Apparition of Knock - 1879by Amyobala Key
It was approximately 8 p.m., Thursday, August 21st, 1879 and the rain was
pouring over the little village of Knock, Ireland, in County Mayo, in the
west of Ireland. Historically, this corner of Ireland had been the center
of poverty, famine, and misery. Evictions and emigration to the rest of
the world were commonplace. Mary McLoughlin and Mary Byrne, returning
homewards, walked beside their local church, the church of St. John the
Baptist. Toward the south gable they saw three luminous figures, one of
them resembling the Virgin Mary. The figures stood a little distance from
the gable wall about two feet above the ground. The witnesses made the
assumption that the others were St. Joseph and St. John, the Evangelist.
Some reports suggest that the figures were moving, though the 1936
testimony of Mary Byrne indicated that they were immobile. The figure of
St. Joseph was posed with an index finger raised, "as if he were
speaking." Mary Byrne left to notify her family. Soon their neighbors
had joined them, as the rain continued to fall, until there were a total
of fifteen official witnesses, their ages ranging from 5 to 75. The
Apparitional diorama soon included an altar with a lamb on it, in front of
a cross. A boy discerned angels over the altar. There were no sounds. The
Apparition lasted from 2 to 3 hours. Half a mile away, the luminous glow
appeared as a globe of light to a farmer.
The 15 Official Witnesses were: Dominick Byrne Sr., 36, Dominick Byrne Jr., approx. 20, Margaret Byrne, 21, Mary Byrne, approx 29, Mrs. Margaret Byrne (widow), 68, Patrick Byrne, 16, Judith Campbell, 22, John Curry, 5, John Durkan, approx. 24, Mrs. Hugh Flatley, 44, Patrick Hill, 11, Mary McLoughlin, Archdeacon Cavanagh's housekeeper, 45, Catherine Murray, 8, Bridget Trench, Carrowmore, 74, and Patrick Walsh, approx. 65.
Later investigators discounted the possibility of luminous paint or "a magic lantern". A commission to study the Apparition was established by the elderly Archbishop of Tuam, Dr. John McHale, within 6 weeks of the event. Although he established that the witnesses were reliable and of trustworthy character, he could not give a conclusion either for or against the validity of the sighting. No findings were published. 57 years later, in 1936, the new Archbishop of Tuam, Dr. Gilmartin, instituted a second Commission, with three of the original witnesses still alive. The findings were positive. The witness, Mary Byrne, now Mrs. Mary O'Connell was on her death bed when she gave evidence under oath. She swore that the evidence was true, knowing that she would soon be going before her God.
Years later, the Church officially supported the event, and in 1979, Pope John Paul II visited Knock, on the centenary of the Apparition. It was said that images of the cross, the lamb, and the altar symbolized the death of Jesus. The fact that these images were behind those of Mary suggested that the focus was on the Blessed Virgin as the ongoing mediator with mankind. Knock has gained the status of an internationally recognized Marian Shrine. Mother Teresa visited the Shrine in June, 1993, while annually the pilgrims number more than one and a half million. Hundreds of sick and disabled pilgrims have later reported miraculous cures after their visit to the Shrine.
Note: The nature of the apparition appeared staged and artificial. The figures were two-dimensional and frozen as if in the process of interacting, but were motionless. Sceptics suggested a "Magic Lantern" (an early form of projector) had been used and this was further suggested by the bright circular light surrounding the figures. This is further suggested by the time of the event, evening, and the duration, about two hours. A Professor of Science at Maynooth College tested and concluded that the generation of the image by direct projection was impossible, but in a 1987 British television documentary it was shown that the placing of a shaving mirror under the church gable could have reflected the image in a manner as to achieve the results which the Professor had declared impossible. Also, similar appearances occurred on the same church gable on three separate occasions 1 year later.