Knock Shrine in Co Mayo is getting ready for a massive influx of up to 150,000 pilgrims for the annual National Novena, which starts today, August 14 and continues for nine days. This year’s Novena has an international flavour. The Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, will be in Knock Shrine on Friday to perform the official opening of the nine day programme. His Eminence is leading a group of some 170 pilgrims from the Archdiocese of New York, who arrived to Mayo on Sunday morning as part of a historic first chartered pilgrimage flight by Aer Lingus between New York and Ireland West Airport Knock.
The Novena programme features a diverse range of speakers and workshops, exploring various religious and social issues on the theme of ‘Faith and Family’. The speakers include the Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh Most Rev Eamon Martin; the UN special representative for international migration Peter Sutherland; and Joan Freeman, the founder of suicide and self-harm prevention charity, Pieta House.
Parish priest and rector at Knock Shrine, Fr Richard Gibbons, described the National Novena at Knock Shrine as a “visible testament to the very special place Knock Shrine holds in the hearts of many Irish people. Tens of thousands of people will make their way to Knock over these nine important days in our annual pilgrimage calendar. It shows that for so many Irish people, there is still a very real connection there with faith and how we live out that faith in our everyday lives. This year’s programme is incredibly diverse, touching on some very topical and important social issues relating to family and faith, with speakers from all walks of life, including of course, our special guest from New York, His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan.”
As well as the ceremonies at the Shrine itself, hundreds of pilgrims will undertake what has become a traditional Knock Novena vigil walk in the early hours of August 15 and travel to the Shrine on foot, some of them barefoot, from surrounding towns and villages for a special Mass at 6am in the parish church. The busiest day during the Novena will be the Feast of Our Lady of Knock on August 21, which marks the anniversary of the apparition at the gable of the parish church in 1879.
This year’s Novena will also afford the large crowds the opportunity to see the extensively refurbished Our Lady’s Basilica. The Basilica, which opened in 1976, was closed for a number of months for refurbishment work but reopened for ceremonies last Easter. The work represents the first major investment in the Basilica, the spire of which has become an iconic landmark in east Mayo, since it was opened almost 40 years ago.
Throughout the Novena, ceremonies take place in the Basilica each day between August 14 and 22 at 3pm and 8.30pm. Workshops take place daily at 12 noon and 6pm. For a full programme of events, visit www.knockshrine.ie or telephone (094 ) 9388100. Follow Knock Shrine on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates.