The Life and Times of Kateri Tekawitha – Tekakwitha’s Spring

Tekakwitha's SprintIn the valley of the Mohawk, near the present great highways of the State of New York, is a quiet forest nook, where a clear, cold spring gurgles out from the tangled roots of a tree. Connected with this spring is the story of a short girl-life, pure, vigorous, sorrow-taught. It is written out in authentic documents; while Nature, also, has kept a record of an Indian maiden’s lodge beside the spring. There on the banks of the Mohawk River, at Caughnawaga, now called Fonda, in Montgomery County, dwelt the Lily of the Mohawks two centuries ago, when the State had neither shape nor name. She saw her people build a strong, new palisaded village there. She saw, though at rare intervals, the peaceful but adventurous traders of Fort Orange, and the blackgowns of New France pass in and out on friendly errands. Mohegans came there also in her day to lay siege to the village, but only to be met with fierce defiance and to be driven back. Marks of that very Indian fort can still be found at Fonda, where the Johnstown Railway now branches from the New York Central, and turns northward along the margin of the Cayudutta Creek. The smoke of the engine, as it leaves the town of Fonda, mounts to the level of a plateau on which the Mohawk Castle 1 stood. The elevated land, or river terrace, at that point is singularly called the “Sand Flats.”

A rude fort of palisades, well equipped for defence, was completed about the year 1668 on a narrow tongue of this high terrace, between the Mohawk River and the creek. The approach to it is very steep; but in one place a wagon-road winds up the hill to what is now a field on Veeder’s farm. Here unmistakable signs of Indian occupation are to be found. A spring is close at hand in a clump of trees. The castle at that spot was known as “Caughnawaga,” meaning “At the Rapids,” – a name still applied to the eastern part of the present town of Fonda. The Mohawk River runs swiftly as it passes this spot, and large stones obstruct its course. The spring at the castle site on the west side of the creek is Tekakwitha’s spring; for there beside it she grew to maidenhood, behind the shelter of the palisades, and beneath the shadow of the overarching forest. Tekakwitha was the Lily of the Mohawks, and afterwards known as “La Bonne Catherine.”

In the Mohawk Valley, the great artery of our nation’s life, the tide of human travel now ebbs and flows with ever-swelling force; here the New York Central Railway levels out its course of four broad tracks; here the great canal bears heavy burdens east and west; here the West Shore Railway skirts the southern terrace; here the Mohawk River winds and ripples, smiling in an old-time, quiet way at these hurrying, crowded highways. They have wellnigh filled the generous roadway, cut through high plateaus and mountain spurs in ages past by this same placid river. That was in its younger, busier days. Now it idles on its way from side to side, among the flats or bottoms, with here and there a rapid, till at last it gathers force at far Cohoes for one great plunge before it joins the Hudson. Then the mingled waters of the two rivers sweep on past the stately Capitol, where once the Indian trading-post, Fort Orange, stood. From Albany, the broad-bosomed Hudson bears floating palaces and long lines of canal-boats strung together like great beads of wampum. Let its current move them southward, while we turn back to the valley whence these strings of wampum came. Let us follow up the windings of the Mohawk River westward. At Schenectady it lingers among islands in pretty, narrow ways, where college boys can take their sweethearts rowing. Right playfully it kisses the feet of the old Dutch town in summer, and in winter its frozen bosom sounds with the merry thud of the skater’s steel. Farther west the valley narrows, and on a height near Hoffman’s Ferry, Mohawk and Mohegan fought their last fierce battle. Tekakwitha heard their war-whoop at the castle of Caughnawaga, just before the final conflict came; but she never saw Fort Johnson, which is higher up the river. Old Fort Johnson is too modern for our story. Amsterdam now looms up an important factor in the valley. Two centuries ago a joyous stream cascading down to meet the Mohawk was its only landmark. Tekakwitha knew the spot, however, and had good reason to remember it, as we shall see. Westward still, and up the valley from Fort Johnson, a broader gleam of water comes in sight. It is where the Schoharie River creeps in from the south between the dripping archways of a bridge, over which canal-boats pass. Here the Mohawk shows its teeth in a ridge of angry rapids; and here we enter what was once the home country of its people, the fierce Mohawks. We are near the spot where brave Father Isaac Jogues, the discoverer of Lake George, was killed, in 1646. In the southwest angle of the Mohawk and Schoharie Rivers, on the upper terrace, higher than the modern hamlet of Auriesville, was the eastern castle of the Mohawks, known to Jogues as Ossernenon. 2 Here three times the hero-hearted blackgown came; first, a mangled, tortured captive, dragging out the weary months in slavery until the Dutchmen at Fort Orange ransomed him; next, as an ambassador of peace, bearing presents, making treaties; and lastly, as envoy of the Prince of Peace, and wedded to his “spouse of blood,” – for so Jogues styled his Mohawk mission. Never was a truer bridegroom, never stranger wedding rites. Bits of his flesh were cut off and devoured, while the savage high-priest cried, “Let us see if this white flesh is the flesh of an otkon [spirit or devil.]” “I am but a man like yourselves,” said Jogues, “though I fear not death nor your tortures.” His head was placed on the northern palisade, looking toward the French frontier, and his body thrown into the stream; but his blood and his earnest words sank deep into the land and the hearts of its people. From Jogues’ mystic union with the Mohawk nation, trooping from the “Mission of the Martyrs,” came the Christian Iroquois. One of these – a bright soul in a dusky setting, and a flower that sprang from martyr’s blood – was Tekakwitha. She grew up, says one who knew her, “like a lily among thorns.” Ten years after Ondessonk 3 had shed the last drop of his blood to make these Mohawks Christians, she was born among the people who had seen the blackgown die, in the Village of the Turtles, – some say in the “cabin at the door of which the tomahawked priest had fallen.”

This same stronghold of the Turtles was rebuilt higher up the river during Tekakwitha’s lifetime. Near Ossernenon, the earliest known site of the Turtle Castle, there is a great bend or loop in the Mohawk River and Valley. It extends from the mouth of the Schoharie River on the east to the “Nose” near Yost’s and Spraker’s Basin on the west. The Nose is at a point where river, railways, and canal are crowded in a narrow pass between two overlapping ridges of high land. “Two Mountains approaching,” or Tionnontogen, the Indians called it; and there behind the shelter of the hills, they built their largest and best fortified town, the Mohawk capital or Castle of the Wolves. Other villages and their central Castle of the Bears, called Andagoron, they also built and rebuilt within the great bend. At its northern point, where the river now flows between the high-perched Starin residence and the town of Fonda, the next important railway-station west of Amsterdam, are the rapids and the large stones in the water which gave rise to the name of Caughnawaga. From the hills at Fonda one can see for miles both up and down the river.

Here, as has already been said, just west of Fonda, on the north side of the Mohawk is the Indian village site where Tekakwitha lived. Here is the beautiful hill that was once crowned by the palisaded castle of Caughnawaga. It is a spot that any one who lived there must have loved. To-day the plough turns up the rich soil where long Indian cabins stood, and what we see are only darkened patches left to tell us where the hearthfires of the Mohawks burned two hundred years ago. These patches of dark soil still glisten with the pearly mussel-shells brought up by the Mohawks to their village from the river that still bears their name. The pipe-stems sold to them by the Dutch are strewn in fragments through the field. From graves near by, thrown out on the roadside by the spades of workmen loading their carts with sand, the author has seen Indian bones, more crumbled than the silly beads and rusty scissors buried with them, which they bought so dearly. In a wood near by, on the brow of a ravine, there is a row of hollow corn-pits where the Caughnawaga people stored their charred corn. Low down in the fertile river-flats, southward from the ancient village site, a sunburned farmer, owner of both hill and valley, still works with horses and with iron implements the very corn-fields that the squaws hoed with clumsy bone-tools. This once castled height breaks abruptly on its eastern side to let the Cayudutta Creek wind through. It hurries by on its way to meet the Mohawk, and then lags through the flat, lost to sight just long enough to pass round the skirts of the Ta-berg, or Tea Mountain. This in a grassy cone topped with pines, and so named by Dutch settlers who there in wartimes made a tea from a wild plant. It partly blocks the entrance to the pretty Cayudutta valley, and separates it from the modern town of Fonda; but the farmers’ daughters and the village people who now live in sight of Fonda Court House know well the little valley of the Cayudutta. Any one of them can point out its brightest gem, the never failing spring that issues from a set-back in the hill and so regular in shape as to suggest an amphitheatre. This spring wells out from under an old stump hidden in a clump of trees, whose topmost branches are below the level of the castle site. Its waters rest a moment in a little shady pool, a round forest mirror; then brimming over, break away and wander down the steep descent to the creek. The path to the spring leads downward from the higher ground above it, known as the Sand Flats. The field where the castle stood is now often planted thick with grain; but when this has been cut and the ground again ploughed, the Indian relics are readily found. At any season of the year, however, the limpid spring that has not ceased to flow for centuries will serve to indicate the spot.

The Mohawk Valley from Fonday, New York, Tekakwitha's Birthplace in the DistanceStanding then, at the brink of this spring in the Mohawk Valley, let the reader cast a look backward, and over the intervening space of two hundred years, to the days of Tekakwitha. Let it be understood, however, that while the imaginative faculty is thus to be called into play, it is not for the contemplation of an imaginative but of a real character. For whatever side lights may color the narrative, they are used to bring out, not to impair, the picture. Many details of time and place, of manners and customs, of dress and the arts of industry, will be woven into an actual scene, rather than given in a tedious enumeration.

The scene about to be described and others which follow depicting the early life of Tekakwitha are not to be found actually recorded in so many words in the history of her life and times, yet they must have occurred; for they are based on the known facts of her life as related in various official and private documents, together with such inferences only as may fairly and reasonably be drawn from those facts when brought under the strong light of contemporaneous records.

Above the spring at Fonda, on the high plateau where is now the well-tilled farm, stood, two centuries ago, the log-built palisades of ancient Caughnawaga. In tall and close-set ranks they serve to hide from view and shield from ambush the long, low Indian houses, twenty-four in number. “Double stockaded round, with four ports,” as when the traveller Greenhalgh saw the place in 1677, “and a bow-shot from the river,” stands the strong Mohawk castle. The blackened stumps that now dot the sunny hillside of the Cayudutta change into the old-time, mighty forest, and present a scene that is full of life; for down a well-worn footpath come the Indian girls to fill their jugs at the spring, – afterwards to be known as Tekakwitha’s Spring.

These dusky Caughnawaga maidens have the well-known Indian features strongly marked, – the high cheek bones, the dull red skin, and soft dark eyes; but Tekakwitha shields hers with her blanket from the light. Unlike the rest, there is an air of thoughtfulness about her and a touch of mystery. Excessive shyness in the Lily of the Mohawks is strangely blended with a sympathetic nature; and with a quiet force of character she leads their chatter, half unconsciously, to channels of her own choosing.

“A manuscript of the time,” says Shea, “describes the Indian maiden with her well-oiled and neatly parted hair descending in a long plait behind, while a fine chemise was met at the waist by a neat and well-trimmed petticoat reaching to the knee; below this was the rich legging and then the well-fitted moccasin, the glory of an Iroquois belle. The neck was loaded with beads, while the crimson blanket enveloped the whole form.”

This, in general, is the costume of the merry group with Tekakwitha at the spring. The upper garment, however, is a kind of tunic or simple overdress; nor can it be said that all are equally neat in their appearance. Some have their dark, straight hair tied loosely back and hanging down, or else with wampum braided in it. A few are clothed in foreign stuff, bought from the Dutch for beaver-skins and worn in shapeless pieces hung about them with savage carelessness. On their dark arms the sunlight flashes back from heavily beaded wrist and arm bands, begged or borrowed from their more industrious companions. Not like theirs is Tekakwitha’s costume. It is made of deer and moose skins, – all of native make, and stitched together by a practised hand, as every one of the pretty squaws well knew. Her needle was a small bone from the ankle of the deer, her thread the sinews of the same light-footed animal, whose brain she mixed with moss and used to tan the skins and make the soft brown leather which she shaped so deftly into tunic, moccasins, and leggings. Her own skirt was scarce so richly worked with quills of the porcupine as that of her adopted sister there beside her, though both were made by Tekakwitha’s hands.

The Indian girls about her like her for her generous nature and her merry, witty speeches. She makes them laugh right heartily while she stands waiting for her jug to fill up at the trickling spring.

These daughters of the Iroquois are bubbling over with good spirits, and their pottery jugs with water, when all at once they spy a band of hunters coming homeward down the Cayudutta valley from the Sacondaga country. Knowing there is one among them who but waits his chance to lay his wealth of beaver-skins at Tekakwitha’s feet and take her for his wife, they turn girl-like to tease her; but the quick and timid orphan, dreading the license of their tongues, has bounded up the hill, and hastens to her uncle’s cabin with her jug, leaving her companions to bandy words with the young hunters as they stop beside the little pool for a draught of refreshing water.

Of all the people in the ancient Caughnawaga village, the only story that has been written out in full and handed down in precious manuscript, brown with age, is the story of her who bounded up the hill and left her comrades at the spring. In a double sense she left them. She was far above them. She stands to-day upon a mystic height; and many, both of her race and our own in these our days, do homage to her memory.

May her home at Caughnawaga, high above the stones that lie embedded in the Mohawk River, and close beside the spring that trickles downward to the Cayudutta,4 soon become familiar ground to all who honor Tekakwitha!

  1. The Indian forts or palisaded villages, called “castles” by the early Dutch settlers of New York State, were stoutly built of logs and bark, and were effectual barriers of defence until the artillery of the white men was brought to bear upon them.
  2. Megapolensis, the Dutch dominie at Fort Orange, who befriended Jogues, the French Jesuit, in his captivity, writes the name of this Mohawk town or castle, Asserue or Asserne. It was just at the spot where a shrine has been recently elected to honor the memory of Isaac Jogues and of his companion Réné Goupil, both of whom were tomahawked in that vicinity by the Mohawks.
  3. Jogues’ Indian name.
  4. See Appendix, Note A, where in a letter dated March 3, 1885, General John S. Clark, of Auburn, New York, the well-known archaeologist, mentions this spring as marking the site of Gandawague (or Caughnawaga) on the Cayudutta Creek, northwest of Fonda, New York. For date of the removal from Auriesville to that site, see his letter of 29 June 1885, also given in Note A, with other proofs as to the location of Mohawk villages at the time of Jogues and Tekakwitha.

The Life and Times of Kateri Tekawitha – Preface

The life and surroundings of “The Lily of the Mohawks,” as an undeveloped theme in literature, was first suggested to me by my uncle, the Reverend Clarence A. Walworth. My interest and enthusiasm were at once aroused. The thought of a mere Indian girl reared in the forest among barbarians, yet winning for herself such titles as “The Lily of the Mohawks” and “The Genevieve of New France,” recurred to my mind again and again, until it led me to a fixed determination to explore so tempting a field of romance and archaeology. The fact that it lay among the hills and valleys of my native State, and was little known except to solitary scholars and laborious historians, incited me still more to the task. I became ambitious to gather from the records of two centuries ago every detail relating in any way to my Indian heroine. While engaged in this work unexpected opportunities opened to gather exact information about her, and more especially concerning the localities connected with her early childhood, and her conversion and baptism in the Mohawk Valley.

If this book, embodying the result of my researches, should fail to interest the reader, it will not be for any lack of enthusiasm on my part, or of kind encouragement and competent assistance from others.

