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Monday, August 31, 2015

Called to Authentic Worship!

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 30, 2015
Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ

Today’s readings for this 22nd Sunday of
Jesus and the Pharisees 
Ordinary Time call us to authentic worship. 

In today’s Gospel (Mark 7:1-8; 14-15, 21-23), we hear of our Lord’s encounter with the Pharisees along with some scribes.

In the time of Jesus, the Pharisees were one of the three major Jewish sects. They had arisen about 165 B.C. During this period, there was a strong tendency for the Jewish people to accept the Greek  pagan religious customs, and the Pharisees rose up as a sort of protest against this tendency of tolerance among the Jewish people. Their aim was to protect Jewish law, but as time went on, they began to develop a self-righteous attitude.

They made up a whole lot of traditions that were not part of God’s laws with the intention of helping people keep God’s commandments. For example, God told the Israelites to keep the Sabbath Day holy. So, they defined 39 categories of actions which would be forbidden on the Sabbath.

In today’s Gospel we hear about some of the traditions of purification. We hear that
“the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews would not eat without carefully washing their hands… Not only that, but there were many other things that they had traditionally observed, such as the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds…" We then hear that our Lord condemns them. Our Lord says, “You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition!”

Now, as we reflect on this scene of Our Lord and the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, let us first be reminded that Our Lord was not complaining that the Pharisees were too rigid in following God’s laws. 

In fact, Our Lord  demanded not a lesser following of the law, but a more rigorous application of the law and the prophets. For example, Our Lord said that Moses allowed for divorce because of the Israelites' hardness of heart, but anyone who even looks at another with lust commits adultery in his heart. Not only those who murder will be liable for judgment, but whoever is angry with his brother. Do not simply love those who are good, but love your enemy and turn the other cheek. 

So Our Lord was not condemning the Pharisees for their rigidity in following God’s laws. He was condemning them because they were not allowing God’s laws to take root in

their souls. They clung to a bunch of rituals but their intentions were not pure. They did not allow God’s commandments to transform their hearts.

Overall, the Pharisees brought about a less  careful observance of the natural and divine laws of God through their emphasis on man-made rituals which distanced the people from the truth.

Moreover, the Pharisees had allowed their regulations not only to lead them away from true worship of God, but their many traditions had led them to an outward pride. … And so Our Lord recites the words of the prophet Isaiah:“This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

My brothers and sisters, today’s Gospel passage of our Lord’s encounter with the Pharisees calls us to examine our relationship 
Fr. John Paul Shea 
with God. God wants our hearts. He wants our true devotion. He wants our faith to be real. He wants authentic worship!

Our Lord tells the people in today’s Gospel that “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile." 

Our Lord says that it is “from within people, from their hearts,” that come evil thoughts such as, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance and folly -- "All these evils come from within and they defile.”

My brothers and sisters, each one of us struggles with sin, and sin defiles us. Yet, God wants us to renew our inner beings. He wants to purify our intentions. But we must allow Him to do so. We must give Him our hearts.

Today’s second reading from Saint James (1:17-18, 21b-22, 27) says, “Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.” It is God’s Word alone that will save our souls.

God has planted His Word in our hearts at our Baptism. But Baptism is only the beginning. We must strive each day to allow the Word of God to take root in our daily lives. We do this by reading God’s Word in the Holy Scriptures
and by following His teachings. We do this by humbling ourselves and going to confession. We do this through daily prayer. We do this by receiving Our Lord worthily in the Holy Eucharist.

Saint James further says in today’s second reading that we are to keep ourselves “unstained by the world.”

Although Our Lord teaches us in today’s Gospel that evil comes from within our hearts, we are reminded also that the spirit of evil grows in our hearts through the bad influences of the world. Therefore, we must always be on guard. For the devil is prowling  like a lion looking for souls to devour. He is
the deceiver, and He loves to disguise evil as good in order to lead us astray from God’s true purpose. In fact, the Pharisees had thought they were doing good by following all their man-made rules. Yet, Our Lord reminds them that they were actually deceiving themselves. Their hearts were far from God.

Today’s readings call us to examine our motivations and desires in our relationship with God. God calls us to authentic worship. He wants our hearts. He wants our true devotion. He wants our faith to be real.

As we come to receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, let us ask the Lord to purify our hearts of all that is not of God so that we can live by His truth and become All who He calls us to be.

Authentic Worship in Spirit & Truth!

Did you enjoy this sermon? Maybe you'd like to read How Desperate Are We for God? 


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Voyage of the Damned Begins at Conception

by Susan Fox

The devil is a liar and a murderer from the beginning. (John 8:44)

Pro-life Protestors in Denver on Aug. 22, 2015
 In what is often termed “The Voyage of the Damned,” 937 Jewish refugees – whole families – joyously and hopefully set sail for the United States from Hamburg, Germany, on May 13, 1939, seeking asylum from the increasing horrors of Nazi Germany. They were refused entry.  After the return voyage to Europe, some were accepted in other countries, but it is estimated that fully one-third of the 937 Jewish refuges lost their lives in a Nazi death camp.

Today in the United States, the Voyage of the Damned begins at conception.

Despite the fact that there has been a steady decline in abortions since 1980, it is estimated that 21 percent of all U.S. pregnancies end in abortion, according to Operation Rescue

Hardest hit by the abortion debacle is the U.S. Black Population. Blacks comprise only 13 percent of the U.S. population, but they account for 37 percent of all abortions. In New York City in 2012, the number of abortions in the black population exceeded the number of live births. #BlackLivesMatter, but many in the black community are trying to convince their own people of that reality.  

However, since the radically pro-death Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, there has been a strong shift in American opinion on the issue of abortion. A recent Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans identify themselves as pro-life, fully 51 percent, while those self-identifying as “pro-choice” were 42 percent. This is the first time since 1995 that a majority of U.S. adults have called themselves pro-life.

The ordinarily Silent Majority showed up in force at abortion clinics nationwide on Aug. 22 in the largest coordinated protest against abortion in history -- with signs saying “Planned Parenthood Sells Baby Parts.”  At least 73,813 Americans demonstrated at 356 Planned Parenthood facilities in 49 states and Washington,D.C. on Saturday, according to protest organizers ProtestPP.com, (Only 306 sites have reported their numbers so far.)

Pro-lifers also enjoyed a successful Twiterstorm on Sunday Aug 23 blasting the hashtag #UnbornLivesMatter 60,000 times.   These movements came in response to eight undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood illegally harvesting and selling baby parts. A ninth video has been released since the protest. 

I called her the most cold-hearted woman in the universe when I watched the first undercover Planned Parenthood video filmed by the non-profit Center for Medical Progress. Planned Parenthood chief medical officer Dr. Deborah Nucatola was casually drinking wine and eating her salad at a restaurant while she discussed manipulating abortion procedures to procure better quality human brains from the tiny persons being removed from the womb.

