Monday, January 09, 2017

Great stories from a significant Irish shrine (Contribution)

Image result for strange occurrences in a small irish villageOne of the most interesting programmes shown over the Christmas period was the film Strange Occurrences in a Small Irish Village on RTÉ 1. 

This documentary told the story of Knock Shrine, mainly through interviews with some of the people involved in that parish. 

Parish priest Fr Richard Gibbons was a central focus of attention, with one contributor comparing him favourably to Msgr James Horan, pioneer of the development of the shrine and of Knock airport.  

The pilgrimage from the diocese of New York, led by the gregarious Archbishop Timothy Dolan, figured large, and there was a strong implication that such pilgrimages were key to the future of the shrine. 

Its place in Irish culture was central, but Fr Gibbons didn’t want Knock seen as some sort of last bastion of Irish Catholicism. His vision was infinitely wider than that.

While there were some dodgy superstitious elements (e.g. the idea of burying a statue of St Joseph upside down in the garden to ensure the sale of a house), and while some of souvenirs seemed tacky, there were some strong moments. 

I was intrigued by the insight into the workings of the Knock Marriage Bureau, as staff sorted through the various applicants – possible pairings were summarily dismissed on various grounds, including age and even size difference. 

Most inspirational of all was the ceremony towards the end where people in costume represented each of the 15 witnesses to the apparition, leading up to the dramatic unveiling of the newly commissioned and strikingly beautiful mural depicting the apparition.

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