The Apparition at Knock – A Critical Analysis of Facts and Evidence.
Monsignor Michal Walsh
Book Centre – Knock – Wednesday April 16th, 2008
I joyfully associate myself with the words of welcome at the beginning. It is my great privilege to come here today to Our Lady’s Shrine to launch the third edition of Mgr. Michael’s acclaimed study – The Apparition at Knock – A Critical Analysis of Facts and Evidence.
It is interesting that it is the third edition of this publication. A favourite phrase of my illustrious predecessor Archbishop Cunnane when he was Professor of Irish in St. Jarlath’s College was “Déan arís agus dean i gceart é”. I’m sure these words echoing this evening have no bearing on the fact that it is the third time this particular work has published. Third time lucky, after all they say…! In all seriousness, it gives me great delight to launch this revised and expanded version of this very fine work.
Mgr. Michael Walsh
My priesthood and commitment to being Archbishop of Tuam has been greatly enriched by knowing Mgr. Micahel Walsh. His service to the Archdiocese since he was ordained in 1946, 62 years ago has always been exemplary. I can say without hesitation that he is a man of outstanding intelligence, courtesy, dignity, loyalty, discretion and genuine prayerfulness.
Mgr. Michael excelled as a teacher during his time in St. Jartlath’s College. As diocesan secretary and as president he was liked and appreciated for his clarity and ability to explain even the most difficult aspects of the faith in simple and concise terms. That clarity, erudition and eloquence has been brought in abundance to his work as a priest and it is most especially evident in this fine work on Knock.
W.B.Yeats once said that “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire”.
It has also been said about teachers that:
A mediocre Teacher tells
A good one explains
A superior one shows
But a great ones inspires.
Mgr. Michael through combining his sharpness of intellect through his humanity and understanding of God’s love and compassion inspired and lit a fire of interest in so many that he has encountered in his faithful and exemplary ministry as educationalist, administrator and pastor.
Just a couple of weeks ago Canon Kieran Waldrons book on the history of Archbishops of Tuam for the past 300 years was published. It has often been said that if Mgr. Michael was to write that book that he would have some interesting insights and anecdotes to offer on some recent prelates! One would have the feeling that it might top the best seller list straight away!
Native of Aghamore
Being a native of Aghamore, the neighbouring parish of Knock, it is perhaps little wonder that Mgr. Michael would have such an interest in Knock Shrine, an interest and devotion that he maintained and developed all his life.
The book, The Apparition at Knock is very comprehensive account of the story of Knock. It gives an account of the life and times and faith of the people of the area along with the attitude of the Church and clergy at a local level and in Rome from the time of the apparition to the present day.
Investigation, emerging authenticity and approval
The intricacies of the critical analysis of fact and evidence are presented in legible and logical manner. The Commission, investigation and the gradual emergence of official Church approval is well documented in all the pains taking detail and research that was part of that process. The comment of
G.K.Chesterton comes to mind when he tells us that he became a Catholic because “he did not want a Church that was right when he was right, but a Church that was right when he was wrong.”
The three new chapters greatly enhance this publication in this edition. Chapter 10 on “other apparitions” recounts the full story of the unsuccessful attempts by a Protestant Policeman to reproduce the apparition. Many will find this interesting and fascinating. Chapter 16 on the “Scriptural Meaning of the Apparition” and Chapter 17 on “The Blessed Eucharist” add significantly to the work in that a lot of the Monsignor’s own spirituality along with a deep understanding of scriptural allusions and the theology of Knock are developed and explained. Fr. Tom Lane added significantly to the literature on this in his work Reflecting at Knock, that was launched in this very location last year. I was pleased to see also in the Chapter on “The Knock Devotions” the contribution of Mgr. Joe Quinn who does and outstanding job in administering the Shrine complex here in Knock.
Centre for the Sacrament of Reconciliation
The Chapter on the “Knock Devotion” comments on the central role of the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the shrine which is certainly a great grace offered to the Irish Church through Knock. I read somewhere recently that grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve. Mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we do deserve. The Shrine in reflecting the forgiveness, love grace and mercy of God is being utterly faithful to the message of the apparition.
Knock – a place of silence and quiet reflection
In the preface to the book I remarked that the silent Apparition has a “special significance for a noisy world today as it calls for and challenges us to contemplation”. The quiet, devotional atmosphere of Knock allows us to enter into that sacred space. In her poem “High Tide” Evelyn Underhill prays:
“Flood thou my soul with thy great quietness, let thy wave of silence from the deep roll in on me…”
Mary – Leading us to Christ
Pope John Paul II when reflecting on the Rosary described it as “an experience of contemplating the face of Christ in the presence of Mary”. Praying in Knock gives us a chance to encounter Jesus in the company of Mary. Mgr. Walsh’s reflections in this book high-lights and underlines this for the reader.
Story of “Lucky Jack”
In his introduction to Christianity – the then Joseph Ratzinger recounts the story of lucky Jack, a German folktale and parable. Jack finds a large lump of gold. As he is walking along, he decides the lump is too heavy to carry and so he exchanges it for a horse, then the horse for a cow, the cow for a goose, and finally the goose for a wheat-stone. He then tosses the wheat-stone into a nearby stream, on the premise that he is not giving up anything of real value and by tossing it away he gains complete freedom. Ratzinger questions how long this “intoxication” lasts, being akin to throwing out the baby with the bath-water. He drew similarities with the Church in recent times.
This volume of Mgr. Walsh, The Apparition at Knock – preserves that nugget of gold, what is truly valuable in the treasure of our faith and particularly in great tradition of Knock and its literature. We are indebted to the Monsignor for that. I look forward to the 4th edition, when this edition is sold out. It is my happy duty to declare this fine work of history, theology, scripture and devotion formally launched. Mgr. Michael – I congratulate you and wish you health and happiness, peace and serenity and the best of God’s blessings in your active retirement.