The pilgrimage centre and shrine at Knock in County Mayo commemorate the apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1879.
The Church recognises Knock as a pilgrimage centre and has given approval to the devotions that take place there. But as with Lourdes and Fatima, it makes no judgement about the reality of the original apparition. Everyone is free to make up their own mind, based on the historical evidence.
Organised pilgrimages come to Knock every Sunday, when tens of thousands of people throng the main street of the village. Here they encounter the numerous stalls selling religious objects. These stalls are prohibited within church grounds, but business is brisk among the pilgrims wishing to buy holy water bottles, Knock snowstorms, souvenir rock and rosary beads with the Knock apparition displayed on the junction.
Knock is located in one of the wettest counties in Ireland so the pilgrims know to come well prepared for rain. Due to the size constraints of the old church, the Sunday service has to take place outside. Canvas shelters have been erected to protect the stretcher cases from the elements.
The others have to sit for an hour or more in the driving rain, wrapped up like parcels in sheets of transparent plastic.
On a wet day this can be a trying experience. But none of the pilgrims would dream of leaving before the last part of the ceremony, when the priest performs the solemn blessing of the sick.
This episode of ‘Radharc’ was broadcast on 16 February 1971.