But on the 7th video, I found out some of the children pulled from the womb were still alive. Technician Holly O’Donnell, who unsuspectingly took a job at the fetal tissue company Stem Express in late 2012, reported she was required to cut open the face and extract the brain of a boy while he was still alive. 

The video showed a tiny man no bigger than forceps -- perfect in every detail -- clearly just a miniature version of my husband and son. As I watched the video, the tiny man moved his legs. He was still alive. I held my breath. 
I held my breath: He moved his legs in the video. Clearly some children are alive after an abortion 
Clearly, all he wanted out of life was to be loved. It’s what we all want. His little figure cried out to me, “Hug me! I’m scared. I’m cold in this bowl.” But he was met with rejection and then carved open and sold for his parts. So was Christ sold for 30 pieces of silver – not a lot of money really, it was the price of a slave. (Matt. 26:15)

World Renowned Stem cell Researcher Dr. Theresa Deisher said the investigative videos confirmed what she had suspected for a long time -- Planned Parenthood is keeping some babies alive after the abortion to collect better quality organs for harvesting. “I have always suspected that the babies in some of these cases were alive until their hearts were cut out,” Dr. Deisher said.

Such horror recalls the barbaric practices of the Aztecs, who were involved in assembly-line ritual murder on a massive scale, sometimes 20,000 people at a time. When Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortez arrived in Mexico in the 1500s, he and his men were forced to watch the living hearts ripped out of their own men – Aztec captives -- in just seconds, sacrificed to the bloodthirsty sun god Huitzilopochtli. Aztecs apparently could perform the murderous act just as casually and efficiently as Dr. Nucatola could speak about doing eight abortions in a day to maximize the type and quality of organs demanded by Planned Parenthood’s clients. “A lot of people want intact hearts these days,” Nucatola said, “because they are looking for specific nodes”

A fetus extracted intact and alive during an abortion is a born alive infant under federal law and any further actions taken to kill him or her is homicide. Yet Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has refused to investigate Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which appeared in the 4th undercover video with an excited doctor exclaiming, “Another Boy!” during dissection of the child’s parts.

In the first video, abortionist Dr. Nucatola described how she was able to recover intact human brains during an abortion by changing the way the child comes out of the birth canal -- feet first instead of head. Such a procedure is used in partial birth abortion, which is illegal. “The federal (partial birth)
Planned Parenthood nurse reacts with dismay
upon seeing pro-life protestors in Orlando, Florida
on Aug. 22, 2015 during nationwide protests
Abortion Ban is a law,” said abortionist Dr. Nucatola on the undercover video, stabbing her salad and explaining how she diabolically justifies what she is doing, “and laws are up to interpretation. So if I say on day one, I do not intend to do this, what ultimately happens doesn’t matter.” Then she goes on cold-heartedly to describe how she plans her abortion procedures based on the needs of Planned Parenthood’s clients for certain parts – hearts, livers, lungs, brains even legs, muscle.

What is surprising is how many Americans aren’t aware of the undercover videos, or don’t believe they are real. Surveys showed early on that 70 percent of Americans were unaware of the undercover videos. Many refused to believe them because Planned Parenthood has claimed the videos are heavily edited. But no, you can see the full-unedited videos online. The story doesn’t change. Ironically, I went to the Planned Parenthood site where they had initially laid out their defense, but Planned Parenthood had removed it. The site was blank. Now they have nothing to say.

Pro-lifer Linda Maria Carrillo – who couldn’t find the list of Planned Parenthood locations for the Saturday protest from 9 to 11 a.m., went to the closest Planned Parenthood near her home – the one in Santa Monica, California. She took the bus. She didn’t have a sign because she thought other people would be there. She began witnessing to everyone, starting on the bus and then four hours at the abortion clinic. She was the only witness in Santa Monica. But what she discovered is that most people she talked to didn’t know about the undercover videos. “Their jaw was dropping,” she said, adding they were shocked, and one said: “That’s Frankenstein behavior!”
Phoebe Wise in red, happy at the size of the crowd at Planned
Parenthood in Mountainview, Calif.
Phoebe Wise demonstrated at the abortion clinic in Mountain View, California.  “Bob (my co-organizer) and I were staggered at how many people came.  I thought we might have 5, at most 15.  That’s why I made 15 signs.  I felt like a disciple at the multiplication of the loaves.   Bob counted 60 adults at the peak, and there were about 10 children, who certainly count, so that’s 70 people -- with almost no publicity. People kept asking me when the next rally would be.  I was flabbergasted.  I am not a protest organizer!  I am just someone who prays once a week at the abortatorium.  Good grief!”

Susan Sutherland, vice president for
Colorado Right to Life collects
signatures for a petition to
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia
Coffman to investigate Planned
Parenthood. Coffman is Republican
& pro-life. But less than a 

week later, Coffman announced
 her office would not investigate 
Planned Parenthood. 
Lawrence and I attended the protest at the Denver Stapleton Planned Parenthood, and the official tally for the number of people present was 570, according to ProtestPP.com. We did have a camera crew from one of the local television stations show up, and when he was shown the signs of mutilated baby parts, he responded, “We can’t put that cr_p on television!” A courageous soul, pointing at the abortion clinic, responded, “This is not cr_p. This is reality. That’s what they are doing in there!”

In Denver, the security guard was nervous about anyone crossing the yellow line. There was a drive-in entrance to the facility. A huge fence blocked out with black sheeting covered the rest.  It was impossible to talk to anyone going into the facility unless they stopped their car. Most went in the back way. One lady drove very fast to the entrance, almost hitting protestors.

“Don’t go past the yellow line,” the guard shouted at some of the protestors, who responded, “Your job is to make sure they can do the abortions safely!” The guard denied it. “No my job is to make sure no one crosses the yellow line.”

Linda Carrillo, of course, had a long cozy chat with the Planned Parenthood guard in Santa Monica. Carrillo said the guard was also unaware of the eight undercover videos. “So many people are unaware of what Planned Parenthood is doing.” 

The black sheeting did not deter the Denver-based American Right to Life. They had brought an extremely tall ladder. That’s where I met Leslie Hanks, the group's president. She was shouting over the fence at some potential
Leslie Hanks, president, American 
Right to Life. The black "wall of
shame" around the abortion clinic
is in the background.
mothers-to-be and the person she called their “deathscort.” “Please Mom, don’t hurt your baby. It’s a terrible place to be where they murder innocent babies and call it health care!” Squinting through the trees surrounding the plant, she added in a loud voice, “They sell the children’s organs. God hates the shedding of innocent blood.”

While standing vigilant and very matter-of-factly on her ladder, Leslie told me they started American Right to Life because the National Right to Life never “says anything like ‘Stop killing kids!’” Instead they support 24-hour waiting periods and other measures to restrict abortion, but not stop it. “We at American Right to Life are pro-life from conception to natural death,” she said, pausing to shout over the fence, “Folks, don’t do business here. They kill babies.” 

