Monday, January 29, 2007

The Knock Apparition and Purgatory - 3

Continued from Part 2

3. An Objection Answered

But the objection may be urged that we may not infer that Knock was due to the intercession of the souls in purgatory, for, in making such an inference are we not confronted with the well-known fallacy - post hoc, ergo propter hoc? This maxim is paraphrased thus: the fact that one event follows another does not warrent the conclusion that the latter was caused by or connected with the former. In relation to Knock the maxim can be applied as follows: the fact that the apparition followed on the offering of a hundred Masses for the holy souls does not prove that it was due to their intercession or that there was any connection whatever between the two events.
To the difficulty raised we offer the following reply. The objection fails to recognize those significant aspects of the apparition, already noted, and the particular circumstances surrounding the offering of the hundred Masses for the holy souls. Assembled together, these factors would seem to be convincing testimony that the apparition was due to the intercession of the souls in purgatory.
Especially does the above objection defeat itself in not taking account of the pointedly significant fact that about twelve hours after the offering of the hundredth Mass for those other-world sufferers there occured an apparition, which, like a spark of eternal glory, seemed to reflect within itself the gratitude and the consuming desire of the inhabitants of purgatory - the gratitude of those who had attained to heaven's resplendence bright; the consuming desire of others not yet comforted by the vision of the Lamb of God in glory.
We trust that the following reflection may prove a fitting conclusion to this section. Who among us would be so rash, or rather so faithless, as to say that there is no connection between the solemn defintion of our Lady's Immaculate Conception as a dogma of faith in the year 1854 and the words "I am the Immaculate Conception" spoken four years later by Mary in the grotto at Lourdes? Does not the Catholic world see in this fact Heaven's grateful ratification of the Church's solemn definition? And would it not likewise appear to be in full accord with Catholic instinct to say that the apparition at Knock was, in the providence of God, purgatory's grateful and immediate acknowledgement (8) of the sacrifice which had been enacted in the Mass a hundred times for its suffering members?

May 14th - 1879 - August 21st

On the morning of the fourteenth of May, 1879, Archdeacon Cavanagh with a joyful and generous heart ascended to the unpretentious altar in Knock church to offer the first of one hundred Masses for the holy souls. Day after day he placed the infinite fruits of the Adorable Sacrifice in the hands of "the ever Immaculate Mother of God" that she might hasten for her suffering children the blessed vision of God. Thus did he enter into that "extreme and pure love" of Christ for the souls in purgatory. (9) For through the Mass he loved them in Christ's own way by sharing in the divine fire of his longing to make amends for them.
It was Blessed Mary of Providence who said that "the heart of a helper, so close to purgatory, must be always on fire". Justly may it be affirmed that these beautiful words were realized in due measure in the heart of Archdeacon Cavanagh. For love's secret kinship with those other-world sufferers had urged him to take into his heart the flame of their desire to render now at last to God the love that should have been life's generous offering. The holy souls had found in this priest one who had made himself their representative and their victim.
For more than fourteen weeks throughout the summer and early autumn of 1879 Archdeacon Cavanagh was faithful to his morning tryst of love and mercy with the holy souls. At last came the memorabel day of the twenty-first of August. In the morning at the usual hour the Archdeacon offered Mass for the hundredth time for the lonely suffering mulitudes in purgatory. And that evening, but a few feet away from the altar of sacrifice on earth, our Lady appeared as Queen and Mediatrix contemplating in Heaven the sacred mystery of the Lamb's redeeming sacrifice. It should be remermbered that only a narrow passage which served as a sacristy separated the apparition gable from the altar of the church.
The oft-repeated sacrifice of the Mass had reconciled many of those other-world sufferers to God "by the cross" (Cf. Ephesians 2:16) and had given them access to the vision of the Lamb of God in glory. The apparition at Knock was purgatory's grateful and immediate acknowledgement of the redeeming sacrifice. ...
But viewed in the present context the apparition means something more. For if we think that mulitudes of souls continued to languish in purgatory after the offering of the hundred Masses we are still in full accord with expert theological teaching on this point. And further still: of the 6,000 people who on an average die each hour (which amounts to 144,000 every day) how many of that vast and daily repeated number of souls are ready to be admitted to the immediate vision of God? All this has led us to believe that while the holy souls expressed their gratitude in so admirable a manner in the design of the Knock apparition, they likewise expressed by means of the self-same design, and, in a true sense continue to express with tremendous urgency their voiceless pleadings for the constant renewal of the Adorable Sacrifice on their behalf.
Since it would seem, then, that the Knock apparition was obtained by the intercession of the holy souls we should show our gratitude for so singular a grace by continually helping them. Among the many means of showing mercy to them, the Mass occupies a place apart. For when we have Mass offered or assist at Mass for these afflicted ones we enter into our Lord's own love for them and speed them on their way to the city that "hath no need of the sun, nor of the moon, to shine in it. For the glory of God hath enlighted it: and the Lamb is the lamp thereof" (Apocalypse 21:23).


