By Lydia O’Kane
This Sunday, 26 January, will mark the inaugural “Sunday of the Word of God”, which will be dedicated to the celebration, study and spreading of God’s Word.
As part of this celebration, Ireland’s National Marian Shrine at Knock will participate at a Mass presided over by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Basilica.
During Sunday's Eucharistic celebration, a new pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Knock, which was commissioned to celebrate the 140th Anniversary of the apparition at Knock in 1879, will be displayed at the Papal Altar.
The statue was blessed by the Pope in Rome last year following his visit to the shrine during the World Meeting of Families in 2018.
The story of the apparition is a unique one. On the 21 August 1879 fifteen people in the village of Knock watched for two hours in the pouring rain as Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, a Lamb and a cross on an altar appeared to them at the gable wall of the Parish Church.
On the occasion of the 140th anniversary of the apparition last year, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, addressed the National Novena in Knock. Following his visit, the shrine was invited to participate in a prominent way at the inaugural “Sunday of the Word of God” Mass.
The Knock Shrine is situated in the Archdiocese of Tuam in the west of Ireland, which is the largest diocese in the country.
The Archbishop, Michael Neary, who will be participating at Sunday’s Mass, spoke of his delight that Knock was involved in this way, calling it a “privilege”.
The importance of silence
The apparition of 1879 was a silent one, and the Archbishop noted that, “for the Word of God to be in a position to take root, there is a need for a welcoming in silence.”
He went on to say that, “when you consider the proliferation of words today in chat shows and all of that, maybe what we need is time for silence. A silence that will be creative, receptive, and a silence that will enable us to listen to what is really taking place.”
The "Sunday of the World of God" was established by Pope Francis in his Apostolic Letter “Aperuit illis”, and is to be celebrated on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Pope Francis, said Archbishop Neary, has emphasized that “the Word of God can never be just the preserve of a few… that the Word of God is for everyone.”
Many people from the Parish of Knock and farther afield are coming to Rome for this celebration and the Archbishop said there is great excitement surrounding the occasion.
He also said a choir from Knock, which will perform on Sunday, has been rehearsing very hard in preparation for the celebration in St Peter’s Basilica.