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The vision at Knock and the Holy Souls in Purgatory

During the month of November, we are called to increase our devotion to praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

Pope Francis prays as he visits the Chapel of the Apparitions at the Knock Shrine in Knock, Ireland, Aug. 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

During the month of November, we are called to increase our devotion to praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. To bolster our efforts, we would do well to consider the little known but very important link that exists between this devotion and the Mother of Gods apparition at Knock, Ireland.

On the rainy evening of August 21, 1879, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared before the gable wall of the parish church in the little hamlet of Knock. She appeared with St. Joseph to her right and St. John the Evangelist to her left. Beside them was an altar on which stood a cross and a lamb being adored by angels. The apparition lasted for a full two hours. Though it was raining, the ground beneath the vision was dry. A light was emanating from the heavenly figures that was witnessed by a farmer about half a mile away from the scene. Upwards of 30 villagers beheld the sight, and prayed the Rosary together. Oddly, the most famous figure associated with the Knock apparition was not among the witnesses to the heavenly vision. This was the parish priest, Archdeacon Bartholomew Cavanagh.

It is now a commonly accepted pious belief that Heaven favored the parish of Knock with this vision because of the holiness of its priest. Father Cavanagh was known for his deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for his penances (he wore a hair shirt), and for living very simply. He was told about the vision before the gable wall of his church but chose not to join his parishioners outside. This has sometimes been attributed either to a miscommunication or his doubtfulness. He later said that not witnessing the apparition has been to me a cause of the deepest mortification. But I console myself with the reflection that it was the will of God that the Apparition should be shown to the people, not the priest.Even still, the pious belief in Knock today is that Father Cavanagh was frequently favored with visits from Our Lady in his own little cottage, and so knew well what was occurring but chose to leave the heavenly vision to be for the sole benefit of his flock. Indeed, many other miraculous manifestations surrounding him were reported, but he always requested those who observed them to speak of them to no one.

Father Cavanagh was immensely devoted to the Holy Souls. He always saw this devotion as inseparable from his fervent devotion to the Blessed Virgin Maryas she is the mother of her children, but above all, her suffering children. Mary is the Refuge of Sinners here on earth and she is also the helper of the souls in Purgatory. Some months before the apparition at Knock, Father Cavanagh began a special movement of prayer in his parish for the souls in Purgatory. The poverty of the parishioners of Knock deprived him of the temporal help the payment of stipends for Mass intentions provides most priests. As a result, he decided to use the lack of intentions for Mass at his parish most productively; Father Cavanagh resolved to offer 100 consecutive Masses for the repose of the souls in Purgatory that the Blessed Mother most wanted released into the glory of Heaven. These Mass intentions were especially warranted; the Great Famine struck Ireland between 1845 and 1849 and left a massive loss of life in its wake.

The last waves of the Famine continued up until the time of the astonishing event that took place in Knock in 1879. It was proximately caused by potato blight, and was worsened by the repression imposed by the occupying Protestant English government, resulting in the deaths of one million while another million were forced to emigratereducing the island nations population by a quarter. It was in the midst of this struggle and sorrow that Father Cavanagh offered his 100 consecutive Masses for those of the faithful departed Our Lady most wanted delivered from Purgatory. Very shortly after this devotion was completed, the heavenly vision before the gable wall of the church at Knock occurred.

Unlike at Fatima, Our Lady gave no spoken message to the seers of Knock. She did not call for more acts of penance. The people of Ireland had seemingly done enough. In their poverty, hunger, and oppression, the Irish people were living penance. The message of Fatima makes clear that no suffering should ever be wasted. The suffering of the Irish in the 19th century certainly was not. These devout Catholic souls knew well that they must in prayer place themselves in union with Christs own suffering on the Cross. This offering of their sufferings and prayers at Mass for the souls in Purgatory was answered in the vision outside of their parish church. Sometimes a message is too great for words. On that evening in Knock, Heavens greatest saints were out in the rain with the people. This was an unspoken message of love and solidarity with the persevering, faithful Irish in their time of suffering and sorrow. It was a light in the midst of darkness.

