Archbishop O’Toole in Knock: Stop and Listen before the Holy Spirit

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Archbishop Mark O’Toole recently went on pilgrimage to Knock, Ireland, where he gave a homily at the International Eucharistic and Marian Shrine. In his homily he emphasises the need to listen to God, to hear Him whisper the mystery of His love to us.


What a joy and a privilege it is for us to be here today on pilgrimage at this holy Shrine. We know that Our Lady appeared here in August 1879, together with Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist. At the centre of what she gave witness to, was the Eucharistic Lamb of God on the Altar, surrounded by adoring angels.

We come as pilgrims. It is good for us to be together. As we gather here we experience the truth of Jesus anew through the presence and witness of His mother. We are strengthened in the journey of faith. To be a Pilgrim is “to be on the way”. To walk together. Pope Francis encourages us in this ‘walking together’, it is how we build a synodal Church. As we walk together, we deepen anew the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, to walk with Mary in the footsteps of Jesus. We pray for the success of the gathering in Rome which is to begin next month, when representatives from across the globe will come together to continue to reflect on what it means for the Church to walk together. To continue to listen to one another and to discover afresh the presence of the Risen Jesus walking with us. Mary will help point the way.

We know from our experience at this Shrine that it is Mary who always points the way. The Apparition at Knock is unique among all Marian apparitions for several reasons.

Firstly, because in this apparition no words were spoken. This silent heavenly vision, teaches us something about faith. The need to stop and to listen before the holy mystery of God and indeed before the mystery of each other.

This silence is not the silence of strangers but of the one who draws close. Mary appeared here at a time when there was immense suffering and difficulty in Europe. There was much hardship, much hunger, much suffering. She came to be silently present to her children. This indicates how we too must be silently present to others. Give them the space to be able to share their story. We need to listen to God, to hear Him whisper the mystery of His love into us. And we need, too, to listen to the reality of those with whom we walk in faith, to listen to those who feel distanced or wounded from the Church and to listen also to those who have no faith to offer them a loving heart and an open ear. Can we be the silent loving presence of Mary to those who suffer in our culture and our world today? This is the core of what the meeting in October is about and what it means to build a synodal Church.

Secondly, we see this apparition took place in the midst of a parish community. In other appearances of Our Lady, she came to an individual or a group of individuals. But here, Mary visited a parish community – women, men, children. There were fifteen official witnesses who gave testimony.

They ranged in age from a five-year-old boy who spoke of the ‘beautiful things’ he saw, to a woman in her seventies, who spoke eloquently in Irish of the holy figures whom she and her fellow-parishioners encountered in the space of two hours on that August evening in 1879.

We have come on pilgrimage. But we do not come alone. We bring with us all those whom we carry in our hearts – members of our families and members of our home parishes. It is in our parish that we normally live our faith. It is there that the mystery of salvation is given to us. It is to our local parish that we will return at the end of this pilgrimage, to continue the journey of faith. We pray for a renewal of our parish communities. Following the words of Pope Francis, we pray that all my experience our home parish as “a sanctuary – an oasis where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey” (Evangelii Gaudium 28). I ask you, too, to pray for a renewal of faith and discipleship in Archdiocese of Cardiff and the Diocese of Menevia, from which I come. May each priest, religious, and lay woman and man, be a true missionary disciple, helping others to encounter Jesus.

Finally, we know that it is not Mary, St Joseph or St John, who are at the centre of this apparition, but the Eucharistic Lamb. They are off to the side, pointing to this reality of Jesus at the centre. He is adored and witnessed too, by them, and by an encircling chorus of angels. Mary does not point to herself. She points us to her Son Jesus. In the Gospel today, we hear how he came to the synagogue at Capernaum. Capernaum is now only a ruin. But at the time of Jesus, it was a thriving place on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is not far from Nazareth where Jesus grew up. We can imagine that Mary was often present when Jesus was in Capernaum. It was at Capernaum that Jesus healed and taught in the synagogue. It was where he gave us his life-giving discourse on the Eucharist ‘I am the bread of life….whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood, has eternal life and I will raise them up on the last day”.

So, we come to the Eucharist, the Mass. It at the Eucharist that we encounter Jesus most profoundly. We deepen our love of Him. We go forth from the Mass, to witness to Him in the world. So, during this time of pilgrimage, we pray for a renewal of a love of Jesus, present in the Eucharist.

Mary, our mother, help us to point to Jesus, as you did. Help us to be silently present to others, to listen to their story. Help us to walk with them in the pilgrimage of life, that they may know your maternal love for them, and that with you, we may bring them to Jesus. Give peace to our families and renew our parishes. As you did in this place, help us to adore and praise your Son in His Eucharistic presence to us. And so may we witness to the love which He has for everyone. Amen.

+Mark O’Toole
Archbishop of Cardiff
Bishop of Menevia