(1) Liam Ua Cadhain, Venerable Archdeacon Cavanagh, Knock Shrine Society, 1953, pp. 45-46.
(2) Rev. Michael Walsh, The Apparition at Knock, The Leinster Leader Limited, Naas, 1955, p. 113.
(3) Inside, a narrow passage which served as a sacristy ran parallel between the gable and the altar of the church.
(4) "To sum up the character of the apparition, we can say there is in it nohting that is ridiculous or extravagent: it is regular, reasonable and harmonious in design" - Rev. Michael Walsh, op. cit. p. 77
(5) Excerpts from prayers in Masses for the dead.
(6) Council of Trent, Session XXV (Denzinger 983).
(7) "If our faith ... were sufficiently ardent to remove every obstacle and thus to prepare for the Host the same reception that the purifying process of purgatory effects for eternal life, the results would be almost the same. Filled with the eucharistic life by Communion, even those here on earth would be transformed in God as are the elect in Heaven." - Bernardot, O.P., From Holy Communion to the Blessed Trinity, Sands & Co., London, 1959, p. 21.
(8) Acknowledgement - in the sense that it was the holy souls who obtained, by their intercession , the heavenly favour of the apparition.
(9) Cf. Saint Catherine of Genoa, Treatise on Purgatory, chapter IX.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Knock Apparition and Purgatory - 2

Continued from Part 1

2. Vision of Peace

An intense love for the "ever Immaculate Mother of God" and her children suffering in purgatory - these were the two characteristics which strongly marked the deep piety of Venerable Archdeacon Cavanagh, Parish Priest of Knock at the time of the apparition.
"Several months before the apparition, Archdeacon Cavanagh found he could gratify his holy desire of saying one hundred Masses for the souls in purgatory whom our Blessed Mother most wished released. The great poverty of the people deprived him of the temporal help which other priests have from the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice for the intentions of the people. He made it known that he rejoiced to find he was free to follow his desire and to offer the adorable sacrifice for these holy souls in purgatory" (1) .
On the morning of the twenty-first of August, 1879, this saintly priest, standing before the altar of Knock church, had the happiness of completing his incomparable gift of mercy in favour of the holy souls - the last of the hundred Masses had been offered (2). In the evening of that same day the exterior of the south gable-end (3) of the church and some space around it were enveloped in a radiance not of earth.
In the profoundest spaces of this light there was a vision which, in serveral of its features, has rightly been considered apocalyptic in character. The vision had a focal point of supreme significance: a Lamb, facing towards the other figures of the apparition, was standing on a fullsized altar. Behind the Lamb and away from Him, a large cross stood erect on the altar. Triumphant over death and radiating the splendours of his glory, this Lamb clearly represented Jesus - the risen and glorified Lamb of God - who redeemed us by His sacrifice.
From the silent summits of contemplation that overlook the eternal city Our Lady gazed with immortal rapture on the divine Lamb and she was so transformed in His beauty and gladdened by His presence that it seemed as if a fountain of joy had broken in her heart. She appeared as if completely, yet serenely, held by the wonder and glory of her vision which shone upon her in a revelation which eternity will never exhaust. She did not speak. The beauty of her vision had ravished every human utterance from her lips.
We confine ourselves to these few features of the apparition which are especially relevant to our present purpose.
It should be noted that in its varied components the glorious spectacle was moulded to exquisite harmony (4) and reflected that tranquility of order which is eternal peace. The entire scene reposed in that silence which is one with beauty and breathed the calm of evelasting love. It pointed unmistakably to "rest and life everlasting" and a "rejoicing in the glory of heaven for evermore" (5).
The more we consider this aspect of the apparition the more reasonable does it appear to say that in imagery and symbolism adapted to the weakness of our human comprehension, it was a showing forth of the glorious vision for which the souls in purgatory are continually yearing and to which many of them had already attained through the Sacrifice of the Mass which had just been offered the hundredth time for them in the church at Knock.
So vast are the spiritual resources of Knock, so endless is its wealth of mystery and meaning, that, in our opinion, it lends itself convincingly to this interpretation without the least prejudice to other aspects of the apparition. Such admirable harmony can only be explained by the presence of truth informing and enriching its design.
There is another way of showing that the apparition owes its singular design to the intercession of the holy souls. In a very special sense, Knock is a manifestation of the eucharistic mystery, for it reveals the Lamb of God, standing as One glorified, on the altar of His own sacrifice. In this we see that the Mass which had been so often offered in Knock church for the relief and release of the holy souls is very significantly shown forth in the apparition; very significantly, we say, for while the souls in purgatory are helped "chiefly by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar" (6), the reception of its fruits in the Holy Eucharist is the most effective means by which we may avoid purgatory (7). The holy souls thus show their deep interest in our spiritual welfare.
But God willed that the souls in purgartory should seal the apparition whith a further sign that it was due to their interecessory power. For Our Lady, in whose hands had been placed the fruits of the hundred Masses offered for her suffering children, appears at Knock as Queen and Mediatrix contemplating, in the glory of Heaven, the sacred mystery of the Lamb's redeeming sacrifice. For her and for her children the Lamb of God is salvation, everlasting life, blessedness and rest.
In these three aspects of the apparition which we have just noted there is intrinsic evidence - that is, evidence in the very design of the apparition itself - that it was due to the intervention of the holy souls.
Thus did these saintly sufferers who "wait with silence for the salvation of God" (Lamentations 3:26) mark unmistakably the blessed vision of peace with the voiceless grateful accents of their powerful intercession. While God would draw the apparition back into the abyss of His own hiddenness, its grace will ever breathe a deep sense of joy; Knock will forever be a kiss from the loving, yearning hearts of purgatory.