When beginning the work my first call for advice was upon Dr John Gilmary Shea, so well versed in Indian annals, as also in the general history of this country. I found him full of interest in my subject. Guided by the information received from him, and also by the directions of the Reverend R. S. Dewey, S.J., who has long been familiar with the missionary and Indian traditions of the Mohawk Valley, I went to Montreal and secured from the courteous kindness of Father Turgeon, S.J., rector of the Jesuit College there, the use of all the manuscripts I desired. The Sisters of the Hôtel Dieu furnished me with a room in their hospital, to which the good Rector allowed me to transport the entire carton. This contained all the unprinted materials relating to my subject that belonged to the college library.

There, at the Hôtel Dieu, delightfully located with the sisters of an order whose history is closely bound up with that of Montreal, I copied at my leisure the manuscripts most valuable to me.

In Montreal, also, my good fortune gave me interviews with M. Cuoq, the distinguished philologist of Saint Sulpice, whose Indian dictionaries and grammars I had already seen in my uncle’s library. Much I owe besides to Soeur Saint Henriette, librarian and keeper of the archives at the Villa Maria. It was on the boat which shoots the Lachine Rapids that I met Mr. Hale of Philadelphia, the learned author of the “Iroquois Book of Rites,” and enjoyed a long conversation with him on matters of deep interest to us both and to my work. My first visit to the Iroquois Village at Caughnawaga, P. Q., occurred at this time. Here my uncle and I found hospitable entertainment for several days at the Presbytery of the church, presided over by the Reverend Père Burtin, O.M.I. Besides the valuable information acquired from the library of books and manuscripts in his possession, I gathered much from the acquaintance then established with the Iroquois of the “Sault” and in particular with their grand chief, Joseph Williams.

La Prairie was only nine miles distant, with its scholarly curé, Père Bourgeault, and his valuable collection of ancient maps; and about half way between Caughnawaga and La Prairie lay the grave of Tekakwitha, with its tall cross looking over the rapids of the Saint Lawrence. An author with a theme like mine in such localities and with such guides was, indeed, in an enchanted land.

In Albany I received valuable assistance and advice from Mr. Holmes and Mr. Howell, of the State Library, also from Mr. Melius, of the City Clerk’s Office, and others.

I have reserved for a most especial and grateful acknowledgment the name of General John S. Clark, of Auburn, New York. My work is indebted to him for a treasure of information which he alone could give. In the knowledge of Iroquois localities in New York State, particularly those of two centuries ago, and the trails over which missionaries from Canada travelled so painfully to villages where they labored so hard and yet successfully, he is the undoubted pioneer. Almost all we know in this branch of archaeology is owing to him. It was my privilege in company with my uncle, and with General Clark for pilot, to spend a memorable week in search of Indian localities along the Mohawk, from the mouth of Schoharie Creek to the farthest castle of the wolf clan opposite Fort Plain. We visited and verified, under the General’s direction, no less than eleven sites in this one week. An account of the most important of these sites can be found in the contributions of General Clark, as explanatory footnotes, to “Early Chapters of Mohawk History.” This work consists of translations into English of selected letters from the Relations Jesuites. For these translations we are indebted to the lamented Dr Hawley, late pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Auburn. Guided by the wise advice of General Clark, I was able afterwards to make other independent journeys, and familiarize myself with Indian trails passing near my native town, above all those followed by Tekakwitha in her escape to the “Sault.” I owe to General Clark’s kindness the valuable map of Mohawk Castle Sites, to be found in this book and drawn expressly for it by his hand.

Lastly, I recall with pleasure a conversation with the Reverend Felix Martin, S.J., a well known authority in Canadian and Indian archaeology. To this venerable author, the editor of the famous “Jesuit Relations,” the biographer of Isaac Jogues, of Chomonot and of Tekakwitha, I owe a large debt of gratitude. His biography of her, entitled “Une Vierge Iroquoise,” is still in manuscript, never having been published. He was the first to gather and keep together all the manuscripts extant giving contemporary accounts of the Iroquois maiden. He laid a foundation of accumulated facts for others to build upon. I sought him out in Paris in 1885, and found him with some difficulty. The hiding place of this learned old man was in an obscure corner of the city. The schools of his order all broken up, separated from his companions, his books and his manuscripts, and from his old beloved home in the New France, which he would never see again, – how his eyes glistened when I came to him from the western world, a child of the Hudson and Mohawk, to speak to him of Tekakwitha, bringing him even the latest news of archaeological discoveries in those valleys! His face beamed with delight at every new detail. It pleased him much to know that Dr. Shea was, at that very time, translating into English his (Martin’s) French Life of Jogues, and to learn that I was writing, and hoped soon to have published a full account of Kateri Tekakwitha for my own countrymen of the United States. He gave his blessing to me and to my work, a blessing which I prize most highly. His hearty approval is especially gratifying, since I have had occasion to use much of the material he had gathered for publication in French under his own name. Alas! scarcely had I recrossed the Atlantic, when the news of his death reached me.

In conclusion, let me say: I am conscious of many defects in this work. Others may yet be found better able than I to do justice to my theme, but not any one, I think, who will come to the task more anxious to make known to all the whole truth of history concerning the rare and beautiful character of this lily of our forest.

Albany, New York, 2 January 1891.

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Saints who were Martyrs – page 13

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The Apparitions and Miracles at Knock with the Official Depositions of the Eye-Witnesses


The desire to possess a permanent and reliable record of the wonderful events connected with Knock Church, in the county Mayo, has been growing in the minds of all who have paid a visit to the venerated spot, or who have read the accounts regarding it, published in the journals of the day. This desire is not special to Irishmen; it has extended to England, Scotland, to America, and, we can add, to Australia – to every part of the globe in which the English language is spoken.

The Editor wishes to satisfy this laudable desire, and therefore he has prepared this volume. His recompense will be the good wishes of his readers, and of those devout souls who come to Knock, or who hold the name and dignity of Our Blessed Lady in veneration.

The official testimony of those who witnessed the first Apparition is here given, in order to give the reader the best reliable and authentic evidence. Other visions have been witnessed, and lights of a supernatural kind, since the first day of the present year, but of these there is no official testimony yet given.

– Tuam, Lady Day, 25th March, 1880


With feelings and views of a character quite opposite in their kind, Catholics and non-Catholics will peruse the following pages. The work will, no doubt, be sought after with equal avidity by persons of every class and of every shade of religious belief. By many, the record of facts will be scanned with a scrutinizing eye, and with views and wishes different entirely from those by which the masses of the simple, yet intelligent people are usually influenced. It will, however, be a source of great satisfaction to most people to learn the truth – regard it as they will – concerning the events which have occurred at Knock, a spot now suddenly become famous.

What People think.

Many religious-minded persons doubt the reality of this, let us suppose, supernatural manifestation; the learned dismiss the subject with a smile; some nod the head at the credulity and simplicity of certain people; physicists and men who make science the only criterion of truth, and its evidence the only motive of arriving at certainty in matters supernatural as well as in things natural, will pronounce, in a semi-dogmatic tone, that the apparition has been the effect of some natural cause unknown to man; or that all the witnesses who bear testimony to what they assert they saw, have in some way or other been themselves deceived. On the other hand, thousands of people, at home and abroad, will be convinced – as most persons who have visited the site have been convinced – that the Apparition was, in its appearance, a reality, objectively present to the gaze of the different persons who beheld it; and that it could not, by any possibility, have been produced by human agency.

Opinions do not undo facts.

Whatever the views may be of those who read these pages, they in no way concern the editor of this pamphlet, which is simply a reproduction, in book form, of the facts that he has already published. One need not conceal the fact that the Tuam News was the medium through which the public learned, for the first time, the story now so well known regarding the Apparition seen at Knock on the 21st of August last. The correspondent of the Daily News, London, puts this point prominently forward in the issue of that journal, Saturday, 28th February, just passed. “Publicity,” says he, “was first given to the alleged occurrence in the Tuam News of the 9th January, and then in a cautious, hesitating manner, accompanied by an intimation that the ecclesiastical authorities had up to that time pronounced no final opinion.” Every child of Mother Church knows full well that she has been always, and at all times, cautious in giving her sanction to any new apparition or vision, or to any new devotion. She knows, in the words of Gamaliel, the Jewish doctor of the law, “that if this design or work be of men, it will fall to nothing; but if it be of God, you are not able to destroy it,” and time only will more strongly confirm its truth.

The Editor’s duty.

As the proprietor of the Tuam News was the first to present an account of the Apparition, it is only carrying out his views more fully to be the first also to reissue all that he has hitherto published, and to put the whole record of the varied events in a permanent form into the reader’s hands.

It is well always to avoid the expression of any personal opinions, and accordingly the writer will follow the prudent course adopted by the learned correspondent of the London Daily Telegraph, who, in his essay – “A Mayo Lourdes” – published 1 March 1880, says: “It will be my care to express no opinion on the matter in hand, nor even to suggest that I have formed one; the more because from the very nature of the case, what anyone thinks about it is neither proof nor disproof. I shall narrate a plain, unvarnished tale, and for the rest disclaim responsibility.”

And, indeed, the mere narration of the facts is quite sufficient. There is already a great religious excitement created in this country and in England, and beyond the Atlantic, too, as is evident from the tone of the journals published in these countries; Irish men and women, from London and from New York, manifest, in their letters, the highest degree of religious warmth on the subject, and appear full of enthusiasm.

The Apparition congruous.

A respected and intelligent correspondent, writing from the south of London, expresses his conviction, apart from the actual proofs now furnished, that the vision has been seen at Knock; “for,” says he, “it was only congruous that our Blessed Lady should manifest her presence in some remark able way to her devout and devoted children in Ireland.”

France has been doubly honoured by her presence Lourdes, a town in the Upper Pyrenees, has been rendered blessed and famous by her appearing at the Grotto de Massabielle, to a poor peasant child, Bernadette Soubirous, daughter of a poor miller of that remote little town. Previously La Salette was favoured in a remarkable manner by her coming. The Poles and the Germans have had super natural manifestations vouchsafed to them at Marpingen and Dittrichswalde. The religious fervour of Belgium is ever in a glow by the living presence amongst them of one whose daily life is a continuous miracle – Louise Lateau. Why, then, should not faithful Ireland, so devoted to the Saviour of mankind and to his holy Mother, be similarly favoured by her heavenly presence?


The Church of Knock, the scene of the Apparition of the Blessed Virgin, of Saint Joseph, and, as the witnesses believe, of Saint John the Evangelist, is adjacent to a village of the same name, situate in the diocese of Tuam, in the south-east of the county Mayo, and in the baronial district known as Costello. This barony borders on the county Roscommon, along a line of some twenty-five miles, embracing within its extent the rising towns of Ballaghaderin and Ballyhaunis. Knock lies on the western boundary of the barony of Costello, adjoining that of Clanmorris and Gallen. To those who feel an interest in poor-law unions or territorial divisions, it may be interesting to state that the village lies within the Claremorris Union. Knock-druim-Calry, as the spot was once called, is said by Lewis, the writer of the “Topographical Dictionary of Ireland,” to be five miles north-east from Clare, as Claremorris had been called some forty-five years ago. Standing on the line of railway that extends from Claremorris to Ballyhaunis, and looking northwards, Knock stands at the vertex of an irregular triangle, the base of which is the longest side, and that drawn from Claremorris to Knock the shortest, namely, five miles, while the third side to the right, from Ballyhaunis to Knock, is six miles and a half.

In Gaelic, the name “Knock” signifies a hill. The village is surrounded by elevated knolls, which are known by the term “knock,” or “druim,” or “sliabh,” in the language of the Irish people. If one stands on the tower of the small church, and views the country around, he will see these elevations arise around him like huge billows in a deep and boisterous sea. Looking, for instance, to the south-west, he beholds Cnoc-ban, or fair hill; and to the north, “druim,” i. e., a ridge, an elevated slope; and to the south-east, the wild and bleak mountain-land, called “sliabh na mbreitheamh,” or the mountain district of the judges. The village, which rests embosomed amidst these elevations, is very appropriately called “Knock,” because, like Hebron, it is in the heart of a hilly country. The view of the region surrounding Knock is not at all inviting; the country district is bare of trees. To strangers coming from England or France, the region is like one through which a desolating army has passed, no sign of trees or of comfortable farmsteads is to be seen; no rich cultivated meadows or fertile agricultural or even well-tilled tracts. The view to the east and west, as one approaches the village from the south, is bleak and un inviting in the extreme, presenting here and there patches of cultivated farms, and for the rest nothing but bog-land, marshes, or badly-tilled upland potato or corn fields.

A second Lourdes.

A wonderful centre of religious excitement, and a great incentive to faith, has suddenly started into form and favour in South Mayo. For the past twelve months the west of Ireland has been the trysting-place of all who have laboured for the improvement of the condition of the small farmers living on Irish soil. The eyes of all in England, and of friends and foes to the cause of the people at home and abroad, have been turned to the west of Ireland. It is there a flame of political and social excitement has been fanned which is spreading at present all over the entire land, embracing, it may be said, the four provinces. The west at the present moment presents an extraordinary attraction of a higher kind to not alone natives in Ireland, but to all Catholics in these kingdoms, as well as to their brethren on the continents of Europe and America. The Catholic world has heard of the name and fame of Lourdes, once a wild spot, but now frequented by all the world, far away in the mountainous region to the south of France. A second Lourdes has arisen at Knock, a small village surrounded by little hills, from which, as expressive of the natural character of the locality, it is known to the natives as the “village of the hills.” It is distant about five miles from Claremorris, which is favourably situate on the Great North-Western Railway. All this, it is useful to state, for the sake of those who are now coming in numbers to visit at Knock, the scene of the various apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, and of Saint Joseph and the Redeemer, which have been seen by the natives of that unpretending Nazareth. The multitudes who flock to the chapel, or Catholic Church at Knock, from the surrounding districts are quite as numerous as those that formed the monster meetings which for the past nine months have been held in the counties Mayo, Galway, and Sligo. As the people of the neighbouring towns, and of districts and counties more remote, and the Catholics of England and America, take a great interest in the events that have lately transpired, and which at present are spoken of by everybody in this country – Protestant as well as Catholic – relative to the supernatural apparitions seen at the chapel of Knock, it is right to tell the public all the well-authenticated facts regarding the multitudes, the miracles, and the many and repeated manifestations that appear now to be seen each successive week.

The Multitudes who come to visit Knock.

And first as to the multitudes. A vast gathering of people from all the border towns within a circuit of twenty miles assembled those few weeks past at this unpretending little village; some of the pilgrim travellers started before day, guided by the light of the stars alone, and urged onward by the fervour of their own faith. Some were seen wending their way on foot, others on horseback, while whole families of peasants proceeded on their pilgrimage, journeying on the ordinary country vehicle known as a cart; the better class indulged in the luxury of side-cars, or, as they are known in Dublin by the name, “outsiders;” not a few families from the different towns cut a dash by a tandem drive with the highest available vehicle in these parts, known by the unpretending and not agreeably-sounding name of “drag;” a “hansom” would be quite a novel vehicle in that district. The gathering had, certainly, been enormous, exhibiting, at the same time, an agreeable diversity in the mixed character of the crowd assembled.

The diversity and variety of the Multitudes.

The variety of individual character was co-extensive with the greatness of the numbers that composed the gathering. There, one could behold the blind, the lame, the crippled, the deformed, the deaf, the paralytic – all seeking to be cured, like those whom the Redeemer found at the Pool of Bethsaida, in Jerusalem. Accounts without number have come to our ears of cures effected before Christmas last, and, above all, since that period; and on last Thursday week it is stated that two remarkable miracles were performed on two persons who for years had, from the result of accidental causes, been unable to walk. The man found himself so greatly cured, that he left, it is said, his crutches, and bounded home like the lame man cured before the Golden Gate of the temple of Jerusalem by Saint Peter and Saint John the Evangelist, “walking and bounding along, and all the while giving thanks to God and blessing God’s holy name.” Thursday and Monday are the days now set apart for visiting this place; This conclusion has been arrived at because the Blessed Mother of our Lord appeared first on a Thursday, and again on the first day of the New Year – a Thursday; and on Mondays not a few miracles have been performed on devotees who came to manifest their devotion for Our Blessed Lady.

The Miracles.

The fame of these miracles, and the story of the various apparitions, too, have gone abroad, and have created an immense amount of conjecture and discussion amongst the people relative to the natural and supernatural world.

What the Children of the Faith think.

The children of the faith see nothing wonderful at all in these manifestations. It is to them something that they expected, or, if they did not actually expect their coming at this time and place, they see nothing incongruous in the fact that they have occurred. The spiritual world is to them like a land with which they are familiar from that knowledge which their holy faith supplies, pretty much, as they are not put out of sorts with anything they hear or see from America (a far off land); because, in this instance, American life and habits are something with which they are familiar, owing to the fact that their relatives in that country commune with their friends in Ireland, and tell them all regarding themselves and American life and manners in that great republic to the west of the Atlantic. In this way our Catholic people are not at all put about by the narration of miracles or of miraculous apparitions at Knock. They are, by faith, aware beforehand that such things happened before, happen now, and will take place as long as the Church of God is on earth. The angels appeared to Abraham, and walked with him, and talked to him, and directed “him in all his ways.” They appeared and spoke to, and brought to a foreign country and back, the grandson of Abraham, Isaac, the father of all the Israelites. The same is true of Tobias and Daniel, the prophets; and of Saint Peter, the head of the Apostles, and of numerous saints in the Catholic Church in Africa, in Rome, and in this island during the golden age of sanctity in Ireland. What happened once, why not happen again? It is the same God who ruled and governed mankind then as now; it is the same Church that points out to her children the way to heaven; the Irish faithful, like those in the time of Saint Columkille, or at a later period, are the brothers of the Redeemer, purchased by his sacred Blood. He loves us as He loved them, and sends his angels to take charge of us, as they took charge of them in days past. These points have been spoken of and canvassed in conversation amongst laity and amongst religious for the past six months. It was only when the matter was described in a former issue of the Tuam News that the faithful began to attach any degree of credibility to the facts before that time incorrectly narrated. The Tuam News gave a summary of the events that had occurred up to that time, stamped with the appearance of the supernatural. The Apparition of the 21st of August last cannot well be understood without having some notion of the position and form of the little Catholic church in the village of Knock.

The Church of Knock.

The building has no pretension to architectural elegance of any kind nor to the internal beauty such as one would wish to witness in God’s house. The plan of the building, if plan it can be called, is in the shape of the letter T, the long limb being about sixty feet, and the cross limbs in breadth about fifty feet. The chancel and altar are grouped at the head where the arms project to the right and left. Standing at the altar and looking down the nave, one beholds at the end a loft or entrance that leads to a tower with belfry, both of which are of modern construction and date. The gold-coloured pinnacle of this tower is the first part of the building that comes in view as one, from a southerly direction, approaches the village in which the church stands. To the rear of the chancel and attached to the gable of the altar, a house, less elevated than the walls of the church proper, has been erected; this additional building, which is entered by a door from the chancel, is known as the sacristy – a house in which the sacred ornaments of the church, and the sacred vessels and every requisite for the altar are kept in safety, by the priests or by their attendants. The gable of this sacristy, in a line parallel to the gable of the church, is the second stone erection between the chancel and the outside world, towards, or at the south-eastern gable. It is well, too, to point out the direction to which this plain wall faces: its front looks straight into the approaching meridian sun at 11 o’clock, a.m.; its right wing points to the south-west; its left wing or branch, to the east by north.

Note: In the diagram to the right, A represents the church; B the sacristy; C the gable against which the apparition was seen; D the boy’s school; E the grave of Mr. O’Grady, the father of the parish priest who built the church; F the girl’s school.

Objections answered.

This is the gable hard by which the first miraculous apparition was beheld on the evening and night of the 21st of August last. It is thus seen that there are two gables between the altar of the church and the gable fronting the southeast, and that, consequently, if lights appeared in the church, the reflection from them could never beam on the outside at the foot of the wall of the second gable; above all, direct light could never convey, by any law of optics, images when radiating from a centre, and not passing through any other translucent medium, from which the rays of light might, at a certain fixed and measured distance, carry the image of the object or pellucid picture. The time at which the apparition appeared was some twenty minutes after sunset, so that by no law of radiation from reflected light could the images be thrown naturally or artificially from the clouds. Add to that the great fact, that at the time the Blessed Virgin appeared it was pouring rain in torrents, and the drizzling fall continued the whole time and late onwards through the night. The whole of that day had been one dreary, dismal downpour, from early dawn to the dusky hours of sun-down. We give the following quotation from what we have already written on the subject:

First account of the Apparition from Tuam News, 9 January.

“All that may be said in the following lines is an expression of the feelings of the people, and does not pretend to anticipate the judgment which the ecclesiastical superiors may express upon the facts, of which they are already cognizant. The chapel of Knock, at which the apparitions have occurred, is about five miles from Claremorris, and its gilt cross which surmounts the lofty tower can be seen for miles around. The priest who so worthily presides over the parish is the venerable archdeacon of the diocese – the Very Reverend Bartholomew Cavanagh. The chapel is of cruciform shape. The sacristy occupies the upper and smaller shaft, and is immediately behind the high altar. In the gable of the sacristy there is a Gothic window, about five feet by two broad; its lowest part is about twelve feet from the ground. The remainder of the gable is plain, and covered outside by a good substantial coating of cement to protect the wall from the rains, which beat with great violence, especially upon that side. On this gable wall of the sacristy were seen the extraordinary lights, in the midst of which the Blessed Virgin, accompanied by Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist, appeared. On Thursday, the 21st of August last, the eve of the octave day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was accompanied by a blinding drizzle of rain, which continued till the next day. As some persons were hurriedly going along the road which leads to the chapel, at about 7:30 p.m., they perceived the wall beautifully illuminated by a soft, white, flickering light, through which could be perceived brilliant stars twinkling as on a fine frosty night. The first person who saw it passed on, but others soon came and remained, and these saw, covering a large portion of the gable end of the sacristy, an altar, and to its Gospel side the figures of Saint John the Evangelist, the Blessed Virgin, and Saint Joseph. On the altar, which stood about eight feet from the ground, and immediately under the window, a lamb stood, and rising up behind the lamb was a crucifix with the figure of our Lord upon it. The altar was surrounded by a brilliant golden light, through which up and down angels seemed to be flitting. Near the altar, and immediately to its Gospel side, but nearer to the ground, was Saint John, having a mitre on his head, and holding the book of the Gospels open in his left hand as if reading from it. He held his right hand raised, and in the act of blessing, the index and middle fingers being extended after the manner adopted by bishops. To Saint John’s right stood the Blessed Virgin, having her hands extended and raised towards her shoulders, the palms of her hands turned towards the people, and her eyes raised up towards heaven. To the Blessed Virgin’s right was St; Joseph, turned towards her, and in an inclining posture. These figures remained visible from 7:30 to 10 o’clock p.m., witnessed during that time by about twenty persons, who forgot all about the heavy rain that was then falling and drenched them through. The light at the chapel was seen by people who lived near the place. On Monday evening, the eve of the Epiphany, a bright light was again visible and from n p.m. until 2 o’clock A.M. was seen by a very large number, of whom two were members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, who were on their patrol duty that evening. One of them said that up to that time he did not believe in it, but he was really startled by the brightness of the light which he saw. Many cures have been worked through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and by the application of the cement taken from the chapel wall: We have heard from the mouths of most trustworthy witnesses an account of nearly a dozen cures, of which the narrators themselves were eye-witnesses. In addition to what we have already written regarding the visions seen at the chapel of Knock, two remarkable miracles, witnessed by hundreds of persons, were performed yesterday, namely, sight restored to two young girls, one of whom had, on the testimony of her mother, not seen from her birth. She had been several times with physicians in Dublin, but all to no purpose. Yesterday, in the presence of hundreds, she received the use of sight, having visited three times the spot where the Blessed Virgin Mary is said to have appeared, and after praying three times in honour of the Mother of God.”

Even since these words just quoted have been written, other miracles, as we have stated in the first part of this article, have come under the testimony and cognizance of numbers who have frequented the hallowed spot. His Grace the Archbishop of Tuam ordered the depositions of the several witnesses to be taken by a commission of learned priests and dignitaries deputed for that purpose; and they have reported officially that the testimony of all, taken as a whole, is trust worthy and satisfactory.


Tourists or travellers coming to Knock must pass through either of the two towns, Claremorris or Ballyhaunis, which are points at the extreme ends of the base of the irregular triangle, of which the village of Knock forms the vertex. The chapel of the Apparition must be reached by car, either from Claremorris or Ballyhaunis – the former is five miles distant, the latter six and a half. In excursion trips the fare, either from Dublin or Athlone, to these towns is the same, and at Claremorris a number of cars are usually at call, ready for all new comers. The accommodation, too, is fair considering the extent of the town, and the means of the inhabitants. The people have been by strangers pronounced civil and obliging. There are in the town two hotels, in which good accommodation can be had, besides private apartments, where families can find themselves at home. All visitors from Waterford, Wexford, Cork, Limerick, and the extreme west and south of Ireland, come to Clare morris, per the Waterford and Limerick Railway, through Athenry and Tuam, in the county Galway. Cars are to be had at Tuam, from which the journey of fourteen miles can be made in two hours. The fare by public car is two-and-sixpence. What the town of Clare, as it was called in times past, had been forty-five years ago is thus described by Lewis in his Topographical Dictionary: “A market and post-town in the parish of Kilcolman, barony of Clanmorris, county Mayo, and province of Connacht, fourteen miles south-east by south from Castlebar, and 117 miles from Dublin.” And Kilcolman parish, of which Clare is the capital, he states, contained, in 1837, 8,400 souls, or nearly 1,700 (seventeen hundred) families – at present it contains only 1,300 families. The parish contains 22,886 statute acres. The remains of an old Carmelite convent are found here at Ballinsmala, within one mile and a half of Claremorris. According to Ware, by Harris, vol. ii., 283, the friary was founded in the thirteenth century by the Prendergasts – then owners of the lands in that district. According to an inquisition, held 12 May 1608, the community possessed twelve acres of land. At the period of the dissolution of monasteries, this establishment and the lands annexed, were granted to Sir John King. The friars were banished; they managed, however, to live as best they could amongst the native Catholics, to whom they were devoted, and who, in turn, held the friars in great veneration. Some thirty-five years ago the friars celebrated Mass within those walls that are now in ruins at Ballinsmala.

Regarding the parish of Kilcolman, or Claremorris, one third of the land is arable, one fourth pasture; the remainder, over one third, is waste or a bog. The boundaries of Catholic and Protestant parishes are the same. The tenants have never been rich. The wealthiest is only so far above want, that one year or two of adverse times, like the present, are sufficient to induce all the privations that come in the train of poverty.


Ballyhaunis, as well as Claremorris, is favourably situated on the line of the North-Western Railway. It is a rising town. It has two hotels. A growing rivalry exists at present between its inhabitants and those of Claremorris in the marked attention which they pay to visitors going to Knock, and to all tourists and strangers that pass by that way. According to Lewis, it is a market town, situate in the parish of Annagh, diocese of Tuam, barony of Costello. Mayo is divided into nine baronial districts, two of which – Clanmorris and Costello – lie at the south-eastern boundary bordering on Roscommon county. A monastery of Augustinian Friars was founded here in the year 1312, and largely endowed by the family of Nagle, who took the name of Costello, or MacCostello. It nourished till the reign of James I. In the year 1641, the friars gained possession of their old home, and rebuilt portions of the ruined edifice. Again, after a score of years, they were obliged to fly. They continued to dwell amongst the people, for priests in Ireland at that period were obliged to hide from the view of any Government official, and to abide for three months or twelve months in one house, and then to seek a change of habitation, lest their presence in a town or village should become publicly known. The friars administered to the spiritual wants of the faithful, celebrating Mass, whenever possible, in the ruined cloisters of their monastery. Some fifty-five years ago they began again to rebuild the broken walls of their church and convent. They possessed by right over one hundred and fifty acres of land, bestowed by the Barons MacCostellos, in times past, on the community. This property the grandfather of the present Viscount Dillon took to himself at the end of the century just passed, and with much seeming kindness gave the friars, with a lease for ever, at a shilling an acre, twelve acres of their own land, keeping in his own right as lord of the territory around the rest of the fee-farm, which really belonged to the good religious, but to which the English law gave them no title, or rather to which it dis-entitled them. At the present time the prior and his brethren in religion are in possession of a neat church and of a very substantial establishment suited to a small community. As the Augustinians form one of the mendicant orders, the friars derive their support from the alms and offerings of the faithful, together with the proceeds of the small farm.

What is that?

This passing notice of the monastery has been given to please the legitimate curiosity of the many visitors who make Ballyhaunis their way in going to visit Knock. The first thing that strikes a stranger’s eye on entering the town from the railway station is the venerable pile of massive, but ancient.looking, buildings erected on the hill. He naturally asks: What is that? The site is certainly attractive, and the most commanding in Ballyhaunis. It could be rendered still more striking. The town and convent are entwined in historic, social, and religious relations. With the foundation of the monastery for the hermits of Saint Augustine, in the fourteenth century, Ballyhaunis grew into existence as a town. Its religious life was supported in days of persecution by the friars, and the names of Jordan, Waldron, Bourke, Fitzgerald, Egan, O’Neil, Dowling, Finn, and O’Hara, to be met with amongst the best-to-do of the inhabitants, show that the priors and friars, who bore those names, were, like most of the Irish priesthood, the sons of the people.

Knock – The Parish Priest – His Dwelling.

A visitor taking car at this town, or at Claremorris, will reach Knock after an hour’s drive. The parish is at the head of a union of two, for Aughamor and Knock are united, and both are at present under the pastoral charge of the Very Reverend Bartholomew A. Cavanagh, archdeacon of the diocese. In each of the parishes there is a church. The archdeacon confines his ministrations and personal care chiefly to the parish of Knock, looking after the wants, spiritual and temporal, of the people, and relieving them in their hours of trial, and attending to all sick-calls. In this way the good pastor’s time is fully occupied, especially in this year of general want, when the time and patience and power of endurance of every Irish priest in the West of Ireland is fully put to the tightest test. Archdeacon Cavanagh receives some ninety letters each day. It is evident that he cannot attend to the demands of all his present correspondents, and if some of them are disappointed it is not owing to indifference or negligence on the part of the pious pastor. The residence of the venerable archdeacon is quite near the chapel, say about two minutes’ walk. It is a plain, thatched cottage, consisting of three rooms and a kitchen. It is in shape and size like the dwelling of some of his humbler parishioners, and is distinguished from the common class of cottages by a flower garden in front of the leading entrance. He receives all those who come to him with great courtesy and kindness, having a friendly word for everyone. Strangers of note, and clerical visitors, are usually treated by him with much attention and marked respect.

Pious Peasants.