View from the top of the ladder set up outside Denver
abortion clinic. The blue is a "deathscort" walking away
She and Jo Scott were up and down the ladder while I was there, loudly sharing their pro-life message. Both of them had spent decades witnessing outside abortion clinics. Jo had been in jail at least 20 times, and helped countless women avoid abortion. I asked her how she knew that, and she said, “We talk them out of it, and then take them to the crisis pregnancy center (which was across the street).” The ladies said the mothers are helped to find a job, medical care and housing. One time a heavily pregnant woman threw herself at Jo and started weeping. Jo didn’t recognize her, but she had apparently talked her out of an abortion, and she was grateful. “You saved my baby!” she wailed.  More than one girl comes out of the abortion clinic angry because they feel the Planned Parenthood staff tired to force them to get an abortion, according to Jo and Leslie.  

The man behind the ladies on the ladder was Pastor Bob
Pastor Bob Enyart of
Denver Bible Church
Enyart of the Denver Bible Church. “You have to be pro-life to be a member of my church,” he boasted, looking at Catholic me. “Yeah we want them out of the Catholic Church too, Bob,” I responded thinking of outspoken pro-abortionist Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who still calls herself Catholic. 

In 1988, Enyart and his congregation decided to keep vigil every day abortions are performed at Denver’s main Planned Parenthood clinic, basically Tuesday through Saturday. And they have faithfully kept watch for 27 years, saving thousands of lives. “We are the last voice their baby will ever hear,” Leslie said, pausing to shout over the fence, “Choose life and you won’t regret it.” Enyart also has a radio show with 4,000 listeners. On Aug. 9, his church sent 50 people to a residential protest of abortionist Dr. Savita Ginde, who appears in the 4th undercover video saying, “I’ve seen livers, I’ve seen stomachs, I’ve seen plenty of neural tissue. Usually you can see the whole brain come out.”  She is the one who excitedly tells the investigators, “We’ve got another boy!” during his dissection. 
Denver Bible Church protest Aug. 9 outside the home of abortionist Savita Ginde
 All I can say is that Colorado seems to have very tolerant abortionists as it appears she did not call the police about the protest despite the fact that they held up a huge sign outside her house, saying, “Savita, turn state’s evidence!” The Denver Bible Church leafleted her neighbors informing them that their neighbor, Savita Ginde “murders children." 

PROUD: Denver Planned Parenthood informing protestors
that they are "PROUD"
On Saturday during our Denver protest there were no police visible at all. The only response from Planned Parenthood – besides fussing over a yellow line -- was the word, "PROUD," pasted in their window. 

Catholics, of course, were very present in Denver. They had a huge rally with speakers sponsored by the Archdiocese of Denver. I was struck deeply, watching two young men passionately praying the Rosary, and then we saw a large
HUMBLE: Young Catholics praying the Rosary
 outside Planned Parenthood in Denver on Aug. 22
group of Catholics marching around the clinic praying the Rosary, circling it seven times just as the Israelites did to the city of Jericho before its walls came tumbling down.

The author of the pro-death movement – the one identified by Christ as a liar and murderer from the beginning -- surprisingly revealed himself publicly at Detroit’s downtown Planned Parenthood on Saturday morning about 10 a.m. On July 25, a devil- worshipping cult calling itself the Satanic Temple unveiled a one-ton bronze statue of a goat-headed Baphomet in Detroit, charging $25 a ticket as part of its fund raising effort to support abortion. On Aug. 22, the same group dressed as Catholic priests dumped gallon after gallon of milk over two struggling women, who had their hands tied, while shouting, “Hail, satan!”
Members of the Satanic Temple pouring milk over women tied up, screaming "Hail satan!" at the
downtown Detroit Planned Parenthood. See article and video here.
This event had meaning on three levels. It is a form of pagan worship to the Earth Mother, a sort of satanic baptism. It is also considered lower level occult magic.

On a practical level, the message was clear to pro-lifers, who are often called “forced birthers” by the opposition. The satanists were saying if you take away the right to abortion, you are forcing women to give birth against their will – you are drowning them in breast milk. That is a very satanic message, and a very ugly view of women. We are not helpless rag dolls with no self-mastery. We can practice self-control and wait to consummate a relationship when we are married and want children.

The third meaning of the event would not even occur to most people. In two places in Exodus (23:19b, 34:26b)  and once in Deuteronomy 14:21b, God warns the Israelites against boiling a young kid in its mother’s milk.  There is some evidence, the Israelites sprinkled milk cooked this way on their fields to make them fruitful, which is idolatry. But it is also a form of lust and greed.

“For a mother goat or sheep to give birth, and then have its kid cooked in the same milk used to nourish it and give it life shows no reverence for life!” said Lawrence Fox, describing how cruel it is to milk the mother when she is missing her baby in order to make the meal taste better (lust and greed.) “People kill their children out of fear and greed,” he added, “They say, ‘I won’t graduate. My life is ruined.’ Yet none of that mattered before they got pregnant.”

Church Militant videotaped the satanic protest, and it is quite hair-raising. A young Christian man responds by saying, he loves the satanists: “I pray you come to saving faith.” At that point a dark-haired man on the left began to laugh demonically. I kid you not. But as the Christian continued to urge them to “run to King Jesus,” warning them that on the day of judgment they would beg for mercy and no mercy would be given to them, the satanists got a little quieter. He got into an intense discussion face to face with one of the satanists, who was obviously distraught by his message, and he calmed him down by saying repeatedly, “I care about you.”  I think the score at the end was God 1, satan 0, except that satan’s previous score is 57 million unborn Americans murdered at the altar of lust, greed and convenience, that is abortion.

Of course, who better to defeat the father of lies than St. Michael himself? Lucifer said, “I will not serve! I will be God.”
St. Michael = "Who is like God?"

But St. Michael’s name means, “Who is Like God?” It was this humble question that allowed a mere archangel to defeat the powerful seraphim Lucifer, and send him and his followers to hell.

So a new group formed called #StMichaelFastforLife. Beginning Aug. 21, you are invited to join them fasting for life in honor of St. Michael for 40 days. For the apostles also found some demons difficult to expel on their missionary journeys, and they asked Jesus, “Why could we not drive it out?” (Mark 9:28)

Jesus answered them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” 

Now comes the  Egyptian Pharaoh in fury, repenting of the fact that he let the Israelites leave, “What have we done?” (Exodus 14:5)  Pharaoh had plotted to wipe out the Israelites by having all their male infants killed by the mid-wives: “Pharaoh therefore charged all his people, saying: Whatsoever shall be born of the male sex, ye shall cast into the river: whatsoever of the female, ye shall save alive.” (Exodus 1:22) Ironically, in the undercover videos, what we remember is they are constantly finding and dissecting human boys. The words, “Another boy!”  plays like a funeral dirge in our memories.  

