Mission in Ministry 2021:
Spiritual Dawn Chorus at Knock Shrine
The sun is shining, the birds are singing, a dawn chorus of spiritual excitement has arrived with the lifting of lockdown restrictions and the opening of the International Eucharistic and Marian Shrine at Knock. Pilgrims emerge from the nothing of nothingness of Covid restrictions, from the sheer hollowness and sterility of the virtual world to once again be englobed in a spiritual mystery of actualisation. Our spiritual lives are like a fingerprint that cannot be duplicated; we are a unique creation created in the image and likeness of God our creator.
The pilgrims trickle into the Shrine complex with hope in their hearts. They realise that the real world takes priority over the virtual world of Twitter and Facebook; the time for detached spirituality in front of a computer screen has come to an end. The pilgrims have genuine gratitude chiselled on their faces. The natural spiritual senses of smell, touch, taste, and sight have burst into song and life, consigning the staleness of the virtual to another realm.
The Sacrament of reconciliation beckons for most of the pilgrims, there is a sense of release and yet connectedness with God in the sacrament. An avalanche of sins are released and replaced by spiritual renewal, a reclaiming of the sacred in actuality. There is a palpable feeling among the pilgrims that a sense of the spiritual is being awakened from a period of enforced spiritual hibernation due to the Covid restrictions.
Pilgrims are now seeking spiritual companionship with fellow pilgrims; this companionship enables people to feel part of something more than themselves. There is spiritual solidarity among pilgrims that allows them to deepen and grow their faith in a way that is beyond words. It is solidarity of being in being with others in a spiritual search, a search without beginning or end, a journey, a pilgrimage beyond life and yet rooted in life. It is when the ego dies; the soul awakens in the spiritual dawn chorus.
The pilgrims move from the sacrament of reconciliation to the sacrament of the mass. The “mass”, a gathering of togetherness in thanksgiving, a sacrament of spiritual food to sustain us in our spiritual dawn chorus.
The rosary is recited in unison echoing a hypnotic mantra that transports the pilgrims to an inner sanctuary of spiritual familiarity. Pilgrims make the rounds of the apparition chapel reciting decades of the rosary inviting passers-by to join the spiritual incantations.
The Stations of the Cross meander round the undulating landscape daring the pilgrims to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. There is an unspoken invitation to reflect on our lives through the rawness of the stations and the suffering of Christ. The collecting of Holy Water is a mandatory obligation placed upon every pilgrim that visits the Shrine. The Holy Water is collected in an assortment of containers, all to be transported to the four corners of the world to protect, to bless and to heal. The Holy Water symbolises the life giving source of our spiritual dawn chorus.
The pilgrims display great faith that is founded on a deep sense of a profound prayer life. Prayer is our declaration of faith. We are nothing without prayer. Prayer is a demonstration of our trust in God. Prayer is the cornerstone of humility, and humility is an act of trust in God.
I am happy we can experience again the spiritual dawn chorus at the Shrine. I pray that all the pilgrims who will come to Knock Shrine in the coming months may be enriched by each other. I pray that we shall all be pilgrims in life’s journey of faith and join in the spiritual dawn chorus of alleluia, alleluia, we are back We are real. We are actual. We are community in faith as the pilgrims of life. Our Lady of Knock, pray for us. St. John the Evangelist, pray for us, St. Joseph, pray for us.
Denis C Hartnett mhm