Qualis pater, talis filius – like father, like son, is an old adage, and may be turned a little into the following: qualis pastor, talis grex – like pastor, like flock. The pastor of Knock and Aughamor is zealous, devoted to his sacred calling, an humble client of Mary, the Mother of God; and so the people, at least many of them, are simple in their habits of life, and imbued with a deep-seated love of their holy religion. Like the priest who teaches them, they have great faith in our blessed Lord, and the fullest hope in his saving merits; they are imbued with a deep, devotional attachment to the blessed Mother of the Redeemer. All the peasant Catholics of the West of Ireland regard our Blessed Lady pretty much as they do a respected and honoured member of the household to which each respectively belongs. Christ is their Brother, the Eternal Son of our common Heavenly Father; but Holy Mary, his Mother, is their Mother, and for her their love and veneration is childlike and elevated – childlike in its trust and natural simplicity, elevated in the knowledge they possess of her transcendent perfections, her sanctity, grace, and the marvellous share that was hers in the divine economy of Redemption; and consequently her mighty influence and all-saving power with her Divine Son.


The village of Knock is now spoken of not only in Ireland, in England, in Scotland, but in America. Letters from the most distant districts in the far-off United States of the American Continent have been received, in which detailed questions have been put respecting the “apparitions and the miracles” at Knock. It is quite impossible to answer all the inquiries made on the several points proposed, regarding the general subject and the detailed events that have been narrated, and which, it is stated, have actually taken place. The events can well be grouped under two headings, namely, those respecting the Apparition seen on 21 August 1879, the eve of the octave of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and those that tell of the “miracles” that have been wrought since Christmas last. It is easy enough to deal with the question of the first Apparition, be cause the proofs regarding it rest on the evidence of the witnesses who assert, and even swear, that they beheld it. These are at least fifteen in number.

Reasoning on this point.

How it could happen that fifteen persons of different ages, and of different ways of thinking and of living – persons differing in age, in condition, in place, and position, could, without any apparent reason, conspire to say they all saw a certain thing which, in the opinions of those who do not credit their narration, they did not see, and that they were under that delusion (not one, but all of them) that they saw it, some for one hour, some for an hour and a half, some for two hours, is a thing quite impossible to comprehend. A person can understand how one could be deceived even with his or her eyes open, and the senses quite alive to all things else around and about; but how fifteen could be deceived or could conspire, differing, as they did, in age, state, and condition, is something as marvellous in the moral world as the Apparition itself is in the order of material events. One of three conclusions must be come to by any sensible and rational being who weighs the evidence: Either the Apparition was a reality; or, it never took place; and all the fifteen witnesses have conspired without cause, and have been deceivers; or they all of one accord innocently imagined they beheld what they never saw. Which of the three is the easier to credit: (i)that they saw it; or (2) imagined they saw it; or (3) concocted the whole thing, and were deceivers? The non-Catholic affirms, “there was no such thing as an apparition;” “it is all a hoax.” So, too, says the incredulous Catholic; and, mind you, very few learned Catholics yet give any credit to the events that have been narrated. This is fair. It is natural that the people should doubt. It is even right that they should doubt, for every story that one hears ought not to be readily credited. And it always happens that those who doubt longest, like Saint Thomas the Apostle, are those who are, in matters of truth, the firmest supporters afterwards of that which they are certain is true. Well, then, in respect to the non-Catholic section of the community and of the Catholics who do not give credit to the story or narration of the first Apparition, one could say: You must (a) either believe that the apparition did de facto take place, account for its appearance as you will; or (b), that fifteen quiet, rational people, while in their senses, and while awake, were deceived; or that, worse still (c), they were rogues and cheats prepared quite well enough to combine. The reply given is: “I do not believe they saw the Apparition.” Very well. They were all deceived, then, without any fault on their part, or they conspired without cause. If deceived, there have been fifteen miracles instead of one wrought, for it is a wonderful and, indeed, a miraculous thing to make a person seriously believe he saw what he did not see, and to hold him to it for one hour, or two, or longer. No rational being could by human possibility be so deceived, and, above all, convinced rationally that the events occurred which, in point of fact (if he were deceived), never had occurred. And then you must multiply that deception by fifteen, for that number of rational, sensible men and women declare that they beheld the apparition, not for a moment, not in a loose, transient way, but in a settled manner for hours, so that they had time to come and go, to think and examine, to see the hands, eyes, and the minutest outline of the beings who stood before them. They endured cold, and rain, and wet, while looking at the vision they declare they saw, but which the man who does not credit the story says they did not see. His alternative is a far greater miracle in itself than that of the believer, for, in his case, it is simply one apparition, in the other, it was fifteen apparitions deceiving each of the rational beings who stood on looking at what had, according to their theory, no reality. If they conspired without cause, there was an additional miracle; for, in matters of lying and deception, it is seldom or ever all can be at one in narrating the same events. Witness the two judges or elders whom the Prophet Daniel examined. Each told a different story when examined separately and apart, simply because each of the two was telling an untruth. Now, in the case of these fifteen witnesses, it is amazing that all of them and each of them tell in substance the same event. How, supposing they were deceivers, and that they conspired, did each hit exactly on the same story when singly examined regarding the vision, the time, place, and circumstances? They differ, it is true, in minor and special outlines, as all men will, in giving an account of the same event; but they tell in substance and in integrity of detail the same story. No other conclusion can, therefore, be arrived at regarding the first Apparition than that it actually has occurred. Let men of learning account for it as they like.

Other Conjectures groundless.

The non-believing individuals describe the appearance, either as (1) a miracle; or (2) the effect of reflected light; or (3) some kind of magic-lantern proceeding; or (4) the effect of phosphorus; or of (5) electric or magnetic currents; or (6) natural miasmatic gustations from the earth below, arising perhaps, from a stratification of coal or of petroleum some thirty or fifty feet under the surface. The vision, or the luminous appearances, could not come from reflected lights; for, as a rule, and as a matter of science, mirages are seen in the clouds, and not at the gables of a house, and they never continue longer than a few moments, like a rainbow, just only while the sun is shining on a certain point. Now, in the first vision at Knock, the Apparitions continued for hours, and was seen both before the sun had fully gone down, and after it had set, in day time and in night time, and that for a lengthened period. What regarding the effects of a magic lantern? Anyone who has seen the place can behold at a glance that to produce images on the wall at Knock Chapel by magic lanterns is simply impossible. The nearest point at which a performer could stand is distant thirty yards from the gable, and no lens and no electric light known to scientists at the present day can cast fully defined likenesses the size of a man on four hundred square feet of surface for some hours in the light of day, and the darkness of night, and that with pencils of rays of light invisible from artificial sources of illumination. Neither is the phosphorus theory of any avail. One would require an immense amount of phosphorus to daub the whole gable of a church with it. The phosphorus would ignite in the daytime in the hands of any unskilled, nay, the most cautious artist. Then, again, the light of phosphorus could not be seen distinctly thirty yards off; especially it could not be seen at daytime. Again, it could not present, with its ever-fitful flame, accurately and minutely defined features. Some of the witnesses testify that they beheld the very eye-balls of the figures, which, as Patrick Hill testifies, appeared to him to be those of living beings; he saw, he says, not only the eyes, but the iris and the pupil. Although some of the witnesses have described the figures as statues, yet they assert that those they saw were like living beings, as their eyes, and the brightness of their eyes, ever showed. They were statue-like only in this respect, that the figures did not speak. It is in that respect the witnesses bear testimony to their statue or ghost-like appearance. Phosphoric light is ever fitful and fluctuating, like the light of a reflected moon on the disturbed surface of a rippling lake. It is never even, nor at rest. But in the Apparition there was no rippling, or ever and constant changing of light. The figures and likenesses that were seen were settled; they presented an accurate outline, and were constant and continuous in their pose for two hours and a half. Add to all this that the lights were beheld at a distance of over half a mile; phosphoric lights cannot be seen thirty yards off – above all, they cannot be seen in daylight. But this is certain, that while water is being poured on a surface on which phosphorus is being rubbed, no light from it is seen. Now, according to the testimony of the witnesses, it was, during the whole period, pouring torrents of rain on the gable end of the church, so much so, that all of them say what they wondered at most, like Moses looking at the bush burning and yet not consumed, was, that the “bodies” before them were deluged with rain, and all the while they were not wet, nor the silvery glow that surrounded them in any way lessened. The glowing light of phosphor is yellowish; this seen on the night of the apparition was white.

The objection that the appearances have been produced by electric lights is too fanciful. Electric lights do not be made manifest in one part of the earth, without being seen or made manifest under the same circumstances in other parts. If electric lights arise and are diffused around one gable of a church at a certain time and in certain circumstances, what prevents the electric lights from being seen under similar and the like circumstances in other places? Hence it is in itself a kind of miracle to make the electric current, everywhere existing in the earth, tell without special cause in one place and not in another, in like situation. Lastly, about the stratifications under the earth. That is merely fanciful or hypothetic. But suppose there are bituminous substances lying under the church, fifty or sixty feet down under the surface, why do exhalations arise at the gable rather than in any other part? Why do the lights, seen almost each night, increase in bulk as they ascend around the gable and the wall each side? How, too, could well-defined figures be fashioned from any such exhalations? Why does not curling smoke make images continuously for hours?

All that has been said or written has no positive sanction from the Church or from the Church rulers and ecclesiastical guides; that which has been just stated has only the same amount of authority that is usually given to any public event witnessed by many – but with this exception, that much greater care has been taken to be accurate and rigidly truthful in the accounts now given than if they were the ordinary events of the day. If they are supernatural, as they appear to be, there is much more to be said regarding them; if, after all, they are in any way unreal, as some think, then very soon that want of reality must come to light. Meantime, till the Church speaks authoritatively on the subject, one has fair grounds for believing the whole account of the Apparition to be true, and that some, at least, of the miracles are a reality.


Our Lady of KnockDepositions taken in the presence of the Very Reverend Archdeacon Bartholomew A. Cavanagh, P.P.; of Reverend James Canon Waldron, P.P., Ballyhaunis; and Reverend U. J. Canon Bourke, P.P. of Kilcolman, Claremorris, County Mayo, deputed by his Grace, the Archbishop of Tuam, to see into the truth of the vision alleged to have appeared at the Catholic Church of Knock on the evening of 21 August, the octave of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1879.

In presenting the testimony of the different witnesses who beheld the apparitions on the evening of the 21st August last, the first place is rightly due to the evidence of Patrick Hill, of Claremorris, a young, frank, intelligent boy, of about thirteen years of age. His account of the Apparition is the fullest and most satisfactory. It extends to even the minutest details. To all who question him, he replies with an open, childlike simplicity of manner, and with the readiness of one who knows and who feels that he is certain of what he tells. He states some points to which other eye-witnesses do not even allude; for instance, that on the forehead of the figure representing the Blessed Virgin, he saw just under the circlet of the crown, and where, on the human head, the hair grows, a full-blown rose. The other witnesses do not even allude to this remarkable fact. The palms of the hands were not turned outwards, but slightly diverging from a parallel position, one palm fronting the other, with a gentle convergence towards the face of the figure. He observed the feet, and remarked that the right foot was in advance of the left, like one going to move forward; and that, in fact, the figures did move forward at times, and backwards towards the gable whenever the people drew nearer to them. He saw angels, having their faces veiled, fluttering around the Lamb. Other witnesses say they saw only glittering lights around the Lamb, but that they were not angels. Master Hill declares that they appeared to him to move, and, as it were, on wing, but that he could not see their faces. The cross, he says, was behind the Lamb, and erect on the altar, and not on the Lamb, as is represented. The other witnesses used the words behind the Lamb, on the Lamb; he states with a certain conviction the cross was behind the Lamb, but inward, erect, or perpendicular to the altar, and in no way touching the Lamb. Again, he states that although a luminous whiteness covered the whole gable, or the greater portion of it, yet a dark border line out a little from each of the forms, gave the beholders a clear and distinct view of each of the figures that stood before them: for instance, between Saint John and the figure of the Blessed Virgin, a dark or less bright border line showed how far the bright rays that encircled the Virgin extended, and how far those radiating from Saint John extended, and the meeting of the two was less bright than the lustrous whiteness that was seen around.

Then, again, he saw, he states, not only the eyes of the Immaculate Lady, but the iris and the pupil in each. That after being a while looking on and gazing at the figures, he went up towards Saint John, and could distinctly see the lettering in the book which Saint John appeared to be reading.

These are points that are worth noting in the evidence of Master Patrick Hill, on account of their special character, and the minuteness of outline, and the simple certainty with which he tells one out straight what he saw.

No phosphoric or electric action could bring out the distinct brightness in the pupil of the eye, or the minute distinctness in the lettering of the Book of Gospels.

His Testimony.

I am Patrick Hill; I live in Claremorris; my aunt lives at Knock; I remember the 21st of August last; on that day I was drawing home turf, or peat, from the bog, on an ass. While at my aunt’s, at about 8 o’clock in the evening, Dominick Beirne came into the house; he cried out: Come up to the chapel and see the miraculous lights, and the beautiful visions that are to be seen there. I followed him; another man, by name Dominick Beirne, and John Durkan, and a small boy named John Curry, came with me; we were all together; we ran over towards the chapel. When we, running southwest, came so far from the village that on our turning the gable came in view, we immediately beheld the lights, a clear, white light, covering most of the gable, from the ground up to the window and higher. It was a kind of changing bright light, going sometimes up high and again not so high. We saw the figures – the Blessed Virgin, Saint Joseph, and Saint John, and an altar, with the Lamb on the altar, and a cross behind the Lamb. At this time we reached as far as the wall fronting the gable; there were other people there before me; some of them were praying, some not; all were looking at the vision; they were leaning over the wall or ditch, with their arms resting on the top. I saw the figures and brightness; the boy, John Curry, from behind the wall, could not see them; but I did; and he asked me to lift him up till he could see the grand babies, as he called the figures; it was raining; some – amongst them Mary M’Loughlin – who beheld what I now saw, had gone away; others were coming. After we prayed awhile I thought it right to go across the wall and into the chapel yard. I brought little Curry with me; I went then up closer; I saw everything distinctly. The figures were full and round, as if they had a body and life; they said nothing, but as we approached they seemed to go back a little towards the gable. I distinctly beheld the Blessed Virgin Mary, life size, standing about two feet or so above the ground, clothed in white robes, which were fastened at the neck; her hands were raised to the height of the shoulders, as if in prayer, with the palms facing one another, but slanting inwards towards the face; the palms were not turned towards the people, but facing each other as I have described; she appeared to be praying; her eyes were turned, as I saw, to wards heaven; she wore a brilliant crown on her head, and over the forehead, where the crown fitted the brow, a beautiful rose; the crown appeared brilliant, and of a golden brightness, of a deeper hue, inclined to a mellow yellow, than the striking whiteness of the robes she wore; the upper parts of the crown appeared to be a series of sparkles, or glittering crosses. I saw her eyes, the balls, the pupils, and the iris of each – [the boy did not know those special names of those parts of the eye, but he pointed to them, and described them in his own way] – I noticed her hands especially, and face; her appearance; the robes came only as far as the ankles; I saw the feet and the ankles; one foot, the right, was slightly in advance of the other; at times she appeared, and all the;figures appeared to move out and again to go backwards; I saw them move; she did not speak; I went up very near; one old woman went up and embraced the Virgin’s feet, and she found nothing in her arms or hands; they receded, she said, from her; I saw Saint Joseph to the Blessed Virgin’s right hand; his head was bent, from the shoulders, forward; he appeared to be paying his respects; I noticed his whiskers; they appeared slightly gray; there was a line or dark mearing between the figure of the Blessed Virgin and that of Saint Joseph, so that one could know Saint Joseph, and the place where his figure appeared distinctly from that of the Blessed Virgin and the spot where she stood. I saw the feet of Saint Joseph, too; his hands were joined like a person at prayer. The third figure that stood before me was that of Saint John the Evangelist; he stood erect to the Gospel side of the altar, and at an angle with the figure of the Blessed Virgin, so that his back was not turned to the altar, nor to the Mother of God; his right arm was at an angle with a line drawn across from Saint Joseph to where our Blessed Lady appeared to be standing; Saint John was dressed like a bishop preaching; he wore a small mitre on his head.; he held a Mass Book, or a Book of the Gospels, in the left hand; the right hand was raised to the elevation of the head; while he kept the index finger and the middle finger of the right hand raised, the other three fingers of the same hand were shut; he appeared as if he were preaching, but I heard no voice; I came so near, that I looked into the book; I saw the lines and the letters. Saint John wore no sandles; his left hand was turned towards the altar that was behind him; the altar was a plain one, like any ordinary altar, without any ornaments. On the altar stood a Lamb – the size of a lamb eight weeks old; the face of the Lamb was fronting the west, and looking in the direction of the Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph; behind the Lamb a large cross was placed erect or perpendicular on the altar; around the Lamb I saw angels hovering during the whole time, for the space of one hour and a half or longer; I saw their wings fluttering, but I did not perceive their heads or faces, which were not turned to me. For the space of one hour and a half we were under the pouring rain; at this time I was very wet; I noticed that the rain did not wet the figures which appeared before me, although I was wet myself; I went away then.

