Vatican Corner 09-22-2019

The 140th anniversary of the Apparition at Knock, Ireland was on August 21, 2019. That is where the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist and Christ (as the Lamb of God) appeared to 15 local townspeople on the parish church’s gable wall. The shrine constructed atterwards has become a focal point for Irish Catholics and Catholics throughout the world. On the 100th anniversary of the apparition, St. Pope John Paul II visited the shrine and last year Pope Francis visited. Both Popes emphasized the importance of Knock, both for helping maintain the faith, but also as a force for evangelization. On this anniversary a new processional statue was unveiled and it received a blessing from Pope Francis at the Vatican one week earlier. The anniversary celebration included a pilgrim walk and a holy Mass. The year was 1879 and a very bad potato blight affected the Irish County of Mayo. Mary Beirn (26) and Mary McLoughlin, the housekeeper for Knock’s parish priest were the first to see the apparition of the saints and the lamb standing on an altar before a cross. The image appeared within a bright light which was seen by people at some distance from the church. Witnesses said the image was surrounded by fluttiering wings or angels. The silent image appeared for about two hours and the townspeople stood staring at the vision on the gable wall and recited the rosary. It was raining but it was said not one drop of rain was on the images. Some of the onlookers were frightened, and some were overwhelmed. The housekeep went to the parish priest’s house and tried to explain the vision, but he did not understand and consequently did not go to see. Atter the apparition a deaf person recovered his hearing and over the next year 637 cures were recorded. An investigation found no explanation of the apparition from natural causes and any suggestion of fraud was dismissed. To help bishops determine the credibility of alleged apparitions, the Vatican in 2012 published translations of their 1978 procedural rules that had been writtien only in Latin. More than 1,500 visions of the Virgin Mary have been reported in the world, but only 9 cases in the past 100 years have received Church approval as worthy of belief. Granting approval is a slow process and sometimes takes hundreds of years. The local bishop has the job of determining the accuracy and truthfulness of an apparition. Witnesses must be questioned, and any resultant conversions, miracles and healings must be examined. The bishop is to set up a commission of experts including theologians, canonists, psychologists, and doctors to help him decipher the facts. The mental, moral and spiritual wholesomeness and seriousness of the witnesses is studied and whether the message and testimony have any theological or doctrinal error. The Bishop can conclude by saying the apparition is true, false, or he doesn’t know and needs more help. Then the country’s bishop’ conference makes a determination, and if they cannot, it is sent to the Pope to have his experts investigate. Former Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed that the Church never requires the faithful to believe in apparitions, not even those recognized by the Church. The Church’s approval of apparitions is basically its way of saying the message presented is not contrary to the faith or morality.