In this month of November, how shall we consider the doctrinal truth of Purgatory and our obligation to pray for the holy souls who are there? I offer you an analogy. Years ago any immigrant seeking entry into our country through New York harbor was first detained at Ellis Island for registration. Many came from Ireland, even including one of the visionaries at Knock whose name was Jon Curry. He is now buried at Old St. Patricks Cathedral in lower Manhattan. Before these immigrants on Ellis Island rose the Statue of Liberty and the towers of the New York City skyline, symbols of America as the land of freedom and opportunity. But if any of these immigrants had an illness, they would be detained at Ellis Island in quarantine till the last trace was cleared up. Analogously, Purgatory is a kind of like an Ellis Island off the coast of Heaven.As the immigrants who were detained in quarantine on Ellis Island had to wait until their sicknesses were gone before entering into America, so the souls in Purgatory must wait until all defilement and traces of sin are purified before entering into Heaven. Nothing tainted can enter the holy and dazzling presence of God.

To take the analogy a step further, dont immigrants even in our own day enter into our country all the more quickly and easily if they have a sponsor? Someone who is already an American citizen to speak on their behalf, informing our government that they will be productive members of our society? In a similar way, we members of the Church Militant still on earth have the role of being sponsors for the souls in Purgatory. We can speak on their behalf by praying, offering up our penances, and having Masses offered for them so they might all the more quickly enter into Kingdom of Heaven.

Especially during the month of November, let us follow the example of Father Cavanagh and his parishioners in praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. May our prayers and sacrifices made on their behalf bring Gods perpetual light to shine upon them.

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About Father Seán Connolly 74 Articles
Father Seán Connolly is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. Ordained in 2015, he has an undergraduate degree in the Classics from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts as well as a Bachelor of Sacred Theology, Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Theology from Saint Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, New York. In addition to his parochial duties, he writes for The Catholic World Report, The National Catholic Register and The Wanderer.


  1. I’ve been to Knock on several occasions and had the honour of carrying my counties banner during the Stations of the Cross.I knew there was no message given at the Knock apparitions but didn’t see the connection of this and Ireland’s Great Hunger.

    Thank you Father Connolly.

  2. “Sometimes a message is too great for words.” Like the message of the photo which accompanies this article–of Pope Francis praying at the Knock apparition site? The figures in the apparition speak eloquently of God by means of their very silence; Pope Francis, conversely, uses his infrequent bouts of taciturnity to refrain from responding either to the Dubia or the courageous testimony of Archbishop Vigano. The figures in the apparition are dazzingly white; Pope Francis exhorts us, especially in Amoris laetitia Chapter 8, to sully our souls in prideful presumption that the Almighty doesn’t actually command what the Church has always taught. The figures in the apparition are out in the rain with God’s people; Pope Francis lives in the lap of luxury behind fortifications both literal and figurative while denouncing others who do the same. Our Lady of Knock, if the thesis of this article is accurate, came to that place in honor of a devout and holy priest, while Pope Francis instead heaps his personal praises on the likes of Donald Wuerl.

    It is no wonder that Pope Francis is now mangling Mariology directly, coming up with a more “egalitarian” version of the Blessed Mother’s life and identity for the consumption of the spiritually unwary. Why CWR would want to give people the perilous impression that he is some sort of Marian devotee (by running this picture with this article) is beyond comprehension.

