Archdeacon Bartholomew Cavanah was pastor of the parish of Knock, Ireland when Our Lady appeared to a group of people. He had a great devotion to the souls in purgatory. This devotion and his devotion to Mary, Mother of God were inseparable. She is the mother of her children, above all her suffering children. She is the Refuge of Sinners here on earth and she is also the helper of the souls in Purgatory. A few months before the apparition the Archdeacon began to say one hundred masses for the poor souls whom Our Lady wished most to release. It was on the day that the Hundredth mass was said that Our Lady came to visit Knock on August 21, 1879, as a wonderful gift, showing the gratitude of released souls.
Once a remote village in the west of Ireland, today not a single day goes by without a visit from pilgrims to the Shrine of Knock.
Local tradition holds that Saint Patrick visited Knock on one of his missionary journeys. He foretold that some day Knock would be a center of devotion.
The poor parish of Knock, built in 1829, was dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. The church had only enough accommodations to seat about 30 people.
Archdeacon Cavanagh came to the parish in 1867. Called a saintly man, he was deeply devoted to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. He was known to have sold his horse and watch to relieve the famine stricken. He had no banking account because there was nothing to put into one. Everything went to the poor.
Though the parish of Knock was not adorned in rich ornaments, Father Cavanagh's parishioners were not wanting in faith and hope. Poor in earthly treasures, they were rich with treasures that, " the moth can not consume nor can a thief steal."
A heavy drizzle shrouded the country side on Thursday August 21, 1879. Visiting parishioners in outlying districts, Father Cavanagh returned drenched. Housekeeper Mary McLoughlin started a fire to dry the clothes. Leaving to visit with Mrs. Margaret Beirne, while passing the church, she noticed strange figures and an altar outside the church gable. There was a strange light about them, which Mary attributed to the mist of drizzle.
It seems that a Mrs. Carty having passed by an hour before also saw this. Saying to herself, "Another collection, God help us!" She continued on. Others were to witness the strange event as well. In all, 14 witnesses gave account before the Diocesan Commission.
Between the wall enclosing the church grounds and the church itself was an uncut meadow. Three figures were standing on top of the tall grass. It was realized they could not be statues as their feet did not press down into the grass that seemed to support them. Though the southwest winds and rains moved the tress leaves, the meadow remained still.
A brilliant golden light surrounded the area. Behind the 3 images stood an altar with a large cross with a lamb in front, facing west. Angels hovered over the altar with their wings moving.
The figures were clothed in dazzling white that shown like silver. Detailed accounts were given to the Commission about the dress of each figure. Those who witnessed the events say that the figures were that of, Our Lady, Saint Joseph, and Saint John the Evangelist.
Soon after the apparition news spread and pilgrims came to Knock. A deaf child was cured, a man born blind, now was seeing. The faithful came and healing continued. Paralysis, blindness, epilepsy, cancer, heart conditions, bone disease accounted some of the miraculous healings.
Though fellow priests doubted the apparition, Archdeacon Cavanagh believed from the beginning to the end of his life, which came on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception 1897.
There were many other happens that surrounded the apparition at Knock, far to many to list here. Though the three images never spoke, the Commission reported that the evidence was "trustworthy and satisfactory." A second Commission in 1936 confirmed the same evidence given in 1879.