To be continued

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Knock Apparition and Purgatory - 1

By Father Hubert, O.F.M.Cap.

The following article constitutes the closing chapter of a manuscript, "The Mystery of Purgatory" by Father Hubert, O.F.M.Cap. of Kilkenny, Ireland, which is as yet unpublished. This chapter appeared in the 1962 Knock Shrine Annual and it was repeated in the same publication in 1967 upon the request of many readers and of the editor. We are privileged to reproduce it here with the author's kind permission. (Fatima Findings, February 1972)

1. A Well-Founded Tradition

Was the Knock apparition obtained through the intercession of the souls in purgatory? Tradition affirms it to be a fact. Fortunately an early and enlighening expression of the tradition found its way into print in a very natural way. Here is how it happened. In the month of August, 1888 (just nine years after the apparition) a person who had recourse to Our Lady of Knock received a particular grace. In thanksgiving, the client had a leaflet printed and circulated. We quote, as originally printed, the relevant sections of the leaflet:

From the commencement the devotion to Our Lady of Knock had been connected with compassion for the Holy Souls. It was after 100 Masses had been offered for the souls in purgatory by the good Parish Priest that the ... apparition took place and pilgrims began to resort to Knock. Ever since a sepecial charity for the souls in purgatory has been a very marked feature of the piety of the faithful at Knock. ...

As, therefore, Our Lady of Genazzano is known as the Mother of Good Counsel and Our Lady of Lourdes is remembered in connection with the Immaculate Conception, may not Our Lady of Knock be very fitly styled the HELPER OF THE HOLY SOULS AND MOTHER OF THE CHURCH SUFFERING?

Is not her compact with those who seek a grace at Knock: "Help my suffering children in purgatory and I will be a Mother to you"?

Owing to the tradition in question one might not unreasonably hope to find in the features of the appartion some discernable sign revealing the intervention of the holy souls. But such a sign does not readily suggest itself. Even so, not just one but several such signs are present, and once discovered, they appear as unmistakable.
That the intercessory influence of purgatory should not be immediately evident is surely in keeping with the ways of God. For the holy souls have entered into the casting off and forgetting of all that is of self. Hiddenness and silence are characteristics of purgatorial life. Seeking to be unknown save to God alone these saintly sufferers wait in ineffable obscurity for the open vision of the Lamb of God. It would seem, then, that the utter self-effacement of these souls and even a certain divine propriety, required that the signs of their intervention should be in part concealed behind the veil of mystery.
But it is a mystery which commands close attention, invites reverent inquiry, urges us to raise our hearts and minds to God. So doing, the obscure influence of purgatory in the design as well as in the history of the apparition becomes gradually clear and finally reveals itself in an admirable brightness. Here also, in a breath of divine repose, prayer sees anew through our Lady's eyes the infinite beauty of the Eucharistic Sacrifice which purifies our own souls while we are yet on earth and hastens for the much loved souls in purgatory the blessed vision of peace.

To be continued