(Signed) Patrick Hill.
Witness present – U. J. Canon Bourke.
8 October 1879

Second Witness.

I, Mary McLoughlin, live in Knock; I am housekeeper to the Reverend Archdeacon Cavanagh; I remember the evening of the 21st of August; at the hour of seven or so, or a little later, while it was yet bright day, I passed from the Reverend the Archdeacon’s house on by the chapel, towards the house of a Mrs. Beirne, widow. On passing by the chapel, and at a little distance from it, I saw a wonderful number of strange figures or appearances at the gable, one like the Blessed Virgin Mary, and one like Saint Joseph, another a bishop; I saw an altar; I was wondering to see there such an extraordinary group; yet I passed on and said nothing, thinking that possibly the Archdeacon had been supplied with these beautiful figures from Dublin or somewhere else, and that he said nothing about them, but had left them in the open air; I saw a white about them; I thought the whole thing strange; after looking at them I passed on to the house of Mrs. Beirne’s in the village; after reaching Widow Beirne’s house I stayed there half an hour at least; I returned then homewards to the Archdeacon’s house, accompanied by Miss Mary Beirne, and as we approached the chapel, she cried out, “Look at the beautiful figures.” We gazed on them for a little, and then I told her to go for her mother, Widow Beirne, and her brother, and her sister, and her niece, who were still in the house which she and I had left. I remained looking at the sight before me until the mother, sister, and brother of Miss Mary Beirne came; at the time I was outside the ditch and to the south -west of the schoolhouse near the road, about thirty yards or so from the church; I leaned across the wall in order to see, as well as I could, the whole scene. I remained now for the space of at least a quarter of an hour, perhaps longer; I told Miss Beirne then to go for her uncle, Bryan Beirne, and her aunt, Mrs. Bryan Beirne, or any of the neighbours whom she should see, in order that they might witness the sight that they were then enjoying. It was now about a quarter past eight o’clock, and beginning to be quite dark. The sun had set; it was raining at the time. I beheld, on this occasion, not only the three figures, but an altar further on to the left of the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to the left of the bishop and above the altar a Lamb about the size of that which is five weeks old. Behind the Lamb appeared the cross; it was away a bit from the Lamb, while the latter stood in front from it, and not resting on the wood of the cross. Around the Lamb a number of gold-like stars appeared in the form of a halo. This altar was placed right under the window of the gable and more to the east of the figures, all, of course, outside the church at Knock. I parted from the company or gathering at eight and a half o’clock. I went to the priest’s house and told what I had beheld, and spoke of the beautiful things that were to be seen at the gable of the chapel; I asked him, or said, rather, it would be worth his while to go to witness them. He appeared to make nothing of what I said, and consequently he did not go. Although it was pouring rain the wall had a bright, dry appearance, while the rest of the building appeared to be dark. I did not return to behold the visions again after that, remaining at my house. I saw the sight for fully an hour. Very Reverend B. Cavanagh heard the next day all about the Apparition from the others who had beheld it; and then it came to his recollection that I had told him the previous evening about it, and asked him to see it.

Note – Mary M’Loughlin had gone away before Patrick Hill came. Their testimony relates to two distinct and separate times while the Apparition was present. She saw it, like one who did not care to see it, and in a transverse direction, not straight; he saw it directly and fully, and like a confiding child, went up calmly to where the Blessed Virgin stood.

Third Witness.

Testimony of Mary Beirne, aged about 26 years.

I live in the village of Knock, to the east side of the chapel; Mary McLoughlin came on the evening of the 21st of August to my house at about half-past seven o’clock; she remained some little time; I came back with her as she was returning homewards; it was either eight o’clock or a quarter to eight at the time. It was still bright; I had never heard from Miss M’Loughlin about the vision which she had seen just before that. The first I learned of it was on coming at the time just named from my mother’s house in company with Miss Mary M’Loughlin, and at the distance of three hundred yards or so from the church, I beheld, all at once, standing out from the gable, and rather to the west of it, three figures which, on more attentive inspection, appeared to be that of the Blessed Virgin, of Saint Joseph, and Saint John. That of the Blessed Virgin was life-size, the others apparently either not so big or not so high as her figure; they stood a little distance out from the gable wall, and, as well as I could judge, a foot and a half or two feet from the ground. The Virgin stood erect, with eyes raised to heaven, her hands elevated to the shoulders or a little higher, the palms inclined slightly towards the shoulders or bosom; she wore a large cloak of a white colour, hanging in full folds and somewhat loosely around her shoulders, and fastened to the neck; she wore a crown on the head – rather a large crown – and it appeared to me somewhat yellower than the dress or robes worn by Our Blessed Lady. In the figure of Saint Joseph the head was slightly bent, and inclined towards the Blessed Virgin, as if paying her respect; it represented the saint as somewhat aged, with gray whiskers and grayish hair. The third figure appeared to be that of Saint John the Evangelist; I do not know, only I thought so, except the fact that at one time I saw a statue at the chapel of Lekanvey, near Westport, county Mayo, very much resembling the figure which stood now before me in group with Saint Joseph and Our Blessed Lady, which I beheld on this occasion. He held the Book of Gospels, or the Mass Book, open in his left hand, while he stood slightly turned on the left side towards the altar that was over a little from him. I must remark that the statue which I had formerly seen at Lekanvey chapel had no mitre on its head, while the figure which I now beheld had one – not a high mitre, but a short-set kind of one. The statue at Lekanvey had a book in the left hand, and the fingers of the right hand raised. The figure before me on thiS present occasion of which I am speaking had a book in the left hand, as I have stated, and the index finger and the middle finger of the right hand raised, as if he were speaking, and impressing some point forcibly on an audience. It was this coincidence of figure and pose that made me surmise, for it is only an opinion, that the third figure was that of Saint John, the beloved disciple of our Lord. But I am not in any way sure what saint or character the figure represented. I said, as I now expressed, that it was Saint John the Evangelist, and then all the others present said the same – said what I stated. The altar was under the window, which is the gable, and a little to the west near the centre, or a little beyond it. Towards this altar Saint John – as I shall call the figure – was looking, while he stood at the Gospel side of the said altar, with his right arm inclined at an angle outwardly, towards the Blessed Virgin. The altar appeared to me to be like the altars in use in the Catholic Church – large and full-sized. It had no linens, no candles, nor any special ornamentations; it was only a plain altar. Above the altar, and resting on it, was a Lamb, standing with the face towards Saint John, thus fronting the western sky. I saw no cross nor crucifix. On the body of the Lamb, and around it, I saw golden stars, or small brilliant lights, glittering like jets or glass balls, reflecting the light of some luminous body. I remained from a quarter past eight to half-past nine o’clock. At the time it was raining.

Fourth Witness.

Testimony of Patrick Walsh, aged Sixty-five years.

My name is Patrick Walsh; I live at Ballinderrig, an English mile from the chapel of Knock. I remember well the 21st of August, 1879. It was a very dark night. It was raining heavily. About nine o’clock on that night I was going on some business through my land, and standing a distance of about half a mile from the chapel, I saw a very bright light on the southern gabel-end of the chapel; it appeared to be a large globe of golden light; I never saw, I thought, so brilliant a light before; it appeared high up in the air above and around the chapel gable, and it was circular in its appearance; it was quite stationary, and it seemed to retain the same brilliancy all through. The following day I made inquiries in order to learn if there were any lights seen in the place that night; it was only then I heard of the Vision or Apparition that the people had seen.

Fifth Witness.

Testimony of Patrick Beirne, son of the elder Patrick Beirne, of Knock.

I am sixteen years of age; I live quite near the chapel; I remember well the evening of the 21st of August; it was Thursday, the evening before the Octave day. Dominick Beirne, Junior, a namesake of mine, came to my house, and said that he had seen the biggest sight that ever he witnessed in his life. It was then after eight o’clock. I came by the road on the west side of the church. I saw the figures clearly, fully, and distinctly – the Blessed Virgin, Saint Joseph, and that of a bishop, said to be Saint John the Evangelist. Young Beirne then told what he saw regarding the Vision, just as it has been described already by several persons who were present. The young fellow showed by his hands and position how the image or apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary and that of Saint Joseph and Saint John stood.

I remained only ten minutes, and then I went away. All this happened between a quarter or so past eight o’clock and half-past nine.

Sixth Witness.

Testimony of Margaret Beirne, widow of Dominick Beirne, of Knock.

I, Margaret Beirne, nee Bourke, widow of Dominick Beirne, deceased, live near the chapel at Knock. I remember the evening of the 21st of August. I was called out at about a quarter past eight o’clock by my daughter Margaret to see the Vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the saints who appeared at the end of the little church; it was getting dark; it was raining. I came with others to the wall opposite the gable; I saw then and there distinctly the three images – one of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of Saint Joseph, and the third, as I learned, that of Saint John the Evangelist. I saw an altar, too, and a Lamb on it, somewhat whiter than the altar; I did not see the cross on the altar. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in the attitude of prayer, with her eyes turned up towards heaven, a crown on her head, and an outer garment thrown round her shoulders. I saw her feet. Saint Joseph appeared turned towards the Blessed Virgin, with head inclined I remained looking on for fully fifteen or twenty minutes; then I left, and returned to my own house.

Seventh Witness.

The Testimony of Dominick Beirne.

I am brother of Mary Beirne, who has given her evidence already; I live near the chapel of Knock; my age is twenty years. On the occasion when my sister came at about eight o’clock on the evening of the 21st of August into our house, she exclaimed: “Come, Dominick, and see the image of the Blessed Virgin, as she has appeared to us down at the chapel.” I said, “What image?” and then she told me, as she has already described it for your reverence in her testimony: she told me all she was after seeing; I then went with her, and by this time some ten or twelve people had been collected around the place, namely, around the ditch or wall fronting the gable, where the vision was being seen, and to the south of the schoolhouse; then I beheld the three likenesses or figures that have been already described – the Blessed Virgin, Saint Joseph, Saint John, as my sister called the bishop, who was like one preaching, with his hands raised towards the shoulder, and the fore finger and middle finger pointedly set; the other two fingers compressed by the thumb; in his left he held a book; he was so turned that he looked half towards the altar and half towards the people; the eyes of the images could be seen: they were like figures, inasmuch as they did not speak. I was filled with wonder at the sight I saw; I was so affected that I shed tears; I continued looking on for fully an hour, and then I went away to visit Mrs. Campbell, who was in a dying state; when we returned the Vision had disappeared.

Eighth Witness.

Mrs. Hugh Flatley, widow of Hugh Flatley, states:

I was passing by the chapel of Knock on the evening of the 21st of August, about eight o’clock, and I beheld most clearly and distinctly the figures of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, and that of Saint John the Evangelist, standing erect at the gable-end of the chapel, towards the south side; I thought that the parish priest had been ornamenting the church, and got some beautiful likenesses removed outside.

Ninth Witness.

The Testimony of Bridget French, aged 75 years.

The testimony of this witness was given in the Irish language. Her words were translated by Father Corbett into English while she spoke. The following is the version of what she said:

My name is Bridget French; I live near the chapel of Knock. About half-past seven o’clock on the night of the 21st of August I was in the house of Mrs. Campbell, which is quite near to the chapel; while I was there Mary Beirne came in and said there was a sight to be seen at the chapel such as we never before beheld, and she told us all to come and see it; I asked her what it was, and she said that the Blessed Virgin, Saint Joseph, and Saint John were to be seen there. I went out immediately and came to the spot indicated. When I arrived there I saw distinctly the three figures. I threw myself on my knees and exclaimed: “A hundred thousand thanks to God and to the glorious Virgin that has given us this manifestation.” I went in immediately to kiss, as I thought, the feet of the Blessed Virgin; but I felt nothing in the embrace but the wall, and I wondered why I could not feel with my hands the figures which I had so plainly and so distinctly seen. The three figures appeared motionless, statue-like; they were standing by the gable of the church in the background, and seemed raised about two feet above the ground. The Blessed Virgin was in the centre; she was clothed in white, and covered with what appeared one white garment; her hands were raised to the same position as that in which a priest holds his hands when praying at holy Mass. I remarked distinctly the lower portions of her feet, and kissed them three times; she had on her head something resembling a crown, and her eyes were turned up heavenwards. I was so taken with the Blessed Virgin, that I did not pay much attention to any other; yet I saw also the two other figures – Saint Joseph standing to the right of the Blessed Virgin, or to the left, as I looked at him, his head bent towards her and his hands joined; and the other figure, which I took to be Saint John the Evangelist, was standing at her left. I heard those around me say that the image was Saint John. It was raining very heavily at the time, but no rain fell where the figures were. I felt the ground carefully with my hands, and it was perfectly dry. The wind was blowing from the south, right against the gable of the chapel, but no rain fell on that portion of the gable or chapel in which the figures were. There was no movement or active sign of life about the figures, and I could not say whether they were what living beings would in their place appear to be or not; but they appeared to me so full and so life-like and so life-size that I could not understand why I could not feel them with my hands such as I beheld them with my eyes. There was an extraordinary brightness about the whole gable of the chapel, and it was observed by several who were passing along the road at the time. I remained there altogether about an hour, and when I came there first I thought I would never leave it. I would not have gone so soon as I did, but that I considered that the figures and that brightness would continue there always, and that on coming back I would again behold them. I continued to repeat the rosary on my beads while there, and I felt great delight and pleasure in looking at the Blessed Virgin. I could think of nothing else while there but giving thanks to God and repeating my prayers.

Tenth Witness.

Testimony of Catherine Murray, a girl of about eight years and six months, grand-daughter of Mrs. Beirne.

I am living at Knock; I was staying at my grandmother’s. I followed my aunt and uncle to the chapel; I then saw the likeness of the Blessed Virgin Mary and that of Saint Joseph and Saint John, as I learned from those that were around about where I was; I saw them all for fully twenty minutes or thirty minutes.

Eleventh Witness.

Testimony of John Curry, a young boy, about six years old.

The child says he saw the images – beautiful images – the Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph. He could state no more than that he saw the fine images and the light, and heard the people talk of them, and went upon the wall to see the nice things and the lights.

Twelfth Witness.

Testimony of Judith Campbell of Knock.

