Pilgrimage to Knock 2024

Homily for Killaloe Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock

Sunday 7th of July 2024

WB Yeats once remarked that “The history of a nation is not in parliaments and battlefields, but in what people say to each other on fair days and high days and how they farm and quarrel and go on pilgrimage”.


·      From the fair at Spancil Hill, to the Ploughing in Laois,

·      From hope filled trips to Croke Park to the various agricultural shows on at the moment,

·      From Canon Island to Our Lady’s Holy Well in Wexford,

·      From the secular to the sublime,

·      From the sacred  and well-worn pathways to Holy Places to pray:

there we engage in the stuff of human interaction, seek and hopefully find meaning and blessing and encouragement to thrive and flourish.


The Magic of Three!

There is something special in reflecting on things in threes.  Whatever it is about the triangular shape that appeals to us.  A trinity, a trilogy or a hat-trick?  There is something in threeness that is catchy and attractive and provides a hook for the mind.


Triads in the Apparition Story

When one contemplates the magnificent mosaic of the apparition behind us in the sanctuary here in Knock the sacred events are relayed or mirrored each side in threes.


The human figures revealed are that of

·      Mary,

·      St. Joseph and

·      St. John

in a prayerful, welcoming embrace.


The Eucharistic aspect of the apparition on the right includes

·      the Lamb of God,

·      the Cross on the Altar,

·      and the angels swirling around in praise and worship.


A trinity of sacred images drawing us into the mystery of God revealed on that August evening in 1879 almost a century and a half ago.


Three Doorways on Pilgrimage

Today we are on pilgrimage to Knock and to get the most  out of our time here, I suggest we enter into the fulness of pilgrimage through three symbolic or sacred doorways


Gestures, Devotions, Sacraments

The first sacred door is that of Gestures.

The second being Devotions.

The third the Sacraments of the Church.



When you come here to Knock on pilgrimage you either consciously or subconsciously enter into the doing of so many sacred gestures:

·      The gesture of walking in procession around the Gable Wall of the parish Church.

·      The gesture of filling a bottle of holy water and brining it home for someone we love, a gift, a memento of the day for a friend or neighbour

·      The gesture of lighting a candle.

·      The gesture of bringing home a prayer or Mass card.

·      The gesture of engaging in chat and banter with fellow pilgrims.

·      The gesture of charity in giving generously to the development of the Shrine for other pilgrims and generations to come.


Gestures.  Sacred Gestures.  The first sacred doorway.




And the second  sacred door is that of devotions.


·      Devotional prayer to Mary.  Saying a hail Mary.  Reciting the Rosary.

·      ‘Telling the beads’ on Rosary Procession

·      Visiting the graves of the witnesses to the apparition.

·      The Stations of the Cross.

·      Eucharistic Adoration, visiting the blessed Sacrament Chapel.


Devotions.  Sacred Devotions.  The second sacred doorway.



And the third door is the Sacraments of the Church, celebrated so beautifully here and so integral and part of the pilgrimage here at the Shrine in Knock.

·      The Eucharist, the Mass, the summit and source of our faith.

·      The Sacrament of the Sick.

·      The beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation.


It has so often been said that the great miracle of Knock along with the appearance of Mary is the large numbers of people going to Confession here.  Receiving the transforming, healing power of the forgiveness of God in the healing sacrament or reconciliation.


Sacraments.  Sacred Sacraments.  The third sacred doorway.


Theme of the Day

In entering those doorways here today we have encountered in the reading from St. Paul today at Mass the profound mystery of the Cross.  The Lord’s power is at its best in weakness.


For many of us come here today, conscious in our many challenges of our weakness, brokeness, need for healing, need to enter those sacred doorwarys to what brings us wholeness and healing.


When I am weak then I am strong…  St. Paul reminds us.


In coming here with our challenges, our weakness, our cares and petitions as we enter these sacred doorways, may we be enriched by the grace and comfort of God’s presence that lies beyond, these mysterious thresholds, that we call heaven, the foretaste of which we see in what is revealed here in this most sacred place that is Our Lady’s Shrine at Knock.