Up to 150,000 people from across Ireland have been making their way to Knock, Co. Mayo within the last week for the Annual Novena at the Basilica of Our Lady Knock.
On the evening of August 21, 1879, fifteen local people, young and old, attested to having seen a miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist along with an altar with a cross and the figure of a lamb and angels.
Two Commissions of Enquiry - one in 1879 and one in 1936 - accepted their testimonies as trustworthy.
The organizers of the 38th annual Knock Novena have estimated that up to 150,000 people will travel from all across Ireland for the nine-day pilgrimage at the site of the 1879 apparition.
Along with daily prayers and mass, the novena will host many workshops and seminars, and an array of interesting speakers. The theme of this year’s event will be ‘Witness to hope,’ focusing on honoring the 15 witnesses of the 1879 apparition and highlight the hope and prayers for the renewal of the church in Ireland.
Dominican Friar Timothy Radcliffe, who’s faced criticism in the past for his liberal views on homosexuality, will lead a seminar entitled ‘Mary: A Witness to Hope for Today.’
Elma Walsh, the mother of late 16-year-old Donal Walsh, who died of cancer one year ago and left behind an important anti-suicide message for teenagers, will give a talk entitled “Living Life to the Full.”
Additionally, Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran, who resigned from the Mater Hospital board over their compliance with the new abortion legislation, will deliver a speech entitled “My Hope for the Church.” Other speakers include Jesuit Friar David Neuheus, Bishop of Raphoe Phillip Boyce and Reverend professor Eamon Conway of Mary Immaculate College in Limerick.
Knock Parish priest Friar Richard Gibbons will also introduce the new ‘faith renewal program’ at this year’s novena – an initiative intended to ‘give people a practical as well as an intellectual approach to the lives of pilgrims.’