I live at Knock; I remember the evening and night of the 21st of August last. Mary Beirne called at my house about eight o’clock on that evening, and asked me to come to see the great sight at the chapel; I ran up with her to the place, and I saw outside the chapel, at the gable of the sacristy facing the south, three figures representing Saint Joseph, Saint John, and the Blessed Virgin Mary; also an altar, and the likeness of a Lamb on it, with a cross at the back of the Lamb. I saw a most beautiful crown on the brow or head of the Blessed Virgin. Our Lady was in the centre of the group, a small height above the other two; Saint Joseph to her right, and bent towards the Virgin; Saint John, as we were led to call the third figure, was to the left of the Virgin, and in his left hand he held a book; his right was raised with the first and second fingers closed, and the fore finger and middle finger extended as if he were teaching. The night came on, and it was very wet and dark; there was a beautiful light shining around the figures or likenesses that we saw. I went within a foot of them; none of us spoke to them; we believed they were Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist, because some years ago statues of Saint Joseph and of the Evangelist were in the chapel at Knock. All the figures were in white, or in a robe of silver-like whiteness; Saint John wore a small mitre. Though it was raining, the place in which the figures appeared was quite dry.

Thirteenth Witness.

Testimony of Margaret Beirne.

I, Margaret Beirne, live near Knock chapel; I am sister to Mary Beirne, who has seen the vision; I remember the night of the 21st of August; I left my own house at half-past seven o’clock, and went to the chapel and locked it; I came out to return home; I saw something luminous or bright at the south gable, but it never entered my head that it was necessary to see or inquire what it was; I passed by and went home. Shortly after, about eight o’clock, my niece, Catherine Murray, called me out to see the Blessed Virgin and the other saints that were standing at the south gable of the chapel. I went out then, and ran up to see what was to be seen. I there beheld the Blessed Virgin with a bright crown on her head, and Saint Joseph to her right, his head inclined a little towards Our Blessed Lady, and Saint John the Evangelist to her left, eastward, holding in his left hand a book of the Gospels, and his right hand raised the while, as if in the attitude of preaching to the people who stood before him at the ditch. The Virgin appeared with hands uplifted as if in prayer, with eyes turned towards heaven, and wearing a lustrous crown. I saw an altar there; it was surrounded with a bright light, nay, with a light at times sparkling, and so too were the other figures, which were similarly surrounded.

Fourteenth Witness.

Testimony of Dominick Beirne (senior).

I live at Knock; I remember the evening of the 21st of August; my cousin, Dominick Beirne, came to see us at about eight o’clock, p.m., and called me to see the vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary and other saints at the south gable of the chapel. I went with him. When I reached the south side of the chapel, we saw the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, having her hands uplifted, and her eyes turned up towards heaven, as if in prayer, and she was dressed in a white cloak. To her right I saw Saint Joseph, and on her left Saint John, just as the other persons had told me before I came. I saw an altar there, and figures representing saints and angels traced or carved on the lower part of it. The night was dark and raining, and yet these images, in the dark night, appeared with bright lights as plain as under the noon-day sun. At the time it was pitch dark and raining heavily, and yet there was not one drop of rain near the images. There was a mitre on Saint John’s head, nearly like to that which a bishop wears. I was there only for one quarter of an hour; at the time I was there, five other persons were in it with me, looking on at the Apparition. All the figures appeared clothed in white; the whiskers on Saint Joseph were an iron gray; the Blessed Virgin had on a white cloak. The reason I had for calling the third figure Saint John is because some saw his statue or his likeness at Lekanvey parish chapel.

The fifteenth witness is John Durkan, one of the three who accompanied young Hill. His testimony is the same as that given by each of the Beirnes.

Note – The Beirne family spell their name Beirn, or Beirne: correspondents spell the name “Byrne,” which is in sound the same.


By many who do not believe in the supernatural, nay, by many who do not care to think that there is really another and a nobler life hereafter, these pages will be read.

Apparitions, such as those at Knock, those seen at Hartelwood, close to Marpingen, near the town of Saint Wendel, in Bavaria, the apparitions so well known of La Salette, and of Lourdes, are strong reminders that there is a pure spirit world, a kingdom “to come,” in which Jesus Christ reigns as King, and Mary his Mother, as Queen.

In all these supernatural manifestations there are features which mark them with a special character. Yet there are other features common to those revealed glimpses from spirit land, no matter whether they have been seen in times past or present, beheld in Ireland, or France, or Germany, or Italy, or Judea, or Egypt.

Characteristics of Supernatural Apparitions.

First, an apparition of an angel, or beatified soul, is always seen accompanied by light.

Secondly, the light appears first, and the supernatural being, or voice from amidst the light, next.

Thirdly, the heavenly messenger, or spirit disappears first, when the apparition ceases, and then immediately afterwards the light. These are a few of the objective features.

Instances compared with the Apparitions at Knock.

These three characteristics are found to mark the apparitions that have been seen at Knock, at Marpingen, at Lourdes, at LaSalette; in every one of the spirit manifestations recorded in the Lives of the Saints, and they are numerous, or in those we read of in the records of the Catholic Church, as, for instance, in the Life of Saint Columba, or Columbkille, the apostle of Scotland. He, like Abraham, walked continuously with angels, and talked with his spirit-guardians day after day. Whenever he was in his room alone, rays of light, although he had no lamp or source of material flame within, appeared to shine through the chinks of his cell.

The Burning Bush, seen by Moses, is an instance; and the Angel Gabriel, whom Daniel beheld in the land of captivity; the angelic choirs descending from heaven on the morning of the Nativity, and the bright light that shone around the shepherds; and the light on Thabor at the Trans figuration – these are proofs that the presence of angels and beatified souls is accompanied by light. Light, also, like the aurora before sunrise, is the herald of their coming, and as at sundown, the parting rays of day still illume the earth yet a little longer, so the departing messenger come from the world of beatified souls leaves for a time a bright line of radiance in his wake. This subject is very interesting, but just at present one can only touch the matter. It is singular, too, that it was on a Thursday that our Blessed Lady appeared at the Grotto of Massabielle, nearLourdes, to the young peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous. February, 11th, 1858, was the day that the Virgin conceived without sin – “Immaculate Conception” – first appeared at Lourdes, and that day was Thursday. It is not much, but the coincidence is remarkable that it was on a Thursday she appeared at Knock – 21 August 1879.

The Apparition in Bavaria.

The same day, 3 July 1876, that the image of the Immaculate Conception was crowned at Lourdes, at Marpingen, in Bavaria, the Blessed Virgin – “conceived without spot” – was pleased to manifest her presence to three young Catholic girls – Margaret Kunz, Susan Leist, and Catherine Hubertus.

Not to the Priest?

It is worthy of notice that not to the priest at Lourdes, or at Marpingen, or at La Salette, or at Knock has the Blessed Virgin been pleased to manifest her presence. People in this country have been expressing their surprise that, if the Apparition is true, “why did not the priest see it?” It has happened that Our Blessed Lady on each occasion has been pleased to appear to the simple people alone. On 5 July 1876, the three young girls at Hartelwood asked the Blessed Virgin, who appeared to them that evening: “How long will you remain with us?” “Till ten o’clock.” She remained at Knock on the 21st of August till ten o’clock. Again, they asked: “Shall our parish priest come?” “No.” “Shall the priest of Hensweiler come?” “No.” “Why are we alone able to see you?” “Because you are innocent children.”

On July 11, the Blessed Virgin appeared again, and told the children that the sick were to take water from the upper well of the two wells in Hartelwood.

Some of the adult witnesses gave the following description of the Apparition with which they were favoured at Marpingen: “The figure was that of a majestic woman, clothed in blue; it floated from the wood, and posed in an upright posture on the bush where the children had before seen her.”


Lights of a supernatural kind were beheld on the night of the 5th, or rather on the morning of the sixth, the feast of the Epiphany, 6 January 1880. They were seen by several, and especially by the police, who live convenient to the little church. Those guardians of peace went out at 12 o’clock at night on patrol through the country to see that all was quiet, and came as far as Knock church, where they heard the hum of prayer arising from those who, at that midnight hour, had been assembled there in the hope of seeing the Apparition. The testimony of these sensible men, who took every precaution not to be deceived, who looked around the church and school, and hill and vale, mound and mearing, and saw no light, or reflection of light anywhere, but these extraordinary stars and globes of flame on the church gable before them, ought not readily to be discredited. The names of these servants of the Government are Collins and Fraher, one a native of Galway, the other of Tipperary.

Another remarkable Apparition appeared on the morning of the 10th of February. It was seen by several, especially by three young men from Claremorris, namely, John P. MacCloskey, Simon Conway, and Thomas MacGeoghegan, and by Martin Hession of Tuam, an intelligent assistant at Mrs. Murphy’s establishment.

Young MacCloskey and the other two gave their spoken evidence in the presence of Joseph Bennett, Esq., special correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, London. The annexed is the written testimony of John P. MacCloskey, penned by himself, to which he signed his name. Young MacCloskey has been remarkable from his childhood for his guileless, honest, and pious course of life. He is now about eighteen years. His testimony is confirmed by the separate attestation of the other two, MacGeoghegan and Conway:

I, John P. MacCloskey, a native of Claremorris, remember the night of the 9th of February, and the morning of the 10th. Simon Conway, MacGeoghegan, and I left Clare morris at 10 o’clock, p.m. We arrived at Knock sometime after midnight; our desire was to behold the Apparition. After we had arrived, we continued to pray for some time. At about three and a half o’clock on the morning of the 10th of February, while I was praying before the gable of the Knock chapel, I saw a light, like a white silvery cloud, move in a slanting direction over from where the cross stands, on the apex, and overspread the gable. In this bright cloud I saw distinctly the figure and form of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so clearly and fully that I perceived the fleshy colour of the feet. Her dress resembled that made of white satin, and it contained numerous folds. The light had hardly settled on the gable when it began to grow less bright, and to seem to fade or darken in colour, leaving a wreath of its own brightness still around the head of the Blessed Virgin, while the rest of the gable became the colour of white paper stained with pencil strokes. Every now and then a red tongue of flame used to shoot down from the heavens and cross the gable. During the momentary brightness resulting from these flashes, the figure of the Blessed Virgin was each time fully seen. In the absence of such flashes she was seen too, but not so distinctly, only in subdued tones of colour. What attracted my attention to the gable at first was small stars of an emerald clear greenish colour, that appeared to go in and out through the gable, and at different parts of it. A star continued at intervals to twinkle right over the region of the Blessed Virgin’s heart, and a little group of four or five stars were seen on the left side of the head. At no time did I see the countenance of Our Blessed Lady so clearly and distinctly as to be able to describe accurately the feature or the expression of the face. It was usually shrouded in light, and only at certain moments did I get a glimpse of full features.

The same evidence is given by Simon Conway, Thomas Geoghegan, Claremorris, and by several others.

Another witness, Mr. Martin Session, Tuam.

I arrived about 6 o’clock, p.m., on Monday, the 9th of February, at Knock chapel. There was a large number of persons present. The evening was very wet and cold. I remained in the chapel for a considerable time. At 8 o’clock on that evening, at the south gable of the chapel I saw beautiful lights of many colours. They were at times exceedingly bright. Stars appeared both inside and outside the chapel. The lights continued coming and going until about half-past 6 o’clock next morning. At a quarter past 12 that night I saw a silvery cloud all over the gable of the chapel. After about five minutes it cleared off, and then immediately appeared three dark arches, and in the central one was the figure of a lady, which I took to be the Blessed Virgin. The figure was very beautiful. A mantle covered the figure all over: the mantle was white like satin, not a brilliant white. I saw two other figures, one on each side of the Blessed Virgin, but they were not quite distinct. A star of three different colours appeared under one of the figures: it was green, red, and white. The gable was, in fact, covered with stars. These appearances continued until about half-past six in the morning. I remained up all night looking at the figures and lights. I went in three times to the chapel to tell the people there to come out and see the lights. At about s o’clock in the morning three circles of stars appeared, as I thought, a half a mile over the top of the chapel. The circles of stars swayed to and fro in the air. There appeared at the same time over the cross on the gable of the chapel a row of stars which moved to the east of the gable and reached one of the figures which was said to be Saint John. At about half-past 6 in the morning a shower of hail and rain came, and all who had been outside with myself went into the chapel, and at 7 o’clock, when I went out again, there was nothing to be seen of the beautiful lights.

I visited Knock again on the following Thursday, 12th February. It was dark when I reached there, and at about a quarter past 8 o’clock, went out from the chapel and looked at the gable. I was there but about ten minutes when I saw three figures of the shape of, but much larger than, those which I had seen on Monday night. The central figure was considered to be that of the Blessed Virgin. It was very brilliant. The other figures were not quite visible. After about five minutes they all disappeared. I went to the Archdeacon, met him on the road, and spoke to him about what I had just seen, and what I had seen on Monday night. Whilst speaking to him there appeared a beautiful star, which illuminated the whole place. The Archdeacon saw it, and he took off his hat, and asked me and a few others if we saw the light.

A Mayo Lourdes – From the London “Daily Telegraph.”

Some time ago a rumour began to prevail in Ireland that supernatural manifestations took place at or near the Catholic chapel of Knock, in the county Mayo. It was stated that an apparition of the Virgin Mary, attended by celestial personages, supposed to represent Saint Joseph and Saint John, had appeared to several persons on a certain night in August; subsequently to others on New Year’s Eve, and a third time, to yet others, on the Eve of the Epiphany, and on the ninth of February. But this was not all. A further rumour stated that miracles of healing were frequently wrought upon sick persons who made pilgrimages and performed devotions at the favoured shrine, that miraculous virtues were possessed by the very plaster from the walls of the church, and that the faithful were crowding in ever-increasing numbers to the place thus suddenly dragged from obscurity into fame. So matters stood when, in the discharge of a mission connected with the Irish distress, I found myself at Claremorris, a little town about six miles from the much-talked-of village. It became my duty there to seek an interview with the parish priest – the Very Reverend Ulick J. Bourke, Canon of Tuam, and late President of Saint Jarlath’s College – a gentleman well known to philologists as the author of a learned work on the Aryan origin of the Gaelic race. Canon Bourke, having acted on a Commission appointed by the Archbishop of Tuam to take the evidence of those who asserted that they had seen the Apparitions, was well able to put me in the way of ascertaining particulars for myself, and within an hour of my introduction to him, I was face to face with one of the persons who deposed to the August vision.

One of the Witnesses.

This was a boy of about fourteen years of age, named Patrick Hill – a bright, intelligent little fellow, who told his tale clearly and simply. I shall put Hill’s statement in the first person, without pledging myself, however, to literal exactness, and premising that the narrative was not continuous, but frequently interrupted by questions needless to repeat here: “I sometimes go out to the bog for turf, and did so on the day of the August Apparition, taking my little brother with me. When night came on, I went into the house of a relative, not far from Knock chapel. It was raining hard and very dark. While there someone (naming him), ran in and said: ‘ Oh, come up to the chapel, and see the Blessed Virgin against the wall!’ We all ran up, and saw the end of the chapel covered with light; at first we stood against the wall of the yard, but presently we got over and went up close to the gable. Then we saw the Blessed Virgin standing like a statue so (lifting his hands and eyes); on her right was Saint Joseph, bending towards her, and on her left Saint John, dressed like a bishop, his left hand holding a book, his right raised, with two fingers pointing upwards. Above, and to the left of Saint John, was an altar with a Lamb on it, round which moved what seemed to be the wings of angels, whose heads and bodies I could not see. We stood and looked at the figures a long time, and my little brother cried out that he wanted to take them home; they did not move, but lights kept playing about the wall. Presently there were ten or eleven of us looking, and we all knelt down and said Our Father, and Hail Mary; then, as the rain kept on, and we were very wet, we went away. I did not look behind me when standing in front of the figures, and cannot say whether any light was to be seen except on the wall.” Having told this story in the manner already described, Hill departed, and presently a lad was brought in who witnessed the appearance in his company. The new-comer’s statement did not agree in every detail with that of his predecessor, but substantially both were in accord; he, for example, saw no “angels’ wings” fluttering round the Lamb, but only lights twinkling like stars. It was also stated that, though the rain beat against the chapel, the wall on which the light shone remained dry. To the question, “Did the figures look as though they were part of a picture?” this witness replied, “No, they stood out from the wall like statues, and we seemed to see round them.” To the further question, “Was the light on the gable a circle?” he answered, “No; it covered the wall.”