God brought down 10 plagues on Egypt to win the freedom of the Israelites, but the Egyptian Pharaoh still chased them down to the Red Sea where they seemed to be trapped.   

Saying nothing about looking into whether Planned Parenthood is engaging in illicit sale of baby body parts, the U.S. Department of Justice has announced it is looking into whether Center for Medical Progress obtained its videos legally, a move that should freeze the blood of every self-respecting journalist in this country. Barack Obama’s pet organization Planned Parenthood was disturbed, so he is riding to the rescue, ignoring the plight of the innocent victims of abortion. 

Both the National Abortion Federation in San Francisco and Stem Express in Los Angeles are suing the non-profit Center for Medical Progress and Roman Catholic David Daleiden, the lead on the project, bringing racketeering charges against them, according to Tom Brejcha, founder of the St. Thomas More Society, a not for profit, national public interest law firm.  Such charges normally are a means of catching mobsters, but David is an investigative journalist performing a public service. Brejcha is asking his donors for contributions to help them defend David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress against these charges. You can donate here.

Now when Moses and the Israelites looked up and saw the horses and chariots of the Egyptian army riding down towards their encampment on the Red Sea, they cried out to God in fear. “Were there no burial places in Egypt that you had to bring us out here to die in the desert? Why did you bring us out of Egypt?” (Exodus 14:11)

Moses turned to God, Who said, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward!”  And they did. They walked right into the Red Sea. And God parted the waters, safely leading the people to the other side. But when Egypt’s army followed, the sea closed, and they all drowned.

“As the water flowed back, it covered the chariots and the charioteers of Pharaoh’s whole army, which had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not a single one of them escaped.” (Exodus 14:28)
Susan Fox reporting from the Planned Parenthood protest in
Denver on Aug. 22. 
There is more to read on this issue: 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Enter The Lord's Gate: OUR LADY OF KNOCK

Everyone is Irish 

by Phoebe Wise

Our Lady of Knock 
Editor's note: Friday, Aug 21, is the feast day of Our Lady of Knock, and the anniversary of her silent apparition in County Mayo, Ireland in 1879. Fifteen people standing in the pouring rain saw Our Lady -- with St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist. A Lamb stood nearby on the altar surrounded by angels. The apparition occurred during a time when the Irish suffered under famine and forced evictions that led to a new wave of Irish emigration.

Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, goes the old saying. Certainly every Catholic should celebrate the day with heartfelt thanks for all the gifts that the Irish have given the Church down through the centuries. 

Likewise, every person should mourn the Irish legalization of same-sex "marriage" on May 22, 2015.

There is more to lament. Last year, in 2014, the first legal abortions were carried out in Ireland: twenty-six innocent babies were murdered in the womb. The country’s bishops must have felt this storm brewing for some time. The year before in 2013, on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, they gathered at the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock  to consecrate Ireland to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 

People may want to ask what was the effect of this consecration.  As far the country as a whole is concerned—there is no visible effect.  Abortion and gay marriage are in place in the land of saints and scholars, the consecration notwithstanding.   What the English tried and failed to bring about with over 300 years of persecution has now been accomplished:  Ireland is no longer a Catholic country.  This calamity has caused some to call for agreat exorcism” of Ireland along the lines of the one recently carried out in Mexico.  

One of the places the bishops could choose to perform such an exorcism might be the site of the previous consecration:  the Shrine of Knock.
Altar Sculpture at Knock based on Accounts of the Apparition

  Why Knock?

Ireland is a land of legends, and one of them, dating back to time of Patrick himself, says that the Saint predicted that someday the tiny hamlet of Knock would be a holy place. That is one legend that has come true to the letter. Ever since the appearance there of the Mother of God in 1879, Knock has been a place of pilgrimage, and its reputation as a holy shrine has steadily increased.

Some people have criticized or dismissed the Knock apparition because no words were spoken to the visionaries, but most Catholics have recognized that the message was eloquently conveyed by means of symbols.  A lamb standing on a stone altar clearly represents Jesus and the Mass.  St. John the Evangelist reading from a book represents the Church and its authority to teach. Mary and St. Joseph, together with Jesus, show us the Holy Family, whose dignity reflects that of the Most Holy Trinity, the Creator of the Family.  Finally, Our Lady’s hands and eyes raised to heaven in prayer represents to us the gracious gift of her intercession. 

Also, several writers have noted that the symbolism of the Knock apparition appears in the Book of Revelation, with its vision of the heavenly liturgy. Catholics believe that every Mass celebrated on earth participates in the worship of the saints and angels in Heaven.1  The Apocalypse of Knock shows us that the suffering of God’s people, whether in the Ireland of 1879 or in the present era, finds its meaning and consolation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. And as a further consolation, we have the Communion of the Saints. Just as she kept her silent vigil at the foot of the cross, Our Lady, the Queen of Ireland, crowned with a “brilliant crown of glittering crosses,” gave silent witness at Knock that she is always praying for the forgotten victims of the world.2   And with her is St. Joseph, the patron of the universal Church.

 Knock is Silent but not Wordless

While the symbolism of Knock conveys a powerful message, it is not the imagery alone that speaks to us.  Silent though it was, the vision of Knock was not wordless. 

To understand the verbal message, we need to go back to 1829, exactly fifty years before the apparition.  England had repealed some of its harsh penal laws against Catholics, and a devastated Ireland emerged from over 300 years of persecution.   Churches had to be built by the hundreds all over the country, to replace the ones destroyed by the foreign masters.  In the tiny hamlet of Knock, Father Patrick O’Grady built a small stone church with a flagged floor and room for about 30 people.  And he ordered an inscription for the outer western wall:

 My house shall be called the house of prayer to all nations.
 This is the gate of the Lord: the just shall enter into it.

Such an inscription could not have been cheap or easy to come by in that place, at that time.  Why did Fr. O’Grady go to the trouble, and why did he choose those particular verses of Scripture?  Though we can’t know for certain what he intended, we are free to try to discern the message.  Many people, myself included, are convinced that Fr. O’Grady’s inscription is an important part of the prophetic meaning of Knock.

Let us take a careful look at these words and their context.  Both lines of scripture are from the Old Testament:  Isaiah 56:7 and Psalm 117[118]:20.  However, I believe that Fr. O’Grady must have put the two lines together in order to call to mind their reference by Jesus in the New Testament.  The context is Holy Week, and Jesus’ fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. 

We know that the Jews of Jesus’ day would recite just one passage of Scripture and then rely on their hearers to recall to mind the entire passage.  Jesus did this himself many times.  For example, in Luke 4:21 he read aloud a few verses from Isaiah in the synagogue, and then proclaimed, “This day is fulfilled this scripture in your ears.”  He knew that the Jews would be familiar with the book of Isaiah as a whole, and would understand that he was claiming to fulfill its Messianic prophecies. 

