In Knock, Ireland, the Mother of God appeared in a simple but profound way.
It was the evening of Aug. 21, 1879, when she appeared to 15 people on the wall of a parish church. Accompanying Mary was St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, and a lamb. She stood in front of an altar, where the lamb rested, with her hands folded as if she was praying. The apparition lasted two hours and Mary never spoke a word. She simply stood there in front of the altar and lamb with her hands folded. This apparition may point to who Mary is and what her role is more than anything else in Scripture. Maybe even any other apparition, as well.
In her silence she said so much. Like any child knows, a mother’s silence is powerful. But why is Mary so quiet, so often? Like all questions about Mary I look to my own mom to answer the question.
I focused on my childhood, especially when I was little, since I have three brothers including a twin. Because of all the boys in the house, we had many fights growing up. I remember one particularly nasty one between my twin brother and I.
I don’t remember exactly what it was about but I know it involved a brawl in the backyard. Mom was in the kitchen cooking and was at the window which overlooked the backyard. She called us in and ordered me up to my room and my brother to the basement (she couldn’t tell us just to go to our rooms because we shared one). She didn’t tell us how long we’d be there or did she say anything else. She just told us where to go and gave no other details.
After a period of time which felt like hours, but was probably about 10 minutes, Mom ended up calling both of our names: “Thomas, Michael!” In my house growing up that meant that you went running to Mom right away. You didn’t ask, “What?” or “I’m in my room …,” you simply got up and went to her. This was a fact for one reason: If Mom is calling us, and she is in desperate need, and we don’t go, then we are letting her down. Maybe there’s a fire that started in the kitchen or maybe she is carrying a load of laundry down the stairs and she fell. Whatever it might be, she could need help, and if she’s calling us, she is counting on us to be there with her.
So we both left our designated punishment areas and arrived together in the kitchen where Mom was preparing dinner. As we entered she did not even look at us; Mike and I did not look at one another. There was an awkward pause that formed into a silent minute or two. In that silence Mike and I eventually met eyes and looked at each other, then one of us mustered up the first word and said, “I’m sorry man.” The other said the same thing, Mom looked at us, and motioned for us to get out of there. She made us realize how ridiculous we were both acting by not saying a word; in the silence she pointed us to what was true.
That is the role of Mary as intercessor. She sits at the side of her son and brings to him every need that we ask her to help us with. Every time we call out to Mary with our prayers and needs she calls out to her son and says, “Jesus.” Just like my mom would do to me and my brothers. Jesus like any good son must run to his mother’s side and do whatever she asks of him. That is the role of Mary and that is why she is powerful.
Our Lady of Knock does the same thing; she does not say a word because our focus is not meant to be on her, our focus is meant to be on what is behind her: the lamb and the altar.
Mary’s whole life and mission is to bring us closer to her son. Mary knows like any good mother that in her silence she tells us everything. No matter what our family is like, what country we are from, or what culture we are brought up in, Mary speaks to all of us by saying nothing. Mary’s yes brings Jesus into the world, and he is the source of all mercy. Therefore, mercy and Mary have a unique and intense connection. It is only when we are silent like Mary that we place ourselves in the perfect position to receive all that her son desires to give us. It is then that we are exposed to accepting his mercy and love in a way that will forever change us.
Mary tells us to always, always focus on her son and all he has to offer us. Primarily, he wishes to shower us with mercy, life, hope, and forgiveness. And the fount that all of these things flow from is the cross. For us today this mystery continues at each and every Mass across the world. Mary’s silence points us to her son, to the fact that he is with us, and that he is not going anywhere.
Spend time with Mary, ask for her prayers. Be silent with her and watch as she brings you to her son, the source of mercy. This is her mission: to aid us in seeing just how close her son is to all of us. Like any good mother, she desires to help her son accomplish what is most important to him, and that is having us realize that he is here.
TO LEARN MORE:
Knock Shrine: Knockshrine.ie
The feast day of Our Lady of Knock is Aug. 21 For a prayer to Our Lady of Knock and for additional information, visit CatholicTradition.org/Mary/Knock.htm.