AS ONE travels along the Western Road from Dublin and passes Ballyhaunis, it does not take too long before one sees a spire in the distance. This spire caps the magnificent new church tieing built at the shrine of Knock in Co Mayo. It is truly the tip of the iceberg. The most magnificent sights are yet to come!
When one comes into Knock and begins to esplore the new church it is not unusual to meet Fr .lames Horan, parish priest of Knock consulting with the workmen.
He greets the visitor and makes him feel welcome before long in the conversation. the ineitable question is asked by the priest: "Well, what do you think of our new church?" The inevitable answer is: "It is magnificent."
The new church at Knock will be the biggest in the British Isles. Fr Horan hopes that the building itself will he ready for use by the pilgrims by the early: summer of this year.
However. final work on the grounds and additions to the structure will mean that its actual consecration by Archbishop Cunnone of Tuam will not occur until the autumn of 1977.
Since 1879 Knock has grossn and grown as a centre of Marian devotion and pilgrimage. Many cures have been attributed to the intercession or Our lady of Knock. One of the most recent and startling as the cure Of Mrs Mars. Wilson in 1973.
Mrs Wilson who lived in Wigton. near Carlisle, had long been suffering from various ailments. Then, in 1973, abdominal cancer was detected and doctors gase her only three or four days to live. j Fr Michael Scanlan, parish priest of St Cuthbert's, Wigton. gave her Holy Communion and said the Litany for the Dying. Her son visited her and brought with him a Knock shrine and holy water. Mrs Wilson rubbed it into her aching hods. After that recoverv was almost instantaneous. This, perhaps the most remarkable, is only one of many in a long list.
The Knock pilgrimage is penitential The Church is filled, and around it files an endless chain saying the Rosary. Others sa1 the Stations, and the confessional chapel overflows. Evening de%otions begin, and that finished, the pilgrims make their journey home to all parts of Ireland. Cnoc Muire is indeed aptly called "Mary's Hill". It HISS irt the evening of August 21, 1879, that the great sight was seen. Shortly after seven o'clock Margaret Beirne, sister of the sacristan, had gone to lock the church, arid on her return sass an unusual brightness user the church, "hut it never entered her head to see or inquire what it was."
She went home and thought no more about it. A short time afterwards, Mary McLoughlin, the parish priest's housekeeper, was on her way to visit Mrs Beirne who had returned from her holiday in 1.ecanvey.
To get to the Beirne cottage Mary McLoughlin had to leave the main road and enter a !anew ay south of the church.
On coming opposite the church she saw the figures but she passed on and said nothing, thinking "that possibly Archdeacon Cavanagh the parish priest had been supplied with these figures
From Dublin or somewhere else, and that he said nothing about them."
She thought "the whole thing strange" but passed on to Mrs Beirne's house and mentioned nothing of what she saw.
Half an hour later Mary McLoughlin was returning from her visit and was accompanied by Mrs Beirne's daughter, Mary.
When they came near the church gable, Mary Beirne, without having heard anything from Mary !McLoughlin, saw the figures, and thinking that they were statues asked: "When did the Archdeacon put the statues at the gable?"
Mary McLoughlin replied: "He never got them, whoever put them there."
On coming nearer the gable, Mars Bcirne exclaimed: "They are not statues, they are moving. It is the Blessed Virgin!"
Early in October, 1879 — less than two months after the event — Archbishop Nicliale set up a comniission of priests to make an official inquiry into the reported apparition. The members of the commission were Archdeacon Casanagh and two Canons of the Chapter.
They examined 15 witnesses and took a statement from each. In making their report to the Archbishop the commissioners stated that the testimony of all, taken as a whole, was trustworthy and satisfactory.