Fr. O’Grady’s Inscription and its Intended Meaning

Keeping in mind this principle of using a single verse of scripture to invoke entire passages or even entire books in the Bible, we may be able to understand something of Fr. O’Grady’s intentions in placing the inscription on his church. With just two lines of scripture, he could summon both the Messianic prophecy of the Old Testament and Our Lord’s fulfillment of that prophecy.

Why would he want to do this? I can guess that he wanted to call on the Word of God to bear witness to the martyrdom of the Irish Church in the previous centuries, and to celebrate his small but significant effort to rebuild that Church. He must have seen the raising of the small stone church in Knock as a fulfillment of God’s promise that the Church Jesus founded would always triumph over persecution. The Temple of the New Covenant, namely, the Catholic Church and the Mass, would never pass away, but would always be the “house of prayer to all nations,” and the Gate of Heaven for those seeking salvation.

That summarizes what I think his intention may have been.  But how could just two Bible verses serve to convey such a weighty message?

When we read “My house shall be called a house of prayer to all nations,” we think not only of Is. 56:7, but also of the Cleansing of the Temple, when Jesus drove out the money changers.  Matthew 21:13 tells us the Cleansing took place after Palm Sunday during Holy Week:  “And he saith to them:  It is written, my house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.”  Here Jesus puts two quotations together.  To Isaiah 56:7 he adds the words, you have made it a den of thieves,” from Jeremiah 7:11.  This gives us two Old Testament prophets and their fulfillment in the Gospel to explore. 

The books of Isaiah and Jeremiah both predict the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple because of the unfaithfulness of Israel, meaning their worship of pagan gods and their failure to live by the commandments of God’s covenant with them. (This prophecy was fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian Captivity in 586 B.C.) The prophets promise that after the destruction, God will make a new covenant with Israel, and all nations will be invited to be part of it. (Is 55 and 56) There will be a new Temple, a new kind of sacrifice, and a new priesthood. We see this prophecy fulfilled in the Book of Revelation. In Heaven, Jesus Himself is both the Victim and the new High Priest. The Lamb of God is the Temple, and gives light to the New Jerusalem. 

With the first line of the inscription, Fr. O’Grady summoned the prophecies in the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and also Jesus’ reference to them during the week before his Passion. Now let us look at the second line of the inscription. It is taken from Psalm 117[118], and Jesus also cites verses from this psalm during Holy Week.

Psalm 117[118] is the oldest Easter hymn of the Church, making it the perfect text for Fr. O’Grady to employ when celebrating the resurrection of the Catholic Church in Ireland.  It was used in the Easter Mass from earliest times.  In the modern version of the Easter Vigil liturgy, Psalm 117[118] is placed in the most dramatic position possible, between the Alleluia and the proclamation of the Gospel of the Resurrection.  This unique placement makes Psalm 117[118] the Easter hymn.  It continues to appear throughout Easter week in the readings for Mass and the Divine Office, and finally at mass on the Second Sunday of Easter.   Thanks to St. Pope John Paul II, this day has become Divine Mercy Sunday, and the responsorial gives special emphasis to the verses “Praise the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever.”

Gate of the Lord

But what about verse 20 of Psalm 117[118]? That’s the one inscribed on the wall at Knock: "This is the gate of the Lord: the just shall enter into it."  This verse requires a bit more explanation. When Jesus left the temple for the last time, he told Jerusalem that the city would not see Him again until it said: “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

Here is another prophecy of Jesus that has been fulfilled to the letter. At every Mass we recite those exact words in the great biblical hymn known as the Sanctus. It is short enough to quote in full here:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory,
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

The Sanctus is part of the Preface of the Mass. The Preface comes just before the Eucharistic prayer, and can be understood as a kind of gateway to the Canon, the most important part of the Mass. When the priest says the words of consecration during the Canon, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. Only after we pray the Sanctus do we kneel for the Eucharistic prayer, and then Jesus shows himself to us under the forms of bread and wine. We have entered the Temple through the Gate of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest

With a single excerpted verse, Fr. O’Grady was able to invoke the entire text of the Psalm 117[118], and its place in the liturgy of the Mass.  And he could rejoice in the fulfillment of God’s promise that his Church would be the house of prayer to all nations.  We can see that he chose a most worthy inscription to commemorate the restoration of the Church in Ireland.  Whether it is celebrated in the small stone church at Knock, or in a great basilica like St. Peter’s, or on a bare rock under the open sky, the Mass unites us with the Lamb of God and the worship of the saints and angels in Heaven.  Because Jesus transforms the bread and wine into Himself at every mass, we truly pass through the Gate of Heaven when we receive Him.  The stone that was rejected has become the cornerstone, and we become the living stones of the Temple—the Temple that is made of his Body and Blood.

House of God, Gate of Heaven

There is another question to ask: why join Isaiah 56 and Psalm 117[118] in one inscription? By doing so, Fr. O’Grady referenced another Old Testament messianic prophecy that was fulfilled by Jesus. Both gate and house are very potent images recurring throughout Scripture. We find these two images linked together in the very first book of the Bible, in Genesis Chapter 28. 

For some mysterious reason, at this point in sacred history, God chose to reveal his plan of salvation for the whole human race to a very unlikely character called Jacob, whose name means “supplanter.” He had just swindled his brother Essau out of his birthright, and was fleeing for his life, when he discovered that his randomly chosen camping place was actually the House of God and the Gate of Heaven. After granting him a beautiful dream of angels ascending and descending in that place, God made him the astonishing promise that in his seed “all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed.”

As St. Augustine points out, Jesus also brings to mind the prophecy of Genesis 28 and claims to be its fulfillment when he quotes it in John 1:51: "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." The Knock inscription, with its two succinct lines, evokes yet another of Jesus’ claims to be the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy. This evocation becomes easier to grasp when the two are placed side by side:

Genesis 28                                                                            Knock inscription
“in thy seed all the tribes of the                                      “to all nations”
earth shall be blessed”
“the house of God”                                                          “the house of prayer”
 “the gate of heaven”                                                           “the gate of the Lord”

The images of the Gate of Heaven and the House of God were in earlier times better known and easily identified with Jesus.  For example, Catholics frequently sang  “O Salutaris hostia,” a hymn by St. Thomas Aquinas used at Benediction.  This first line is:  O Salutaris hostia, Qui caeli pandis ostium,”  which means:  “O saving Victim, open wide, the gate of heaven to us below.”
Not only Catholics, but also Protestants also once had more familiarity with these images and their meaning.  Charles Wesley (1707-1788) wrote a hymn called, “O Thou, Whom All Thy Saints Adore”

We come, great God, to seek Thy Face,
And for Thy loving-kindness wait;
And O how dreadful is this Place!
‘Tis God’s own house, ‘tis Heaven’s gate.
For the Catholic who uses traditional prayers that distill the devotional wisdom of the Church, the identification of the images of house and gate with Christ is immediate and effortless.  The Litany of the Sacred Heart lovingly addresses Jesus in just this manner: 
Heart of Jesus, Sacred Temple of God,
Heart of Jesus, Tabernacle of the Most High,
Heart of Jesus, House of God and Gate of Heaven.

