Thursday, August 21, 2014
Charlie Brown's Knock
Today is the 135th anniversary of the reported sighting of the Blessed Virgin at Knock, Co. Mayo in Ireland. A time, perhaps, to reflect a little on the role of this little village in the deep west of Ireland.
Over these 135 years Knock has had its ups and downs. It took a good while for it to become a place of pilgrimage fully recognised by the Roman Catholic Church. When I was young, the site was still a modest one but it nevertheless accommodated annual pilgrimages from parishes all over Ireland. It was our native version of Lourdes.
Then Monsignor Horan put it on the map with a new cathedral and a church with as many confessionals as there are weeks in the year. And, in case our Lady ever thought of paying a visit but might have found the overland journey a bit stressful, particularly after reading Colm Tóibín's version of her autobiography, the good Monsignor had the foresight to install a world class international airport nearby. And if she took her time coming, sure that was alright, hadn't he had a visit from a reigning Pope, John Paul II, in the meantime.
So Knock has continued to thrive and in recent times has become a springboard for the holy thoughts of the Papal Nuncio, Charlie Brown. The Nuncio, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, seems to think there is nothing wrong with the church that a few prayers won't solve, so he has no time for even the most well intentioned critics, such as the Association of Catholic Priests. They criticise, so they are negative, so they have no part to play in the holy game. They speak of eucharistic famines, of tired and burned out priests, of replacing these with married priests, or God forbid, women priests, when all that is needed is more prayer and maybe an intensification of the forty hours adoration.
When you listen to the Nuncio, you might as well be hearing Pius XII, in whose reign I grew up and with whom I am well familiar. It's all prayer and holy stuff and devotion to the Blessed Virgin even to the point of ultimate delusion. All very depressing in a world that cries out for some practical changes on the ground.
Anyway, if the Nuncio asks me for advice on how to spend this anniversary, I would say he could do worse than read Eugene Hynes's definitive tome on Knock. It might give him a deeper understanding of the place and how it acquired its present holiness, and he might then be that little bit more disposed to listen to those, including the silenced, who, as well as being holy people in their own rite, do have the interest of the church at heart.
My review of Eugene's book is here, and I'm sure there is still a copy left in Hodges Figgis if the Nuncio is up early enough and has the odd €40 to spare.