The National Latin Mass Pilgrimage is a special event in Knock. Unique among Latin Mass pilgrimages around the Country, His Grace, the Archbishop of Tuam has designated this pilgrimage under his own authority and appointed a chaplain, Fr. John Loftus of the Diocese of Killala.
The organisation of the National Pilgrimage was undertaken by Our Lady's Catholic Heritage Association in co-ordination with the other Catholic Heritage Associations around the Country but all Latin Mass Communities, Chaplaincies, Associations and groups around the Country are invited to participate each year.
As usual, the main exercises of the pilgrimage took place in the old Parish Church of Knock, whish stood when the apparitions took place. The apparitions are uniquely Eucharistic in that the Blessed Sacrament was present in the form of the Lamb of God with Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John, during the whole of the apparition. That may be the reason for the silence of the apparition and perhaps the key to it's central message, the importance of silence in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament - very appropriate for the Traditional Latin Mass.
There was a tremendous turn out from all parts of the Country for a Missa Cantata of Our Lady celebrated by Fr. Loftus. In keeping with the exercises of the official pilgrimages to the Shrine, the Missa Cantata was followed by the Stations of the Cross and the pilgrimage concluded with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
This account is taken from the Lives of the Irish Saints by John Canon O'Hanlon (1821-1905) for 16th May, beginning in Chapter III at p. 450 in my edition.
In the year of grace 561, our present St. Brendan is said to have flourished in Ireland. This is about the period, to which the foundation of Clonfert city has been ascribed, and, while the holy man was in his seventy-seventh year; although, other accounts place it at an earlier date, while the Annals of Inisfallen synchronize it with the very day on which the battle of Culdreimhe had been fought. An angel is said to have directed its foundation. While our saint lived there, a monk, who had left his parents in Britain, and who had travelled with St. Brendan, died. The third day after his departure, the holy old Abbot said to the Bishop, St. Moeneiu: "Place my bacillus over the body of the dead brother." Accordingly, St. Moeneiu set it on the stiff cold corpse, when the monk was restored to life. Afterwards, that brother, filled with faith in our holy Brendan's miraculous power, went safely home to his province in Britain. It was a journey of three days, from Clonfert of St. Brendan, in the province of Connaught, to the monastery of Chiayn-Credal, in that territory of Munster, where his holy nurse St. Ita lived, and whose departure to Heaven now approached. On the night or vigil of our Lord's Nativity, the pious virgin said within herself: "Would that on this
very holy morning, I could receive the Body of Christ, from the hand of my venerable foster-son Brendan." Then, rising on the instant, to celebrate the vigil in her monastery, like the holy Abacuch, she was raised by an Angel and brought to the city of St. Brendan, at Clonfert. Knowing in the spirit, what was to occur, the holy superior went out from the porch of his church, to meet St. Ita with the Holy Communion. The Angel placed that fovoured virgin on the ground, where she received the Body of our Lord from the hand of St. Brendan, while offering thanks to God. Giving and receiving
mutually a blessing, the virgin of Christ was raised once more by the Angel, and brought to her monastery. Her translation through the air to Clonfert and back to Cluayn-Credal only occupied an hour.
St. Brendan made a journey into the province of Connaught, where a field was presented to him. In after times, and even to the present day, that place has been called Clonfert. Here arose a once celebrated city, because our saint began there the erection of a religious establishment. That former famous city — the head of an episcopal See — has now dwindled away to an inconsiderable village. In our Annals, it is usually called Clonfert of Brendan, to distinguish it from many other places so denominated, in different parts of Ireland. This was a principal one of St. Brendan's erections, and there it was known, in his time, as Clonfert monastery, near the River Shannon. Its foundation has been ascribed to the year 558. Over this Abbey, he was called upon to preside, as superior of a fervent religious community. He is said afterwards to have been a bishop. It has been stated, moreover, that a great educational institute was erected by St. Brendan, at Clonfert. This college deserves to be ranked in the first place, among the sacred and literary institutions of Ireland. Theology, philosophy, the sciences, and general literature, were taught within its walls. The numbers that resorted to it for education were so great, that in a few years, it became necessary to appoint a bishop, for the purpose of ordaining missionaries, and of serving the churches, which grew up in the adjacent country.
In legend, too, he is associated with the place. On a certain day, Brendan was at Cluain-ferta, in his church, after preaching and the Mass. This happened fourteen years before his death. He saw a wonderful bird coming
in at the window, and after that, it perched on the altar. However, Brenainn was not able to look at it, in consequence of a sun-like radiance that gleamed.
This was the first time that we had made a pilgrimage to Athlone. The magnificent Church of Ss. Peter and Paul, sometimes known as the Cathedral of the Shannon, is a major landmark at the central point of Ireland, at the main crossing of the Shannon, which divides the Country roughly in half, east and west, by the main road between Dublin and Galway that joins the east coast to the west and divides the Country roughly in half, north and south. The town straddles two provices (Leinster and Connacht), two Counties (Westmeath and Roscommon), and two Dioceses (Ardagh & Clomnacnoise and Elphin).
The Church was completed in 1937 and, like many post-Independence Churches, is in a fusion of styles - Galway Cathedral being the high point of the fusion movement - Doric and Baroque. The Doric is most obvious in the stark exterior, a restrained Baroque more notable in the interior that has a range of marble features, still complete. Several fine Harry Clarke windows are in place. It is one of the most complete and most harmonious Churches in the Country, being built and decorated to a single design in one project.
God of our fathers, renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation, the hope which promises forgiveness and interior renewal, the charity which purifies and opens our hearts to love you, and in you, each of our brothers and sisters.
Lord Jesus Christ, may the Church in Ireland renew her age-old commitment to the education of our young people in the way of truth and goodness, holiness and generous service to society.
Holy Spirit, comforter, advocate and guide, inspire a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal for the Church in Ireland.
May our sorrow and our tears, our sincere effort to redress past wrongs, and our firm purpose of amendment bear an abundant harvest of grace for the deepening of the faith in our families, parishes, schools and communities, for the spiritual progress of Irish society, and the growth of charity, justice, joy and peace within the whole human family.
To you, Triune God, confident in the loving protection of Mary, Queen of Ireland, our Mother, and of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and all the saints, do we entrust ourselves, our children, and the needs of the Church in Ireland.
Pope Benedict XVI 19th March, 2010 Solemnity of St. Joseph
The Irish are very devoted to pilgrimage. In the Golden Age of Faith the Saints of Ireland undertook Peregrinatio Pro Christo to Heaven-knew-where to bring them the Catholic Faith. It is a startlingly rare thing to make a pilgrimage to Armagh, the seat of Saint Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, and his successor the Primate of All Ireland, and, in a sense, the spiritual heart and ecclesiastical capital of Ireland.
The present Cathedral, the National Cathedral, as Cardinal Logue called it, was built between 1840 and 1904, the medieval Cathedral having been confiscated during the 16th century. Historic images of the Cathedral can be seen here.
On Saturday, 28th March, 2015, members and friends of the Catholic Heritage Association made their first pilgrimage to the Diocese of Clonfert culminating in a Latin Mass in St. Michael's Church (1858), Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. St. Michael's is one of the finest Churches in the Diocese, rivaling the Cathedral of the Diocese, Loughrea, 50 years its junior.