Journeying to Knock.

On the morning after my interview with these early witnesses of the alleged marvel, I accepted Canon Bourke’s invitation to drive over to Knock and see the place for myself. The five miles of road leading thither were not lonely. It was market-day in Claremorris, and the small farmers, who abound in that part of Mayo, were hastening townward with a multitude of asses bearing oats or potatoes or hay for sale at the advanced rates now “ruling.” But all the travellers we met or passed were not on marketing thoughts intent. Some had an “up-all-night” appearance, and, indeed, had been keeping vigil in the chapel to which we were hastening; while others, going the same way as ourselves, moved haltingly on foot, or swiftly on cars, in search of miraculous deliverance from the ills they suffered. The country thereabouts is uninteresting. It stretches west and east, in long undulations, without variety or charm. On reaching the summit of one of the gentle rises, a tall square tower appeared above the next eminence, and signalised our approach to Knock. The modest cottage of the parish priest, Archdeacon Cavanagh, lies in the intervening hollow; but before reaching it the traveller passes a thatched and whitewashed dwelling-house, bearing the distinguishing mark of a police-barrack. One of the stalwart members of the “Royal Irish” chanced to be standing in the road as we drove up, and him Canon Bourke introduced as a witness worth hearing.

The Policeman’s Story.

The policeman cheerfully came round to my side of the car and told his story, in effect as follows: – “On a certain night (5th January, or morning of 6th – Epiphany), about twelve o’clock, I and a comrade set out on patrol, our road taking us past the chapel. When opposite the building we saw people, and heard the sound of praying, so we went in to look around and ascertain that all was right. Down to that time, though others professed to have witnessed the Apparitions, we had not. On going round to the east gable some one cried, ‘There’s the light,’ and then both I and my comrade saw the end of the church covered with a rosy sort of brightness, through which what seemed to be stars appeared. I saw no figures, nor did my comrade; but some women, who were praying there, declared that they beheld the Blessed Virgin, and one went nearly frantic in consequence. We stood and watched the light for some time before starting again on our rounds.” “How do you explain the light?” “I can’t explain it.” “Did you look around to see where it came from?” “I did; but everything was dark. There was no light anywhere, except on the gable.” Thus the policeman, who offered to produce his comrade in corroboration.

The Parish Priest.

Leaving him, we drove to the cottage of the parish priest and found him in his garden, whither he had gone, perhaps, for relaxation after getting through the multitude of letters that reach him by every post. Archdeacon Cavanagh is reputed along all the country side as a man of simple piety, gentle manners, and a modest and retiring disposition. This character is justified by his appearance; he at once makes a favourable impression, and is about the last man in the world whom a stranger would look upon and suspect of anything but straightforward, honest conduct. The very reverend gentleman gave his visitors a cordial welcome, and soon, in the little parlour of the cottage, I heard all that he could tell about the visions and miracles, in which he believes with unquestioning and reverent faith. As to the visions, the Archdeacon said, in effect: “On the night of the first Apparition my housekeeper asked leave to visit a friend, and remained out unusually late. While wondering what had become of her, she made her appearance in a very excited state, exclaiming: ‘Oh! your reverence, the wonderful and beautiful sight! The Blessed Virgin has appeared up at the chapel, with Saint Joseph and Saint John, and we have stood looking at them this long time. Oh! the wonderful sight!’ Inferring that the vision had disappeared, and omitting to question my housekeeper on that point, I did not go up, and I have regretted ever since that I omitted to do so. On another occasion a messenger was sent down to fetch me: I was in bed after a fatiguing day, and, having a prospect of hard work on the morrow, did not rise.” – This manifestly appears as a triumph of the flesh over the spirit. – “I shall ever feel sorry that a sight of the Apparitions has been denied me, but God may will that the testimony to his Blessed Mother’s presence should come from the simple faithful and not through the priests. Though I have not witnessed the divine manifestation I have seen the light, and once, when standing at some distance from the chapel, in company with others, a most brilliant star flashed along the gable, leaving a train of radiance.”

Miraculous Cures.

Questioned as to miracles, the archdeacon said: “I will show you along list of cures effected by the divine interposition, and can tell you of one in which I was an agent. Some little while ago I received a ‘sick-call’ late at night to a man who was said to be vomiting blood, and in extreme danger. Hastening to the house, attended by a boy with a lantern, I met the father of the patient coming to hurry me, in distress lest I should be too late. On reaching the cottage, I found the young man covered, so to speak, with blood, and apparently very near death, but conscious. After ministering to him, I called for a glass of water, sprinkled on it a few particles of the mortar from the gable wall of the chapel, and bade him drink. He did so; at once he began to recover, and is now well. I can speak of other cases, but especially of a man who came from Cork afflicted with a polypus, which extended into his windpipe, and so, said the surgeons, required a dangerous operation. He was here performing his devotions for several days, and then, to his astonishment and joy, expelled the abnormal growth – I saw it – and he returned cured.” The archdeacon next showed me his list of “miracles,” from which I quote a few special cases: Bridget Nearney of Strokestown, blind for seventeen years, can see; Maria Conolly, a cripple for thirteen years, is now able to walk; John O’Brien, who was born blind, has the use of his eyes; Belinda Mash of Ballina, dumb for six years, has recovered the power of speech; Patrick Boyle, of Glasgow, came to Knock afflicted with heart disease, and returned cured; Michael Marin of Lisakullen, subject to epileptic fits, visited the shrine, and is now free from their attacks; the daughter of R. Walsh of Clifden, regained sight after bathing her eyes in water containing a piece of plaster from the chapel wall; John Roache of Roosky, Roscommon, stone blind for seventeen years, went away able to see; John O’Connor of Ardagh, came to Knock with a bent leg, supported by an iron crutch, and returned home, leaving the crutch as a memorial of cure; Owen Halpen, of Meg, Drogheda, troubled with deafness, placed a bit of the mortar in his ears, and had the sense fully restored to him. I might continue these extracts from the archdeacon’s records, but space would fail for a complete setting forth of the alleged cases of miraculous hearing.

Magic Lantern light not possible in the situation.

Leaving the priest’s cottage to view the chapel, and meeting at the door a man whose sight, long lost, was said to be returning, the two priests and myself went up the road towards the chapel, having the famous gable before us the whole way. I saw that, for full half its height, it had been boarded over – a measure necessary, the archdeacon told me, to protect the wall, since the people, after having removed the covering of plaster, began to pick the mortar from between the stones, as, indeed, they are now doing round the corners, where nothing prevents. My first business was, of course, to take, as Jack Bunsby would say, “the bearings” of the place. The chapel is a plain cruciform building, having a tall, square tower at its west end, and at the opposite extremity a sacristy. It is on the gable of the sacristy, at the far east of the building, that the figures are said to have appeared. The chapel stands in a rather extensive yard, which is bounded, opposite the gable, and distant from it some twenty-five paces, by a dilapidated wall about four feet high. Beyond this is a large field and the open country. Within the yard, a little to the north of a line drawn from the north angle of the gable to the low wall, stands a schoolhouse, its gable directly facing towards the east. Obviously, therefore, if the appearances alleged to have been seen on the chapel wall were due to a magic lantern, the operator, supposing he could have focussed his picture at such a distance, must have taken post behind the low wall; or, if stationed in the school, must have thrown the image on the “screen” at a very considerable angle. The wall theory may be dismissed, because over its tumbled stones the first witnesses passed to get a nearer view, and the glare of the lantern would at once have been detected by the observant policemen. There remains the notion of a manipulator stationed in the schoolhouse. I gave my best attention to the windowless gable of that building, and could find no sign of hole or crack from chimney to foundation. Going inside among the children, to look at the wall from that point of view, the plaster appeared untouched, and the roof too much open to admit of a man working between its apex and what there was of ceiling. In the result, and despite a wish to explain the wonder naturally, I was obliged to conclude that the reported Apparitions, however caused, could not have been, and, therefore, were not, due to a magic lantern. With any theory not determinable by a reference to considerations absolutely positive, such as those just touched upon, I have nothing now to do.

Scenes at the Church.

Mondays and Thursdays are the times when Knock is overwhelmed with pilgrims, many thousands being frequently present at once; but on no day of the week is the place deserted, and it assuredly afforded an extraordinary spectacle last Wednesday. About ten paces from the gable stands a small roughly-constructed pen, wherein pilgrims who no longer require the aid of sticks and crutches deposit them before leaving. Scores of these discarded props to tottering feet were lying there; and a few others, besides two very battered umbrellas, were suspended from the boards that protect the sacred wall. It is needless to say that the wall itself, boarded though it be, excites the utmost reverence. I saw a score of people kneeling before it repeating prayers, some of them knowing the spot on which they believe the Virgin appeared; while others had brought sick children, upon whom they lavished attention in the intervals of devotion. Others, again, wandered round and round the chapel, telling their beads as they went – an act of faith, so I was assured, altogether self-imposed. Yet others, mostly afflicted with diseases, stood about in the road, or enclosure, waiting, like some at the Pool of Bethesda long ago, “for the moving of the waters.” Night and day they wait, filling the chapel during the dark hours, and praying there so as that the sound of their voices can be heard far down the road. At least two hundred persons were in the sacred edifice when I entered. The interior is poor of aspect. Beyond the unpretending altar, and two or three small windows filled with stained glass, there are no attempts at decorations, and very ineffective ones at convenience, since all the” benches in the place would not seat more than thirty people. The floor is roughly flagged and full of holes made by devotees who, in their eagerness to possess some blessed substance, have dug be neath the level of the stones. But, holes or no holes, the pilgrims covered almost the entire area, from the altar rails to the western door and from side to side of the transept, their muttered petitions making a continuous and solemn hum. Many sick have been brought there, and some professed to have gained much benefit. A poor paralytic, seated in a wheeled chair, rejoiced at a feeling of warmth in his lower limbs; a woman, who had crawled for years on her hands and knees, was found sitting upright, and delightedly showing how she could use her feet a very little. Such sights were visible more or less on every hand, and as the archdeacon went about among the people one and another would go to him and tell of the benefits received by themselves or their friends, and get for answer: “Thank God and his Blessed Mother.”

My story is told, and I have nothing more to say. The conclusion to be drawn from it one way or another is the business of the reader.


In a brochure the size of the present issue no explanation of miracles can be expected; yet, it is well to state for the general reader that the definition of miracles, as understood by Catholics, requires that it be an extraordinary work or operation opposed to the normal laws of nature, and performed either directly or indirectly by God. The work must be unusual, for, if usual, although the effect of great power, it is not considered a miracle. The movements of the planets and of the earth, with their amazing velocities, are not miracles, although they are a prodigious work. But to carry a man in the air from this to New York in a minute would be a miracle. The work must be opposed to the laws of nature, either contrary to them or above their influence. It is natural for fire to burn; for a body heavier than water to sink in it. If a body be not burned in the fire, like the three companions of Daniel in the fiery furnace; and our blessed Lord walking on the waters of the sea of Genesareth – that is a miracle; and it must be done by God’s power either directly, as the miracles performed by Christ; or indirectly, as those performed by Moses and the prophets in the name of God, and by the apostles and their successors in the name of Jesus. This definition excludes all works done by the agency of the devil or his agents, all necromancers, sorcerers, enchanters, who invoke his name. It is not necessary here to tell what the laws of nature are; it is quite enough to know that it is a law in fire to burn; in water to quench fire and to wet the surface on which it is placed unless some other natural cause is in the way to prevent the effect; in a heavy, sluggish body not to move quickly; in a sickly body not to assume strength suddenly, and by means not proportionate to the effect. Any effect contrary to these, or superseding these laws, is said, as far as relates to man, to be supernatural. An effect of this kind would not for a spirit be supernatural, because it is just suited to his nature; but, in regard to man, effects like these are supernatural. From all that has been said, it is plain that a cure brought about by a strong imagination is not a miracle, for it is only a natural effect; neither is a cure arising from a sudden start or excitement, as, for instance, if a dumb person from fright, or from a sudden impulse, spoke – that is not a miracle, because it is the natural result of great physical excitement. If, too, owing to some cause, either the hearing, or the eye sight, or the voice, was partially lost by any nervous derangement, as often happens, if that derangement be set right, and that the hearing is restored, the eye has obtained its usual power of seeing, and the tongue its speech from a strengthened glottis, that is not a miracle. If the effect has been produced by a natural cause, adequate in the circumstances to achieve the result, or if it is a work from the demon, it cannot be pronounced a miracle. But, if it is from God or his agents, and done in the name of God, and for a good purpose, even by a natural cause, but a natural cause inadequate of itself to the end, then it is a miracle, as, for instance, the case of the blind man who was desired by the Redeemer to go to the pool of Siloe and to wash; and he went, he washed, and he saw; or the miraculous effects of Saint Peter’s shadow, or Saint Paul’s handkerchief.

Of course many people do not believe in spirit or angel, or in God’s power, or in the power abiding in his Church; to them miracles are shams, or they are put by them in the category of spirit-rapping and of jugglery. But Christians know that there is a spirit-world, happy souls and angels, that there is a God who guides and directs everything, who seeks the love and devotion, as well as the happiness of his intelligent creatures – all mankind. We are the principal object of the care and loving attention of God, and for our sakes, and to excite our faith and love, He performs miracles. His children regard them – miracles – as the seal and language of God speaking to the heart of man. Is there a miracle there? Then, if so, it is God’s voice, at least to those who believe in Him: it is a light from heaven, and the pure-eyed soul sees that light and believes it as the expression of God to him. But all do not believe in miracles with equal readiness. Christ performed them, and the Pharisees attributed their performance to the power of the prince of devils. Moses performed them, and Pharaoh resisted him the more determinedly. It is so to-day. It does not follow that if some people believe not in miracles that they have not really been performed.

The question now is, Has any real miracle been performed at Knock?

We answer that in our opinion there have been many. A great many cures will, or perhaps can be traced to nervous excitement, and to the desire for improvement; but making all due allowances for physical agencies and natural causes, still over one-third of those recorded will, it is likely, be considered, in the opinion of honest men, miraculous.

The diary which is kept by Archdeacon Cavanagh contains a record of nigh three hundred; ten select miracles out of this number would plainly prove the miraculous character of the Apparitions witnessed on the several occasions recorded in the pages of the Very Reverend Archdeacon Cavanagh’s diary.

Cases of Cure, from Archdeacon Cavanagh’s Diary.

On Thursday, 11th March, the writer saw at Knock a young man named Anthony Cavanagh, from 15 Brabazon Street, Dublin, who declared, in the presence of clergymen and gentlemen of the highest position and literary standing, that for eleven years he could not stir one foot without the aid of crutches, walk as well as anyone can walk, except that the right leg was still short, although it had regained its natural strength.

On the same day the writer, and the witnesses with him, saw at Knock chapel a woman, aged about twenty-eight, who had been deaf since she was six years old, receive the power of hearing. The writer spoke to her, and she heard as well as anyone gifted with the faculty of hearing.

Miss Glynn, Kilkerrin, housekeeper to Rev. John M’Greal, C.C., Lavallyroe, Ballyhaunis; pains and general debility.

Frank Conway, Eden; arm powerless.

Peter Murphy, Newtown, near Claremorris; cured of lameness.

Mrs. Fitzgerald, Swinford; general debility.

Pat Boyle, of Garlagh, parish of Crossboyne; epilepsy.

