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.

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