People leaving the basilica were saying that Coleman and Henderson had indeed seen the Virgin Mary who had passed on "a message." The message (Don't put your money in Irish banks? Bring Andy Reid back into the Irish soccer squad?) was not divulged.
But Coleman predicted that there would be another, even better, apparition at Knock on December 8. He has also claimed that these Knock appearances by Our Lady were preceded by another apparition by her in September in a remote part of Donegal.
The local bishop and clergy in Knock are not happy about all this fanatical devotion, however. Bishop Neary, who had advised people to stay away, deplored the behavior as unhealthy and said it was bringing Knock into disrepute.
He pointed out that the apparition in 1879 had been neither sought nor expected, in contrast with these supposed apparitions which were being predicted and publicized in advance, leading to high levels of expectation among thousands of people. He could have said gullible, desperate people.
Meanwhile this headache for Bishop Neary is not going to go away any time soon. Coleman, who left Knock on Saturday afternoon claiming he had witnessed an apparition and had received communication from the Virgin Mary, has predicted that a third apparition on December 8 will be even more significant. And an even bigger crowd is expected.
You could dismiss all this as mass hysteria, although a lot of the people claiming to have seen the sun dancing in the sky over Knock last Saturday seem perfectly sane.
There may be a simpler explanation, of course. Coleman had predicted that the Virgin would appear "in the sky over Knock,” so the vast crowd was looking upwards.
And if you look at the sun for long enough it will indeed dance and when you look away you will indeed see shapes, as your eyes recover from the brightness. That and the waves of emotion and religious fervor sweeping through the crowd probably explains a lot.
Although I could be completely wrong and I may burn in Hell for daring to write Godless stuff like this. But for me (and all the other Dublin sophisticates) the answer is clear.
It cannot be an accident that this visionary, fundamentalist behavior is happening at a time of great uncertainty and unhappiness here when the country is grappling with its biggest economic crisis ever. (Maybe the Virgin's message on Saturday was "NAMA is not the answer!")
You may remember that the last time we had an outbreak of mass religious hysteria here was back in the mid-eighties when we had the moving statue phenomenon. People all over the country were standing before small Marian shrines for hours and seeing statues moving and weeping.
The mid-eighties, you will remember, was a time when we had a serious economic downturn in Ireland and there was mass emigration, which probably included some people now reading this page. And if you go back to the original apparition at Knock in 1879, that happened at a time of great upheaval and stress in Ireland. It was not long after the last pockets of famine in the west, and it was during the agitation of the Land War.
In the Knock area these tensions had been particularly high at the time of the apparition.
Coincidence? I don't think so.
All together now ... Faith of our fathers, Holy Faith, we will be true to thee 'til death ...