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Knock Pilgrimage

The Cashel and Emly Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock takes place each year during August. The 2001 Pilgrimage date is Sunday 5 August. Reverend James Walton organises the annual event and offers a description of the event here.

Knock Shrine

About Knock

At about eight o’clock on the Thursday evening of 21 August 1879, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist appeared at the south gable of the church at Knock, County Mayo, Ireland. Beside them and a little to their left was an altar with a cross and the figure of a lamb, around which angels hovered. There were fifteen official witnesses to the apparition—young and old—who watched and prayed for two hours in pouring rain.
Two Commissions of Enquiry, in 1879 and 1936, accepted their testimony as trustworthy and satisfactory. Today, Knock ranks among the world's major Marian Shrines.

In 1952, the Thurles Marian Society was founded. Its aim was to start a diocesan pilgrimage to Knock, with special facilities for invalids. The date chosen was the first Sunday in August and this has remained ever since.


C.I.E. was contacted and a ‘Radio Train’ was booked with a special ‘Ambulance Coach’, that included kitchen, toilets and special facilities for stretcher cases and wheelchair invalids. Two trains were on hand to accommodate as many as 720 pilgrims and 39 invalids. Train stations, many of which no longer exist, provided the meeting point for the many pilgrims that travelled. The late Dr Thomas Morris, who led the Pilgrimage, along with priests from the Archdiocese, ‘jumped ship’ from one train to another to mingle with and meet the pilgrims. The ‘Radio Carriage’ provided an organ and all on the train could hear and join in with the rosaries and the hymns.


The practice of travelling by train was discontinued when the cost of doing so became prohibitive. The last train to make its way to Knock from the Archdiocese with pilgrims for its cargo was on August 3, 1986. Since that time pilgrims have travelled mainly by bus, and unfortunately as a result, not as many invalids get to travel. This is regrettable if only for the reason that Knock is especially linked with the sick and the infirmed.


Those concerned with the care of the Shrine are always careful to maintain access for the sick and infirm. They believe that the sick are the most privileged of all at Knock Shrine as their presence on any pilgrimage, helps in a unique way, to maintain a truly prayerful and penitential spirit throughout the whole pilgrimage.


In his homily at Knock on 30 September 1979, Pope John Paul said, “From that day of grace, on August 21, 1879, until this very day, the sick and suffering, people handicapped in body or mind, troubled in their faith or their conscience, have all been healed, comforted and confirmed in their faith because they trusted that the Mother of God would lead them to her son, Jesus”.


Since his installation as Archbishop in 1988, Dr Dermot Clifford has continued to lead our diocesan pilgrimage to Knock and the organisers are grateful to him for his support. Over the years the organisers have been trying to increase the numbers of those travelling to Knock from the diocese. This year no less than 1,300 pilgrims from 25 parishes travelled, on the diocesan day, to Knock. It is hoped that for the fiftieth anniversary of the diocesan pilgrimage that every parish be represented. In the interim let us ponder the words of our Holy Father spoken during his visit here over twenty years ago,


“Here I am at the goal of my journey to Ireland: the Shrine of Our Lady at Knock. I have felt a strong desire to come here, the desire to make yet another pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Mother of Christ, the Mother of the Church, the Queen of Peace. Every time a pilgrim comes up to what was once an obscure bog-side village in county Mayo, it is to renew his or her faith in the salvation that comes through Jesus, who made us all children of God and heirs of the Kingdom of God.”
The above was first Published in Foundations Winter 2000.

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