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The changing face of love for Catholics living in Knock, Ireland

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Cerith Gardiner - published on 08/21/21

At the heart of the Shrine of Knock, locals are finding love in a modern way.

Today in County Mayo in the west of Ireland, pilgrims will be making their way to the Marian Shrine of Knock. As one of the most popular Catholic shrines in Ireland, it normally welcomes 1.5 million pilgrims a year.

The Virgin Mary was said to have appeared on the gable wall of the village parish church along with St Joseph, St John the Evangelist, a lamb, and a cross, on the same day, in 1879. Fifteen witnesses stood and watched the apparition in torrential, horizontal rain for two hours, while saying the Rosary.

Although the villagers were soaked to the skin, the wall and the apparition were spared by the rain. The witnesses then gave statements to the Commission of Enquiry attesting to the incredible vision. The commission deemed their story “trustworthy and satisfactory.”

One of the last surviving witnesses, Mary O’Connell, shared with the commission before her death 57 years later:

“I am clear about everything I have said and I make this statement knowing I am going before my God.”

Many miracles are said to have occurred there. One such incident was reported about Delia Gordon, a 12-year-old deaf girl who’d been in great pain and was completely healed after her mother rubbed her ear with a stone from the gable wall.

As the faithful flock to the Shrine of Knock in hope of a cure, or for peace, or just to honor the Blessed Virgin, there are those that also went to find love.

In 1968, the Knock Marriage Bureau opened to help Catholics find a suitable husband or wife by filling out a questionnaire. While it maintained a policy of “strictest confidence,” as reported by the BBC, the organization has been behind 960 marriages since it first opened its doors.

Yet, Fr. Farragher, the former director of the Knock Shrine, explained that the service had to close two years ago as a result of dwindling demand due to the online dating services now available.

“In the last year or two, the couples had no problem admitting that they met through Tinder or a similar type of app or dating agency. If that need is being fulfilled elsewhere, we are quite happy for others to fulfill that need,” he shared with the BBC.

However, Fr. Farragher believes that this does not mean couples are moving away from the Catholic faith. As he points out, “the vast majority of marriages are still Church marriages.”

Despite the fact that the Catholic dating service is no longer available, it’s a lovely tradition for Catholics singles to ask for the intercession of Our Lady of Knock to help them find a spouse — even if it is on a smartphone app!

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