All of these scriptural references and imagery were available to Father O’Grady when he chose the texts for the inscription at Knock. He certainly must have rejoiced that he could at long last build a church that would fittingly house the externals of religion. No doubt he meant the words “house of prayer” to refer to the humble stone structure. But the recent experience of persecution had driven home a profound lesson to the Irish—a lesson that could have inspired Fr. Grady’s inscription. And the lesson was this: any place on earth, indoors or out, where Mass is offered, is the Gate of the Lord and the House of Prayer, because in the Mass we encounter Jesus, who is God Himself.

 Marian Imagery—Mary as the Gate

The Temple of the New Jerusalem, the House of God, and the Gate of Heaven—these are not physical places where we encounter God; they are God, since they are types of Jesus. But Knock is a Marian apparition. What does the Knock inscription have to do with Mary?
Caeli Porta: Gate of Heaven 

Just this -- the Gate and the House are also types for the Blessed Virgin Mary.   The Litany of Loreto, a popular prayer recited by both religious and lay people, addresses Mary as Gate of Heaven and House of Gold.  Ave Maris Stella, an ancient hymn which is still part of the Divine Office, also uses the title:

 Ave maris stella
Dei mater alma
Atque semper virgo
Felix caeli porta

Hail star of the sea,
Sweet mother of God,
You who are ever virgin,
Fortunate Gate of Heaven.

We address both Jesus and Mary with the beautiful title of Gate of Heaven.  If we meditate on the history of our redemption, this will make sense.

When I was looking for a house to buy a few years ago, I had to drive past the Gate of Heaven Catholic Cemetery to find the home I eventually purchased.  As someone who prayed the Litany of the Sacred Heart, and the Litany of Loreto, my immediate thought was, “Oh, this is Jesus’ and Mary’s neighborhood—Great!”  And when I drove into the cemetery to explore, I found at the very center of it a beautiful pieta—a statue of Mary holding her dead Son in her arms.  That statue summarizes the history of our salvation; it took both of them to accomplish it.  Both of them deserve the title of Gate of Heaven:  Jesus, on the divine level, because, by his life,
Pieta in Gate of Heaven Cemetery
death, and resurrection, he was the author of our redemption, and Mary, on the human level, because, without her fiat, God would not have chosen to enter history and become human.

She could have said no.  She was completely free.  It was Mary’s Choice.  But, fortunately for us, she gave her consent, and it was no doubt the most informed consent in human history.  When we read the Magnificat -- the song that flowed from Mary's lips when she met her cousin Elizabeth -- we get a glimpse of the depth of her knowledge and understanding.  Only someone steeped in the Hebrew Scriptures, in all their promises and prophecies, could have composed such a canticle.  Mary was no simple, ignorant girl that God used as an unwitting tool, like a surrogate mother; she was fully aware of the hopes of her people.  She recognized her own littleness and God’s terrible majesty, and yet she gave Him welcome in her womb. 

Some world religions are scandalized by the Incarnation.  They abhor the very thought that the most high God would enter the messy precincts of a woman’s womb.  But Christianity has always celebrated Mary’s physicality, especially her most pure and virginal womb, praising it in hymns and devotions that date to the early days of the Church.  The Te Deum, which dates at least to the fourth century, is one of the earliest:

Tu, ad liberandum suscepturus hominem,
Non horruisti Virginis uterum.

When You were to become man so as to save mankind,
You did not shrink back from the Virgin’s womb.

The hymns of the Divine Office for Christmas also celebrate the womb of the Virgin. 
Here are some verses from Iesu, Redemptor omnium,(6th century):
Memento, rerum Conditor
Nostri quod olim corporis
Sacrata ab alvo Virginis
Nascendo, formam sumpseris.

Remember, Creator of the world,
That long ago, at Your birth,
You took our body’s form
From the Virgin’s holy womb.

And here is another, A Solis ortus cardine, by Coelius Sedulius (died circa 450):
  Clausae parentis viscera
Caelestis entrat gratia;
Venter puellae baiulat
Secreta que non noverat.

In that chaste parent’s holy womb,
Celestial grace hath found its home:
And she, as earthly bride unknown,
Yet calls that Offspring blest her own.

Many people know the Christmas carol O Come All Ye Faithful. It is an English translation of the Latin hymn Adeste Fidelis. An English Catholic priest named Frederick Oakley penned it in 1841. But the second verse, which echoes the Te Deum, is most often scrubbed from modern versions:

God of God, Light of light,
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
Very God, begotten, not created:
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Modern sensibilities may reject poetry that celebrates the womb as too strange.  If we think of the womb at all, it is probably in medical terms, or a woman might think of the monthly “curse.”  We have lost our sense of wonder and awe at what the womb can bring forth—the “ordinary” miracle of life.   Few people, even Christians, give much thought to Mary’s womb, and the extraordinary one-time event that was the Incarnation.

Not so with the generations of Christians who went before us.  They meditated again and again on the Annunciation, that moment when the Creator waited humbly for his creature to make her choice.  They could never begin to exhaust the mystery, and the artists never tired of depicting that moment.

With his infancy narrative, St. Luke made certain we would know that Mary made her choice in freedom and in joy.  God could have redeemed humanity in an instant, with just one word, but instead He allowed Mary (and each of us in turn) to be a cooperator with His plan.

Mary had to consent to become the Gateway to earth before Christ could become the Gateway to heaven.  She was the perfect Gate of God, both in body and soul.  In soul, because her memory, intellect, and will were all perfectly ordered towards God.  Like her Son, she had stored the Scriptures in her memory.  She knew the stories of Sarah and Hannah, of Moses in the bulrushes, Jepthah’s daughter, and the Sacrifice of Isaac; she knew how God values the life of a child.  She knew the Psalms, and with the Psalmist could pray,

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;  
Psalm 139:13-14

Her fiat was given with the enlightened consent of her will. 

Yet Our Blessed Mother would not have thought of her soul as more important than her body—human persons are a union of body and soul.  When Mary said yes, she allowed her womb to become the Gate of God.

