Published Saturday, October 31, 2009, 3:31 PM

My friends,

Somewhere in Ireland right now, there are some sadly misguided Irish Catholic priests who are probably just plain dee-lighted that thousands of the faithful went home in disappointment from the Knock Shrine without having seen the Blessed Virgin Mary appear.

"I told ya so!" they'll crow — hopefully to themselves — that they have the last laugh at all those dupes who flocked to the County Mayo shrine in hopes of seeing an apparition of Mary.

Doing his best to destroy faith before the "scheduled" event, Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary said: "Such events are to be regretted rather than encouraged.

"It is not healthy, does not give glory to God and certainly is not good witness to the faith to be looking for extraordinary phenomena," he said.

Referring to the acknowledged apparition of 1879, Neary said that miraculous event "was neither sought nor expected by the humble, honest people who were its astonished witnesses. Their faith reveals the patience and humility that characterizes true belief. The Shrine of Knock is living witness to that faith

"Unfortunately, recent events at the shrine obscure this essential message — they risk misleading God's people and undermining faith."

What utter nonsense! And what a shocking — though these days, sadly typical — display of foolish arrogance by the Irish Catholic Church hierarchy. Practice does seem to make perfect for them in this regard, as their closing parishes and emptying pews can attest.

Telling the faithful that hope — including the hope of a miraculous event — is EVER inappropriate, "unhealthy" and "to be regretted" is as un-Christian a pronouncement as can be imagined. Neary may believe that the great hope that such an event triggered — if and when it did not happen — would cause a loss of faith, but this is idiotic. Should people stop praying lest their prayers are not instantly answered? Of course not!

Neary correctly recalls that the witnesses to the events of 1879 were "humble, honest people" who did not expect to see a miracle. But what does that make the people who flocked to Knock today — arrogant, dishonest people? That they believed — or wanted to believe — a self-styled "clairvoyant" whose prediction of an apparition drew throngs to the Basilica is no reason to impugn their faith and certainly not their humility and honesty.

The bishop's wild path away from the Life and Example of Jesus Christ was made worse by his puzzling remark about why it is now apparently wrong to "expect to see" a miracle. Did those who witnessed the many miracles done by Our Lord expect to see them? If they did, the New Testament contains a lot of errors; people seemed pretty surprised when Lazarus was raised from the dead.

I wonder if Neary might let us pray for just one miracle — that the Irish Catholic Church could be raised from the dead? He may be right about not investing too much hope in that one. That REALLY "risks misleading God's people and undermining faith."

God bless you all!

— Father Tim