Knock Shrine, Ireland: A Mill Hill Missionary’s Inspiring Experience
Seasonal Greetings from Knock Shrine
Another year has run its course and we are another year into the pandemic which teases us between thinking we have done well, to having us feel will it ever end. I guess we shall just have to live with it for a long time to come. I have had two vaccine injections and managed to get my booster vaccine on Sunday the 7th November but yet I will need to be careful as we try to protect each other and those around us.
The Shrine at Knock was elevated to the status of International Eucharistic and Marian Shrine during the year. The summer saw large numbers of pilgrims coming to Knock Shrine when the restrictions were eased. Many pilgrims were seeking healing, new beginnings, forgiveness, an ability to let go of past hurts, or just a yearning to begin life again. Other pilgrims sought peace and tranquillity in the grounds of Knock Shrine to reflect on and to re-energise their spiritual lives.
I am here now a little over a year together with Fr Gerald Doyle my fellow Mill Hill Missionary. I find my experience here very rewarding and indeed I consider it a great responsibility and privilege to journey with people who are engaged in seeking, searching and wanting something better in life. Many people are vulnerable and yet strong in their faith and their purpose in life. Much of the year was spent online with masses, spiritual talks, devotions and rosaries but through the government vaccine programme the Shrine at Knock has again opened and it is great to have so many people attending and participating at mass and other liturgies in person.
You can see the delight on the faces of people who come to Knock Shrine, there is a relief that spiritually they can interact in a tangible way. Our faith and our spiritual lives are very communal. We journey not in isolation as individuals; but as a community united in our faith. Knock Shrine is like our home, our spiritual home where we can hang our spiritual coats and feel at ease.
Knock Shrine is very much a “synodal spiritual shrine” where people can listen, share, and feel mission beyond words unfold in their spiritual lives. There is a tactility present as people utter ancient mantras that give focus and meaning to life. Knock Shrine is very much a “spiritual compass” that facilitates real spiritual direction. The grounds of Knock Shrine allow us to feel the seasons and at the same time to reflect on our responsibility to spiritually care for our planet.
In many ways Knock Shrine is a “futuristic place” as it continually evolves in answering the signs of the times in the needs of the pilgrims. It is the embodiment of spirituality in constant flow responding to the now of life as lived in the lives of the people who come to visit and who seek assurance. The physical presence of Knock Shrine challenges secularism that is endemic within our society. Each of us can give witness by what we do in life and by what we say and by how we act. Knock Shrine enables us to stop looking for magic in life and to embrace miracle through living the word of God and by allowing that word to become flesh in our lives.
The pandemic has taught us the need for spirituality in our lives and also how fragile we are as human beings. It is clear we need each other more than ever as a community. Knock Shrine will always give hope, will always be a place of prayer and forgiveness, will always be a place of new beginnings for listening, journeying together and undertaking mission in love and service.
I am conscious as I am finishing this article that a new variant called “omicron” is making an appearance in our world. The Corona Virus is evolving and I am sure there will be many variants during the coming years but we can evolve spiritually as well. We can share our lives in ways that enrich and yet protect each other. We can move closer to God as we reflect more and more.
We have embarked upon a synodal journey within the Church, a journey of listening in the sacrament of reconciliation, a journey of sharing together in the mystery of the Eucharist, a journey of mission in the living out of our baptismal calling.
It is my wish this Christmas that people may continue to explore their spiritual lives. I pray that all of us may deepen and enrich our faith. I pray that we may all safely celebrate the Lord’s coming and that the year ahead may be filled with many graces and blessings.
May our Lady of Knock bless and protect us. May Saint Joseph continue to watch over us and guide us in our lives of love and service as we journey together within the synodal church.
Denis C Hartnett mhm
Mill Hill Missionaries