On March 17, 1697, on the feast day of St. Patrick and in the same year penal laws were enacted in Ireland banning Catholic bishops and priests from the country, an image of the Virgin Mary known as the Weeping Irish Madonna shed tears of blood for three hours.
The painting is now kept in the cathedral of Gyor, Hungary, where it was taken by the bishop of Clonfert, Walter Lynch, when he fled from Ireland due to the English persecution of the Catholic Church led by Oliver Cromwell.
The image, whose original name was Our Lady Consoler of the Afflicted, shows the Mother of God with her hands folded in prayer as she looks down upon the Infant Jesus, who is lying in a little bed.
Bishop Lynch removed the image from the Clonfert cathedral to keep it out of impious hands and fled with it to Vienna, Austria, where he met the bishop of Gyor, Hungary, who invited him to serve as his auxiliary bishop there.
The Irish prelate accepted the invitation and remained in Hungary until his death in 1663.
More than 30 years after Lynch’s death, on March 17, 1697, the image, which was in the Gyor cathedral, began to weep blood during the 6 a.m. Mass, which was attested to by many.
A piece of linen was used to wipe the Virgin’s face, but the tears and blood continued to flow for about three hours.
The image was removed from its frame and examined, but no explanation could be given as to what had happened.
The linen cloth, noted Ireland’s Independent Westmeath newspaper, is kept in a glass and silver case in the Gyor cathedral, where it can be seen and venerated to this day.
There is also a parchment in the cathedral signed by the priests and faithful present that day, as well as some Lutheran Protestants, Calvinists, and a rabbi from a Jewish synagogue who attested to the miracle.
Great celebrations commemorating the miraculous occurrence took place in 1797 on the 100th anniversary and again in 1897. In 1947, on the 250th anniversary of the prodigy, about 100,000 pilgrims came to venerate the image.
In 1913, the then-bishop of Toledo, Ohio, Joseph Schrembs, visited Gyor and had a copy of the image made for the Irish Catholics of his diocese.
This year, the Diocese of Gyor has scheduled a series of celebrations and pilgrimages from March 17 to 19.
JPII and the Weeping Irish Madonna
St. John Paul II elevated the Gyor cathedral to a basilica and visited it on Sept. 7, 1996, in an encounter with representatives of the local diocese.
“I am happy to meet you on today’s feast of the three holy martyrs of Kassa and in this cathedral so dear to you all for the presence not only of the miraculous image of the Mother of God but also of the venerated relic of the holy king Ladislaus, as well as the tomb of the Servant of God, Bishop Vilmos Apor,” the Holy Father said on that occasion.
“Your task becomes ever more urgent in the face of the new possibilities of participating in public life. In this context, the Christian layman, animated by the conviction that the growth of the Kingdom of God constitutes, at the same time, a gift and a commitment, will shun any form of fundamentalism and adopt an attitude of dialogue and service, in full respect of the dignity of every person, which always remains the aim of every social action,” the pontiff said.
After encouraging everyone to become “builders of hope,” St. John Paul II stressed that “Christ the Redeemer, center of your life, is with you! May the ‘Magna Domina Hungarorum,’ Our Lady of Gyor, the holy king Ladislaus, the martyrs of Kassa, and all the Hungarian saints assist you.”