the 21st of August, 1879, Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist appeared at the south gable of Knock Parish Church. This Apparition was witnessed by fifteen people, young and old. From this miraculous occurance Knock has grown to the status of an internationally recognised Marian Shrine. The personal pilgrimage of Pope John Paul II in 1979, commemorating the centenary of the Apparition, inspired an even greater devotion to the Shrine and endorsed the indelible seal of Vatican approval. Mother Teresa of Calcutta visited the Shrine in June of 1993. One and a half million pilgrims visit the Shrine annually.
One of the strengths of the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock is that the devotions there have developed along solid doctrinal lines. A pilgrimage to Knock is a journey through the basic elements of our faith.
In the first place, there is the very experience of the pilgrimage itself. Pilgrims to Knock will find what pilgrims have always found. There is the chance to pray about what bothers us, and to give thanks for what gives us joy.
To be with other praying people at a Shrine is to get a unique chance to stand back from life and let God throw light on its bits and pieces. To journey out from home on pilgrimage throws light on home. Travel broadens the mind, in more senses than one.
What does a pilgrim find at Knock? A chance to pray, a chance to relax, a chance to find peace. The devotions that have developed in the course of one hundred years are guaranteed to touch the soul.
Mass is the centre of devotions at Knock. Sometimes it is celebrated in splendour in the Basilica, often times quietly in one of the chapels. Pilgrims love the Mass at Knock.
In addition to Mass, pilgrims to Knock will find a strong devotion to the stations of the Cross; a tradition of silent, private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament; loyalty to the Rosary; and an appreciation of the Sacrament of Penance that must be unique.
About one and a quarter million pilgrims come to Knock each year and a high proportion of those pilgrims go to Confessions. At a time when the sacrament has fallen on lean times in your average parish, more and more pilgrims are making their way to Knock and making their peace with God.
These are people who have rediscovered an old wisdom. They have realised that we are a people who are living out a covenant with God and that the heart cannot be at rest while it is unreconciled with itself, with the neighbour and with God.
Are there miracles at Knock? Of course there are. Everyday. Everywhere. In the quiet corners of the chapels where prayer heals wounds. In the rounds of the stations where the old story of Christ's passion melts pride and induces sorrow. In the confessionals where the mercy of God brings pardon and peace. In Mass where the bread of life is broken and pilgrims go home on its strength. Knock is a crash course in the Christian Life.