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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 

1 comment:

  1. All said is mostly beautiful except for anything to do with horrific murder of our babies. This woul have been jail. Now people get monetary reward. So sad I do hope my prayers help. What I will talk about now is Ireland. My Mother is a Ryan. I'm told Ireland has may a Ryan. I ways wanted to see Ireland. I dream of it. Iam saddened yo.know the Catholics are leaving the faith, but this seems true many places. I often wonder why. I read the Confessios of St Patrick. He went back to the very place where he had been a slave, to teach & convert the ery same people. At one time Ireland was so very Catholic. Like so very many places now. We are loosing people. No wonder Christ woders if He will find Faith on earth upon His return. We have so much going on now. I prY the Catholics will remember who we are; and from where we came. We have much to do,if we only know. God expects our work for him. Pray we can & WILL Love...Ivorysnow3567