  3. I see your point Father but it seems unfair to compare the souls in Purgatory to immigrants. Today we see immigrants waiting for years for their applications to be approved, if at all, and we see a veritable invasion on our southern border, a cheap political stunt used by those who care most about embarrassing our president and bringing more division. Americans do not want illegal immigration, ala people leaving their homelands, and rather than following international law and applying for asylum at the nearest nation, transversing nations to get to the US for more generous welfare benefits. We know drugs are flowing over the border and 115 Americans per day due of opioid overdoses from those drugs. Crime rates are also high due to this same problem. I would ask the church, is even one rape or murder or drunk driving accident worth it?
    There is a legal and correct way to enter a new nation. Immigrants who just show up are not taking that route but are trying to bypass those who follow our rule of law and do it the fair way. Catholics have been misused, as many in the church equate “mercy” and “compassion” with plowing under our legal mechanism and throwing open our borders to all comers, whoever they may be. This would be utterly disastrous for the US, as it has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt to be for Europe, which is going to be taken over entirely by Islam, indeed, already is. Our schools, hospitals, and social systems would be so overrun they would be useless for the people whose ancestors fought and died in wars to protect this nation for their descendants. This is something the church ought to care about, and should not our churchmen give any thought to that? In Europe women are harassed and raped, even children are groomed and used in sex trafficking by Islamists. Why does the church continue to call for more and more migrants when this is the case? There is only one answer, and it is a disturbing one.

  4. Heaven’s awareness of the freemasonic revolution against Christ and His Church was made known first to a French nun Sister Marie de St Pierre (1816-1848) and then by her request at La Salette in France on Sept. 19, 1846, where a crowned Mother of God appeared to two children. Three popes, Pius IX, Leo XIII and Pius X, approved this apparition.
    Thirty-three years after the apparition, on 20th August 1879, a basilica at La Salette was consecrated, and the following day, August 21st, the cardinal Archbishop of Paris in France (representing the Melchisedech Priesthood and Melchisedech Kingship) performed a canonical coronation of the statue of the Virgin of La Salette according to the prescription of the sacred Congregation of Rites.
    On the very same day as this coronation, 21st August 1879, as only heaven can co-ordinate, there occurred an active but silent apparition at Knock, a small town in west Connaught, Ireland, a place ‘ruggedly inhospitable and not conducive for agriculture.’
    So, given there are no coincidences from Heaven, Knock is first of all a continuation of La Salette. Moreover, in this case, what we got was a silent airborne apparition, a picture so to speak.The message therefore, could only be interpreted by allegory. Now the only place in the Bible where the word allegory is found in St Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, “Which things are said by an allegory.” (Gal 4:24). History records the Galls migrated up into Europe and into Ireland.

    Three Catholics whose origins are from Connaught, and thus the Galatians, have attempted to interpret the real meaning of Knock. Everything to do with the apparition, its timing, its place,its silence, and its message. As for myself, my sister was cured at Knock in the 1950s, and I was there last week. Nowhere did I find anyone who understood the message. At dinner we were privileged to sit beside twelve Carmelite nuns in full dark brown garb. We talked and I told them Knock was not a Marian shrine, Our Lady telling all how wonderful the Irish were after the Famine, no, heaven only tells us how to save our souls. In fact it is a Johannine apparition. ‘I told you so,’ said the head nun. If any wish to read our interpretation just say so on this page.

    • On the inside of the church in Knock…real name is parish of st. John the Baptist….(first person in scripture to call Jesus “the Lamb of God”.)… Were and still are the words “My House Shall Be Called A HOUSE OF PRAYER to All Nations Only The Just Shall Enter Her Gates”

      One hundred or so years later in the same county…Mayo…Our Lady requests A HOUSE OF PRAYER where She will be truly present with Her many angels intercedeing for Her children.

      When i was growing up my Father (who han an enormous devotion to Our Lady)always said “when children are afraid they run to their mother…BUT….WHEN CHILDREN ARE IN DANGER THEIR MOTHER RUNS TO THEM”


  5. I would have liked to have seen a plea to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I’ve only recently discovered this beautiful and powerful prayer and it intended purpose. IMHO, moreso than the Rosary, the Chaplet will aid the souls in Purgatory and its need cannot be overstated.

  6. It would appear that the merits of the suffering of the Irish people have now been used up. The anti-Church, pro abortion secular government in Dublin seems determined to wipe out the country’s Catholic heritage and the shame of it all is that there seems little enough resistance by the people to the process. It would not be unexpected if another adversity should befall the country in response to its departure from the sacred.

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  3. 17th August – Our Lady of Knock. | Fr Morty O'Shea

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