The Hebrew people always understood that the womb was holy; it was the place where God was at work, the place where He cooperated with a mother and a father to create new human life.  For Christians, the Incarnation of Jesus should reaffirm and heighten, inexpressibly, the sanctity of womb.   We should delight in praising her who

Gave God’s infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast
Birth, milk, and all the rest3 

(G.M. Hopkins, The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe)
And this love of Mary must give us a greater love and reverence for all women.  We believe that every woman’s womb is the Gate of Heaven for the child that she shelters there.  Every woman who says yes to life is the gateway to eternal life for her child, for only by treading the paths of this world can the child reach the Gate of Heaven.

And how do we enter the Gate of Heaven?  Through Jesus and his Church.  Our Blessed Lord did not become man just to instruct his disciples and work miracles.  He became man so that he could suffer, die, and rise from the dead.  It was through this Pascal Mystery, which we can contemplate but never comprehend, that He established the New Covenant in his Blood.  Whereas the Old Covenant sanctified one tribe, one nation, as the chosen people of God, the New Covenant invites all the nations of the earth to become the adopted sons and daughters of God.  And God’s effective means of consummating this covenant with us is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass:  just as God entered Mary’s womb at the Incarnation, God enters our bodies at Communion, and we become His children--and Mary’s children, because when she received John as her adoptive son at the foot of the cross, she also received all of us as her spiritual children.

 What is the meaning of Knock for our times?

Many people besides myself have taken note of the inscription on the old Knock church, especially the passage from Isaiah 56:7: "My house shall be called the house of prayer to all nations."  They see it as a prophecy that has been fulfilled by the approximately one and a quarter million
Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, Ireland
pilgrims that come to Knock each year from all over the world. In the shrine grounds, trees have been planted to represent all the nations on earth. And not all the pilgrims are Catholics. An Anglican priest made a recent blog post on his visit to the shrine: “When that parish church was built in 1828, a plaque on the west wall read ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.’”

He goes on to describe the apparition and makes some mild comments about it.  For example:  “…although there was no message from Mary, it was almost as if she had appeared with the saints and angels to say, ‘Yes, all is well and all shall be well.’”  He never mentions the persecution that caused the people of Knock to live “simple lives that were always threatened by poverty and famine.” 

We can feel grateful that the clergy of the Church of England no longer wish to destroy the Catholic Church in Ireland, and instead make respectful and appreciative blog posts about their holiday there.  Such good-natured comments are a huge improvement over the hatred that existed on both sides at one time.  And they may represent the sentiments of many pilgrims that visit Knock, both Catholic and Protestant.  But if people take away only this kumbaya message from Knock, I think that they may be missing the deeper meaning of the apparition.  Although its meaning is inexhaustible (since it is clearly an Apocalypse made visible), I believe that Knock holds one particular message for our times that is very important, but also very disturbing.  It is hiding in plain sight in that feel-good line from Isaiah quoted by the Anglican priest.

 The disturbing message of Knock for our times

When He cleansed the temple (Matthew 21:13), Jesus quoted Isaiah 56:7, but he coupled it with Jeremiah 7:11:
“My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.”
By quoting these prophets he was claiming to be the Messiah, and also foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem and the second Temple (fulfilled in 70 A.D by the Romans).  If we read the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah in their entirety, we see that both prophets foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the first Temple (fulfilled in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians).  The reason that God allowed the Davidic kingdom to fall was that the people had broken their covenant with God, no longer keeping the commandments.  The prophets denounced all the sins of the people—theft, murder, adultery, fornication, lying, prostitution, oppression of the poor—the list goes on and on.  But by far the worst sin seems to have been idolatry.  Why idolatry?  We in the modern West seldom see idolatry of the kind that Isaiah and Jeremiah were condemning, with shrines and statues of pagan gods.  Some communities in Europe and the U.S. may have temples of eastern religions like Hinduism, but these inspire interest rather than outrage.  Why were the prophets so adamant that idol worship would call down destruction from heaven?

The answer is plainly stated; two passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah which lie in close proximity to the passages quoted by Jesus in Matthew 21:13 give us the horrifying reason:
“Are not you wicked children, a false seed, who seek your comfort in idols under every green tree, sacrificing children in the torrents, under the high rocks?”  (Isaiah 57:4-5)
“And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Ennom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire:  which I commanded not nor thought on in my heart.” (Jeremiah 7:31).

The Jews had adopted the idolatry of the pagans around them and were sacrificing their children in the fire to idols.  For this sin especially, among all their other sins, God
The god of child sacrifice:
allowed them to be conquered by the Babylonians and sent into exile.

Human nature does not change. Down through the ages people have continued to sacrifice their children. I have found some dark hints that the 19th century people of Knock had their own encounter with infanticide.

We moderns sacrifice our babies to the gods of convenience, selfishness, and lust.  But we do it on a scale unimaginable to the Old Testament prophets.  About one and a quarter million children die from surgical abortion every year in America—that’s over 3,000 a day.  (And that’s not counting those who die from abortion pills like RU486.)   Since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, over 57 million children have been surgically aborted in the United States. 

For those who are able to face these facts honestly, this is a tragedy too great to comprehend.  The efforts of pro-life advocates, valiant as they may be, seem pitifully inadequate to challenge this culture of death.

The defenseless crowds race to offer the sacrifice
Of their own children to the bloody screams of Moloch.

In the air, fear, a lament without words…4

Recently, we have learned that hospitals in England and the U.S. have been incinerating aborted babies along with medical waste to generate electricity—we have come the full circle back to the worship of Moloch.

We have also learned that during an abortion,  Planned Parenthood manipulates the bodies of babies in utero so their body parts can be “harvested” in the most efficient manner.  They don’t want to crush valuable heads, livers, hearts, etc., because they have orders for those parts from medical “research” companies.  Despite the claims by the organization that it does not sell baby body parts, the “processing fees” that it charges its customers allow it to realize a hefty profit from each organ it “donates.”  
We did not reach this pinnacle of anti-civilization all in one step; we began by worshiping a host of lesser gods that serve this great god Moloch. Though it seems hard to believe now, all Christians -- Catholic and Protestant -- were united against artificial birth control until 1930, when the Lambeth Conference, an advisory assembly of Anglican bishops, decided to approve it for married couples. Since that year, one main line Protestant church after another has followed suit. But by far the greatest catalyst for sexual revolution was the advent of abortifacient hormonal contraception aka the Pill. In the years since the turbulent 60’s, most Protestant churches have also approved or tacitly accepted surgical abortion, sterilization, divorce, sex outside of marriage, and same-sex unions.

Added to these evils is the tragedy of infertility.  Same sex unions are always infertile, of course.  Heterosexual couples also face increasing rates of infertility.  Some contributing causes are these:  damage from IUD’s, diseases contracted from promiscuous sex, delayed child bearing, the use of hormonal birth control, and abortion.  (Yes, the Pill and abortion are prime risk factors for infertility.)  Couples desperate for children have turned to a burgeoning fertility industry, and babies have become a commodity.  Businesses traffic in sperm and eggs, while “spare” embryos may be sold, reduced, or poured down the sink.  Third World surrogates are used like a new form of breeding livestock.  Britain has approved human GMO’s, giving a child three or possibly even more genetic parents, and human cloning is on the horizon.   Lost in all this is the child’s right to know and be raised by the two people who created him in an act of love, and who have made the sacred promise to preserve the union of the family till heaven calls them home.

