Dublin, Ireland, Aug 23, 2012 / 03:12 am
Just as 19th-century Ireland experienced Christian renewal after the apparition of Our Lady of Knock, modern Ireland can likewise undergo an "authentically Catholic" renewal despite decades of troubles, says Archbishop Charles Brown, the apostolic nuncio to Ireland.
"Brothers and sisters, the future of the Church in Ireland begins now," Archbishop Brown said in his homily at the Aug. 22 closing Mass of the National Public Novena honoring Our Lady of Knock at the Knock Shrine in County Mayo.
"Certainly, the road ahead is not an easy one, but the road ahead for Catholics in Ireland did not look very easy in 1879 when Our Lady appeared here on that rainy evening in August. And yet her appearance was followed by one of the most fruitful periods in the 15 centuries of Catholicism on this Island."
On Aug. 21, 1879, the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist appeared to 15 witnesses at the Catholic church at Knock. The apparitions were near an altar with a cross and a lamb, around which angels hovered. The apparitions remained silent as the witnesses watched and prayed for two hours in the rain.
Archbishop Brown reflected on the situation of Ireland in 1879, noting that the country was not yet free and independent. Thirty years before, almost a million people had suffered and died during the Great Famine, while many more had been forced to emigrate.