Launch of The Lamb will Conquer by Fr. Nigel Woollen, Saturday, 22nd of April, 2017, Our Lady’s Shrine, Knock
Introduction and opening remarks
It is a great delight and privilege for me to launch this beautiful publication: The Lamb will Conquer, Reflections on the Knock Apparitionby Fr. Nigel Woollen who is currently serving as curate here in the parish of Knock.
Memories of Knock
For most people of faith Our Lady’s Shrine here at Knock is indeed a very special place.
Coat of Arms
Last September when I was ordained bishop of Killaloe and one of my first duties was to chose a motto and coat of arms. The coat of arms of course would be partly representative of the the tradition I was coming from and partly looking ahead to the tradition of the place I was going to minister in the future, the diocse of Killaloe. One of the main symbols on the coat of arms are 3 stars or mullets representing the three main protagonists of the apparition of Knock: Mary, Mother of God, St. Joseph and St. John, the evangelist.
Witness to Hope
Knock is without doubt a very special hub for the faith, prayer and spirituality of the nation and world and in that regard it is going from strength to strength. Every good wish and blessing to Fr. Richard, Fr. Nigel and the outstanding team as they continue the wonderful work of the great project, Witness to Hopeand all contained in that in terms of renovations and faith development!
Hope of the Visit of Pope Francis
It is of course our great hope that Pope Francis will come to visit the Shrine in 2018 for the World meeting of families.
I have had the privilege of knowing Fr. Nigel for a number of years, since the Shrine and the Archdiocese of Tuam had the good fortune that he came to minister here! Tuam’s gain was certainly the loss of his native diocese. I think it might be safe to make the offer, in the absense of Archbishop Michael today to say that if Fr. Nigel ever felt like ministering for a while in Killaloe, generous terms and conditions could be negotiated!
I have always enjoyed Fr. Nigel’s gentle, easy manner, his wry sense of humour and quiet effective way he goes about doing things. Having being ordained in Ars the town that the famous curé, the Patron Saint of Parish Priests ministered, it is no surprise that Nigel brings his great gifts and qualities to play in being an excellent and much loved priest or curé of the Shrine here in Knock. With his deep spirituality, learning and biblical scholarship, it is no surprise either that Fr. Nigel has produced such a beautiful meditation on the meaning of the apparition of Knock.
The meditation, The Lamb will Conquer, Reflections on the Knock Apparitionis a lovely combination of narrative, theological insight, meditation, scriptural background, personal insights and practical application to live out the mesage of Knock. Written in a lucid, attractive writing style the publication is not an historical narrative and account of the story or history of Knock, like some other works, but cuts the core of what the message of Knock is for us today.
I love the description on page 13 of the book that here in Knock we have “A feeling that heaven touches earth in a particular way”.
On page 23 we are told that the reflection sets about to unpack what Fr. Nigel calls the “The Divine Secret” of Knock.
On page 24 I love the quotation from St. Teresa of Calcutta one of the most special visitors to the Shrine:
“The fruit of silence is prayer,
the fruit of prayer is faith,
the fruit of faith is love,
the fruit of love is service,
the fruit of service is peace.”
Elements of the Apparition
In a very organised, systematic way the author takes us through the elements of the apparition:
The text shows how in the view of the author St. Joseph, the “original quiet man (page 27) is an the “icon of the father” (page 28).
As we prepare for the World Meeting of Families in just over one year from now in that section Nigel offers an interesting meditation on fatherhood, marriage and family, with St. Joseph being a mentor or guide. In this section he concludes: “May St Joseph help us to leave the past to God’s mercy, the future to His providence, and the rest in the ‘present’ of His loving presence”. (Page 34)
There is an interesting reflection on the role of Grandparents in the handing on of faith on page 37 with Saints Joachim and Anne being their patron, a point fitting in so well in the Shrine that is home to much of the activity of the international Catholic Grandparents association.
St. John and Mary
There follows a beautiful reflection on Mary and St. John, St. John the “beloved disciple”, “faithful priest”, “teacher of the word of God”. According to Fr. Nigel on page 47 “Joseph learned from Mary how to become a father and John learned from her how to become a son.”
The Lamb, The Altar, The Cross
According to Fr Nigel it is in the contemplation of the Lamb along with the Cross and the Altar that we are at the heart of the Knock apparition. Here we are taken skillfully through the theology of Covenant, Sacrifice, Eucharist, Trinity, Resurrection and much of the meaning of the complex book of Revelation.
When it came to the conclusion, I thought I had at last got one up on Nigel as of yet there had been no mention of the angels who are part of the apparition. However in the conclusion he comes up trumps, to my dismay and in a delightful story we get an account of the young Fr. Nigel on a visit to Knock who as a result of a financial miscalculation and out of necessity had to bum a busfare to get him home. A kindly old lady called Angela miraculously appeared out of nowhere, on the feast of the Guardian Angels and came to the rescue, otherwise the young padre would have been homeless for the night!
Finally there is a beautiful reflection on what might be called the spirituality of “Home”. For many, including the author Knock has become a home, both physical and spiritual. He develops a sense of how Knock literally draws us, magnetises us towards our spiritual home in the vision of heaven that the Holy Shrine of Our Lady offers us.
This is not a volume to be rushed through in one sitting, even though considering it’s size and length one might be tempted to do so. Becasue of the richness and depth of thought it is a publication that in order to be appreciated best should be taken in sections, mulled over, slowly, meditatively, used in prayer and contemplated for the profound mystery, the “Divine Secret” it gradually unveils in such an erudite and eloquent manner.
Congratulations and Best wishes
I congratulate Fr. Nigel, the team from Veritas, especially Pamela, all Fr. Nigel’s colleagues here in Knock, Fr. Richard and all the staff. Well done on producing such an excellent resource that will be a valuable contribution to the devotional literature on Knock. I for one have been very edified in reading it and appreciate greatly what is revealed to us in this excellent publication.
It is my happy privilege to declare this book launched and I would not be in the least bit surprised if it was reprinted many times for future use of many pilgrims who come here to pray at this Holy Shrine where as Fr. Nigel says “Heaven and Earth meet”.
Comhgairdeachas, a Athair Nigel. Go maire tú do nuacht agus go dtuga an Mhaighdean bheannaithe, Naomh Seosamh agus Naomh Eoin a mbeannachtaí go fial duit agus tú ag saothrú anseo i gCnoc Mhuire agus pé áit a dtéann tú!