The month of May is commonly associated with devotions to the Virgin Mary - "The Queen of May". We celebrate by remembering tales of apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Ireland.
May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary are a series of Marian devotions held in the Catholic Church throughout the month of May.
Mary's connection to the month of May dates back to the 13th century and May devotions spread around the Roman Catholic Church in earnest in the 1800s.
In 1965, Pope Paul VI identified the month as an opportune time to incorporate special prayers for peace into traditional May devotions.
In Ireland, there have been several reported religious apparitions of May over the course of several centuries. Here are some of the more famous ones to celebrate "The Queen of May".
Virgin and Child on stump in Rathkeale, Limerick
Legend has it that a female specter which haunted the churchyard in Rathkeale, Limerick, was so terrifying that all who looked upon her died soon after. A local man banished the ghost by slicing off her arm with his sword and praying for the rest of the night.
In an odd coincidence in 2009, the Limerick Newswire reported that a tree stump in the churchyard contains the image of the Virgin Mary and Child and that hundreds of visitors had come to the area to pray.
Weeping Statue in Dungloe at the Kerrytown shrine in Donegal (2009)
The Independent reports that on September 29, 2009, fourteen people claimed to witness crosses that formed in the sky above the shrine, before the statue became animated and began to weep. The shrine had become a popular site after producing a religious apparition seventy years ago.
Kerrytown, Donegal (1939)
Perhaps further supporting the 2009 visions in Dungloe, visions were reported here in 1939 also. An apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared on a dark knight to be shining bright on a nearby granite rock.
Rocking Virgin Mary at Ballinspittle grotto in Cork
Cathy O'Mahony and her mother observed the statue of the Virgin Mary rocking on its heels on July 22, 1985. The following night they returned with friends who observed the same event. Since this time, tens of thousands of people have visited the shrine in the hope of seeing something. The Independent reports more recently that O’Mahony stands by her observations, despite others ridiculing her.
Knock Shrine in Knock, Mayo
Arguably the most famous of Irish apparitions, the Knock Shrine vision occurred on August 21, 1879, at about 8 o'clock. Our Lady, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist appeared in a blaze of Heavenly light at the south gable of Knock Parish Church in Mayo. The site is now a largely visited spot for devout Catholics.
Carns Grotto in Sligo
In 1985, four teenage girls reportedly saw a vision of Our Lady and St. Bernadette on a west Sligo road, which had the effect of feeling what they say was like “an electric shock” on their bodies. A shrine has since been built at the Carns Grotto site, and the four women remain steadfast in their belief of what they saw that evening.
Ardboe in Tyrone
In August 1954, Teresa Grimes saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in a nearby bush. In the days following, women in Antrim also reported seeing visions of the Virgin. Crowds flocked to the area for the Immaculate Conception that December.
Melleray Grotto in Waterford
In 1985, a local teenager, Ursula O’Rourke, said the Blessed Virgin appeared to her and delivered to her several messages. During the following days, several other people saw apparitions at the site and received similar messages as Ursula.
Visions of the Virgin Mary in Bessbrook, Armagh
In 1987, teenager Mark Trainor and housewife Beulah Lynch began to have visions of the Virgin Mary at the Lady of Lourdes shrine in Bessbrook, Armagh. Similar to Melleray Grotto, the visions continued during the next several days, and messages were delivered to seers there.
Eamon de Valera’s vision of Christ
In 2010, a biography of Eamon de Valera reported that the former Irish president had a vision of Christ at Blackrock College in 1928, two years after he founded Fianna Fáil.
*Originally published in 2016, last updated in December 2020.