These “achievements” in birth control and infertility “management” are no longer counted as immoral, and many call them virtuous.  The degradation of sex by pornography, the celebration of deviant behavior, the pressure on children to be come sexually active at younger and younger ages—all these have continued to escalate in our society.  Blessed Pope Paul VI predicted all these evils in Humanae Vitae, his encyclical against artificial contraception.  His successor, St. Pope John Paul II, gave these evils a name:  the culture of death. 

Cynics would say that a majority of the world’s nominal Catholics believe and behave no differently than the general population in these matters, and sadly that is true—witness the legalization of abortion and same-sex marriage in Ireland. Undoubtedly, the sins of a small percentage of clergy who molested children have given great scandal and weakened the Church’s message on the life issues.  All this is enough to cause us to lose faith and fall into despair, and that is precisely what the enemy wants us to do.  But rather than despair, we must think of the light that shone at Knock on a dark night of rain.  Light overcomes darkness.  Love overcomes hate.  Life overcomes death.  Despite the sins of its members, there is still one Church that proclaims the Gospel of Life, and it remains, forever, the house of prayer for all nations.

We must not give in to the temptation to despair. We remember Isaiah and Jeremiah as the prophets of doom, but they spoke of mercy as well, and the forgiveness of sins. They promised that God would make a new covenant with Israel, and all nations would be invited to be part of it. (Is 55 and 56.) There would be a new Temple, a new kind of sacrifice, and a new priesthood. All of these promises are fulfilled by Jesus in the Mass.5
 “Incline your ear and come to me.  Hear and your soul shall live.  And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the faithful mercies of David.”  Is 55:3
“Let the wicked forsake his way and the unjust man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord: and he will have mercy on him: and to our God; for he is bountiful to forgive.” Is 55:7
“For I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.” Jer 31:34

God does not change.  If He could forgive the Jews who threw their living children into the fire of Moloch, He can forgive us moderns for tearing our children limb from limb in the womb.  This is difficult to believe; such forgiveness is unfathomable to us.  Jesus had to come to earth to show us what such forgiveness looks like—He forgave the people who tortured him to death on the cross.  But first we must believe that we have need of forgiveness.
“There is none that doth penance for his sin, saying:  What have I done?  They are all turned to their own course, as a horse rushing to the battle.” Jer 8:6 
“This is a nation which hath not hearkened to the voice of the Lord their God nor received instruction.  Faith is lost and is taken away out of their mouth.”  Jer 7:28
We must remember the second line of the Knock inscription: “This is the gate of the Lord; the just shall enter into it.” Ps 118:20. It does not say that “all” will enter the gate of the Lord, but the “just.” Those who deny their sins will not be able to enter God’s presence, but only those who seek His mercy.

We who are living in the time of God’s mercy, after the coming of His Son, are under a greater obligation than the people of the Old Testament.  We cannot enter heaven just by being what passes today for “good people.”  We who have heard the message of the Church are the ones who should tremble at the thought of the coming of the Lord.  We cannot cry “The Temple of the Lord!  The Temple of the Lord!”  (Jeremiah 7:4), and count on that to save us.   We must strive to “Repent and believe the Gospel,” (Mark 1:15), which is the message of the Church to all people in all times. 

But to give us heart, and save us from despair, there is also the promise of His unfathomable Mercy:  “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good:  his mercy endures forever!”  This is the first, and the last, line of Psalm 117[118].  (Verse 20 is the second line of the Knock inscription.)  It is the great Psalm of the Easter Alleluia, and also the responsorial psalm for the Easter Octave, Divine Mercy Sunday. 

St. Pope John Paul II promulgated the devotion to the Divine Mercy in his encyclical, Dives in Misericordia.  He considered it one of the most important works of his papacy.  The
painting of Jesus as Divine Mercy shows us white and red streams of light flowing from his heart.  These represent the water and blood that flowed from his side when the lance pierced his heart after his death on the cross.  The water represents Baptism and Confession—the two sacraments that cleanse us of sin, and the blood represents the Eucharist. 

Confession has been called the tribunal of mercy; it cleanses us so that we can be worthy to receive the Eucharist.  The Apocalypse of Knock presents a vision of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for our contemplation, and the Knock inscription encourages us to pray, so that we can be numbered among the “just” who will enter into the Gate of the Lord. Only those who pray with a sincere heart will examine their consciences and be moved to repentance.  And only those who repent and confess their sins may worthily receive the Eucharist. 

St. John Vianney hearing confession
Is that all there is to Knock then?  Confession and the Mass?  Yes, that is all.  Mass is an everyday miracle, not because it is mundane, but because it occurs every day:  the living God comes to be with us.  Confession is also a great miracle. People who are spiritually dead from sin, walking corpses, can enter the box, make a good confession, and exit as human beings again, healed in soul, ready to receive God.

As I write this on the Feast of the Assumption, 2015, Cardinal Timothy Dolan has just finished leading an historic pilgrimage to Knock at the head of many New York Catholics.  A promotional website for the tour said, “the special message of Knock is the need for penance.”  Let us humbly pray that the shepherds of our Church will grow bolder in proclaiming the reasons that we all need to do penance.  It has been 136 years since Our Lady appeared at Knock.   Not all of us can travel to Knock, but we can all make a pilgrimage there in our hearts.  And when we kneel at Our Lady’s Shrine in prayer, we must strike our breast and confess that we are all Irish now.  We have all suffered from immersion in this culture of death, and we need to do penance, for ourselves, and for our brothers and sisters.  We may be guilty of active participation
Author Phoebe Wise
became Catholic while
working on a Master's Degree
in Medieval Languages
from Harvard University.
in the evils of the day, or we may have failed to do everything we can to combat them.  Whatever the case, let us bow our heads in prayer, confess our sins, and then receive the Lamb of God.  Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, pray for us.


1. Scott Hahn The Wedding Supper of the Lamb, key to understanding the Apocalypse.

2. A Woman Clothed with the Sun, Hanover House, 1960

3. (G.M. Hopkins, The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe)
4. “Ode for the Eightieth Birthday of Pope John Paul II” Czeslaw Milosz,
in The End and the Beginning by George Weigel, Doubleday, 2012, p. 241.
5. Michael Patrick Barber  “The New Temple, the New Priesthood, and the New Cult in Luke-Acts” in Letter & Spirit 8 (2013):101-124. 

Fifth Planned Parenthood Undercover Video: Living Children from the Womb are Dissected While Still Alive