Mary Devine, Ballyhaunis, a girl of eleven; lameness and an evil.

Miss Mannion, of the parish of Roscommon; sight improved by a visit to the church.

Michael Langan, a man in the employment of Mr. Little; chronic pain in the foot.

Michael MacHale, of Killala; nearly blind; power of seeing much better.

John Fogarty of Crusheen; weakness of the left foot.

Pat Ryder of Craughwell; epilepsy.

Michael Brennan, Ballyhaunis; palsy of the head.

Michael Ansbro, Carramore; restored to sight.

Mrs. Kelly, Claremorris; cured of a constant pain in the side.

Kate Rodgers; consumption; used to faint every day for a considerable time; is quite restored to health.

Mrs. Feeny, hotel-keeper, Swinford; violent toothache; cured by an application of the cement.

Mrs. (Martin) Fleming of Tubber, Ballina; sore leg.

Mary Gallagher, Charleston, county Mayo, blindness. After visiting Knock she was restored to sight.

A young man from Charleston, county Mayo, cured of an evil by a visit to Knock, after doctors had entirely failed to help him.

Laurence Fleming, parish of Dunmore; cured of deafness.

John Kelly of Ballina; chronic pain in the right side.

A young man named Hopkins, second assistant in the National School, Claremorris; cured of epilepsy.

John Smith, parish of Virginia (Rev. John O’Reilly, P.P.), county Cavan; general weakness of constitution, loss of appetite, and want of sleep.

John Coan, Plougena, county Mayo; paralysis.

Thomas Hare, Tuam; paralysis.

Pat Ryan, Edward-street, Limerick; defective sight.

Francis Cassidy, Maguire’s Bridge; paralysis of the left hand.

Lizzie Bryan, Drumtraff, county Cork; evil and swelling in the jaw.

Mrs. Healy, Drumtraff; an evil.

Thomas Crogan; sore foot.

Mary Vesey, Betley, England; lameness. She left her crutch at Knock.

James O’Connell, parish of Drumlish; blindness.

John Meckin; blindness. He was not entirely blind before his visit to Knock, but his power of vision was very feeble.

William Conway, King’s County; pain in the heart and stomach, from which he had been suffering for years.

Daniel Ren, Queen’s County; sore in the leg; had suffered from it for fourteen years.

John Shanahan, parish of Adare, county Limerick; swelling in the right knee.

Marie Shields, Loughrea; defective sight.

John Farrell, Castlerea; constant pain and stiffness in the knee.

Sarah Morrisroe of Woods, parish of Ballaghy; paralysis.

Mr. Ignatius O’Donel of Swinford bears testimony to her case in the following terms: “I saw her myself on or about the 22nd December, when she had not the use of her limbs, and on seeing her yesterday, after she had walked seven miles, she did not seem to be a bit tired. – Ignatius O’Donel, Swinford, February 5th, 1880.”

Jeremiah Sullivan, parish of Rathharry, Clonakilty, county Cork; polypus, or flesh growth in the windpipe. He came to Knock with his father on Sunday, the 1st of February, and got rid of his disease on the 4th. The following is his statement to Archdeacon Cavanagh: “I have been suffering from a hoarseness for the last eighteen months. I consulted four of the neighbouring doctors, one after the other, and to no avail, as none of them were able to ascertain the nature of the disease. Finding myself daily getting worse I came to the city of Cork, and consulted the most eminent doctor there. On the third day he found my ailment proceeded from a flesh growth or polypus in the windpipe. The conclusion the doctor came to was that there should be an operation, either externally or internally, either of which would be very dangerous. Hearing of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Knock, I decided on visiting the place. I arrived on Sunday morning, February 1st. Thanks be to God and to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I coughed off the polypus on the morning of the 4th February after my third day’s visit here.”

Pat Scott of Ballymoe, has made the following declaration: “I, Pat Scott, parish of Ballintubber, county Roscommon, do hereby solemnly declare that it is at Knock I received power in my leg, which was not of the least use to me for upwards of eight and a-half years, being entirely powerless. I could not move or walk without a crutch. I can now walk firmly on it, but it is still short. Ballintubber, 31 January 1880.” The following is an extract from a letter lately written by Pat Scott to the Venerable Archdeacon Cavanagh:

“Dear Father Cavanagh, –
“It is with great pleasure I write an answer to yours, which I received a few days ago, but must make an apology for delaying so long referring to the particulars you require to know from me. The facts are simply these: Nine years ago I was attacked with a pain in my groin, and for five months no one could tell whether I would live or die. The summer after I was enabled to move very slowly by means of a crutch, which I continually carried for the last successive eight years, to the day in question. During that time my leg, down from my hip, was quite powerless, but had feeling. I could not go to my bedside without the aid of the crutch. I never walked on the heel, but simply tipping the ground with the top of my toe, in consequence of a contraction of the sinews. Mrs. _____ induced my mother to send me to Knock, that holy place, and on entering the chapel the second time on the same day I discovered the leg gaining strength. I was so much rejoiced that I determined to leave the crutch after me, as I did, and for the first time out of nine years made the effort of walking, independent of the crutch, with both heel and toe, to the astonishment of all the neighbours here, who looked upon me as a very great miracle and curiosity. I forgot to say I carried a stick, and still do. I find I am every day improving, but I do not feel so well satisfied till I pay one or two visits more to Knock. There is no doubt but I derived this great blessing from our Immaculate and Heavenly Queen.
“I am, reverend sir,
“Very respectfully yours,
“Pat Scott.”

– text from The Apparitions and Miracles at Knock. Also, The Official Depositions of the Eye-Witnesses, prepared and edited by John MacPhilpin, Tuam, Ireland; published in Dublin, Ireland in 1880

Holiness of the Church in the 19th Century – Venerable Franz Joseph Rudigier

Venerable Franz Joseph RudigierThe neighboring little district of Vorarlberg rivals Tyrol in the hope of seeing a son of its mountains raised to the honor of the altar. To see the Venerable Franz Joseph Rudigier, the devoted, undaunted, and sorely-tried warrior for the liberty of the Church, numbered among the ranks of the blessed would bring joy not only to every native Austrian but to all whose hearts beat warmly for the welfare of the Church. This servant of God came from a poor peasant family of Parthenen, in the valley of Montafon in Vorarlberg. He was born on 7 April 1811, and was the youngest of eight children. When twelve years old he was sent to study the Latin elements under his brother Joseph, who had just been ordained priest and whose duty it then was to say early Mass in Schruns.

Thence he went to the gymnasium and to the University at Innsbruck and then to the theological semi nary in Brixen. In all these schools he easily surpassed his fellow-students, but he was chiefly distinguished for his noble character and his earnest endeavor after virtue. Ordained to the priesthood on 12 April 1834, he was engaged for a short time in the care of souls at Vandans and Bürs, but in 1838 he went to the Frintaneum in Vienna to pursue special studies. After a year and a half we find him in the seminary of Brixen a professor of both Church History and Ecclesiastical Law and afterward of Moral Theology. Here he lived in most intimate friendship with two of his colleagues, Vincent Gasser and Joseph Fessler, who had been well known to him during his student days. Both of these likewise became distinguished ornaments of the Austrian episcopate – the first, prince-bishop of Brixen; the second, bishop of Saint Poelten. In Vienna the excellent qualities of Rudigier had been long remarked and in 1845 he was appointed court chaplain and spiritual director of the Frintaneum. The disturbances in 1848 gave Rudigier a favorable opportunity of freeing himself from his position at court. He was named Provost of Innichen in Tyrol, but in 1850 he became prebendary and the regent of the seminary of Brixen. His position at last became fixed with his appointment as bishop of Linz in Austria.

The office of an Austrian bishop in the middle of the last century was certainly full of difficulties. The destructive spirit of Josephinism had become incarnate among the officials of the State. To protect the inalienable rights of the Church against them was a gigantic task. A concordat was finally concluded, but the entire liberal and Jewish press made a tremendous outcry and aroused a most venomous agitation against the government and the Church. In consequence of this ceaseless baiting it was impossible to carry out the concordat. Austria’s ill success in the war with Prussia was also used against the Church. The emperor consented to the appointment of a liberal ministry, which enacted several laws impeding the necessary freedom of the Church, and in 1870 this ministry, for its part, annulled the concordat. The Catholic press was controlled in the severest manner, whereas the liberals were allowed to profane with impunity every thing sacred and to spread broadcast the most infamous calumnies against the Church.

One of the most heroic defenders of the Church in those sad times was the bishop of Linz. His sermons, admonitions to the clergy, pastoral letters, and his speeches in the Austrian Diet always struck fire in the hearts of the right-minded to the great anger of the liberals. Finally, the latter, using as a pretext a pastoral letter on the questions of schools and of marriage, succeeded in having him taken by the police and dragged before the General Court of Justice on 5 July 1869. He was condemned to fourteen days’ imprisonment on 12 July. But this only steeled his courage. From all parts of the Catholic world addresses of congratulation poured in upon the unyielding confessor of Christ. In later years Bishop Rudigier always considered it a day of special honor on which he was permitted to suffer contumely for the name of Jesus. His firmness impressed even his bitterest opponents. One of them said: “With this bishop every fundamental principle is set as fast as the stones in the walls of his cathedral.” Rudigier once wrote to Cardinal Rauscher: “Our dignity and future depend on our loyalty to our principles. If we depart but a needle’s breadth from those that are fundamental, we shall find and deserve our destruction.”

During his whole life he remained to the Church-baiting press the standing object of its jeers. His influence toward the restoration of religious life was too conspicuous. He did very much for the promotion of pious associations and a good press, for the training of an efficient clergy, and for missions to the people; and he proved himself a great protector of the regular Orders, especially of the Jesuits and the Redemptorists. An eminently notable trait of his character was his zeal for the veneration of the Mother of God. His biographer gives him the title of “Mariophilus.” He sought to introduce May devotions and the daily recital of the Rosary in all parts of his diocese. At half-past eight every evening he himself summoned all the members of his household to his private chapel and led in the recitation of the Rosary. On his Confirmation trips he always recited it with his servant even if the hour was late. In his old age he gloried in the fact that he was a member of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin at Brixen and an honorary member of the Sodality at the Stella Matutina in Feldkirch. He celebrated the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception as solemnly as possible. On this occasion he formed the noble design of commemorating the high prerogative of his heavenly Mother by the erection of a magnificent cathedral. When the question of undertaking the building was brought up at the provincial Diet, he particularly specified that the chief purpose of the new cathedral was that it should stand as a memorial of the Eighth of December, 1854, and he never rested nor shirked any sacrifice until the plan was executed. He did not, it is true, see the completion of the work in this world. He died a loyal servant of Mary on 29 November 1884, on a Saturday, the first day of the novena in honor of the Immaculate Conception. His last words were the concluding verses of the Stabat Mater:

“Christe, cum sit hinc exire,
Da per Matrem me venire
Ad palmam victoriae.
Quando corpus morietur,
Fac, ut animae donetur
Paradisi gloria.”

*Lord, through her who brought Thee hither,
Let me, hence departing whither
Thou the way hast found,
Come, through death’s opposing portal
To the victors’ palm immortal
With thy glory crowned.”

(translated by Father Tabb)

Then his breathing ceased; he did not pronounce the Amen; it was spoken by the Eternal Judge. Immediately after the death of the bishop the word passed from mouth to mouth: “The diocese of Linz has one more intercessor in heaven.” Soon followed extraordinary answers to prayers. The apostolic process of his beatification was begun in 1905 and we are now permitted to call the servant of God “venerable.”

– text from Holiness of the Church in the 19th Century by Father Constantine Kempf, SJ and Father Francis Breymann, SJ, 1916; it has the Imprimatur of Cardinal John Farley, Archbishop of New York

Holiness of the Church in the 19th Century – John Nepomucene von Tschiderer

detail of a painting on Blessed Johann Nepomuk von Tschiderer, date unknown, artist unknownThe little Tyrolese city of Trent, renowned in the history of the Church, beheld upon its episcopal throne at the third centenary of the Council to which it gives its name, a man possessed of that full perfection which the same Council demands of a successor of the apostles – John Nepomucene von Tschiderer. The earlier years of this holy prince-bishop, who was born on 15 April 1777, of an ancient and noble family of Bozen, fell within the sad times of the so-called “Eclaircissement,” which misrepresented altogether the true character of the Church and despoiled so many young people of the jewels of innocence and faith. But the watchful solicitude of a pious mother and the wise guidance of an experienced confessor preserved both virtues with untarnished splendor to the young von Tschiderer. After completing the Latin classes conducted by the Franciscans in Bozen, the boy, who had not yet reached his sixteenth year, went, for his philosophy, to Innsbruck, where only “liberal” professors were then tolerated. But the zealous Minorite, Father Herculan Oberrauch, one of the foremost moral theologians of the day, understood in his masterly fashion how to attract the Innsbruck students to himself, to direct them in their many difficulties, and to guide them into the right pathway. His influence against the “liberals” was so great that the director of the General Seminary was not able to counteract it except by forbidding his students from having inter course with Father Oberrauch. The means which the latter regularly employed was nothing else than the frequent use of the sacraments. He wrote these impressive words: “Among the thousands of young men whom I directed I do not know of even one whom I saved uncorrupted unless he went to Holy Communion every two weeks; and the numerous others, whom I could not save, nearly all had to ascribe their fall to the neglect of the sacraments. I am quite sure of it.” Tschiderer entrusted himself to the direction of this experienced priest, to whom every week he manifested the state of his soul in the sacrament of Penance. With this good priest as his guide, the young man made the choice of his state of life and until the death of Father Oberrauch in 1808 there was between the two a most intimate correspondence. John von Tschiderer stood in the highest repute amongst his fellow-students for the angelic purity of his morals. Many of them used to call him “Saint Aloysius.” His engaging appearance and friendly nature attracted many to him; but he avoided most carefully every too intimate familiarity. Twice when temptation approached him he fled at once, following that admirable counsel of Saint Philip Neri: “In a combat of this sort it is the feet that gain the victory, and one is the better off the faster he runs away.” The liberal teachings of his professors and “the frivolous, malicious, and most worldly treatment of Church history,” as says his biographer, did not have any influence on his love and enthusiasm for the Church. On the contrary it was just this that aroused him to opposition and grace, that plainly worked in him, led him easily to recognize the perverseness of the whole tendency of the “Liberal Movement.”

On 27 July 1800, Tschiderer was raised to the priesthood. After devoting a short time to the care of souls, he spent a year and a half in Rome making further studies; after which he returned to the duties of assistant priest until, in 1807, he was called to the chair of moral theology in the Lyceum of Trent. In 1810 he was again engaged in the care of souls as parish priest of Sarntheim and in 1819 as parish priest of Meran. In 1826 he received a canonry in Trent; became auxiliary bishop of Vorarlberg, with his see at Feldkirch, in 1832; and was made prince-bishop of Trent in 1834. Two virtues were especially prominent in this servant of God; namely, generosity and humility. Whatever he possessed belonged to the poor. He could not see any misery without relieving it. He did not wait until his help was asked, but of his own accord whenever time permitted he searched for those who might be in distress. Many thought it the greatest miracle of his life that he had always something to give. His own manner of life was as simple as possible, so poor, in fact, that others remonstrated with him on the matter. Charitable persons knew how well he disposed of their gifts and therefore his fountain never ran dry. Even during his lifetime it was said playfully: “When he is canonized he will be called John the Almsgiver.” Some of his relatives, not at all pleased with such liberality, would have been glad to have had him placed under guardianship. A couple of works of art were all he left them at his death.

Humility made the holy bishop the servant of all. Considerations of self were foreign to him. Toward all, especially to the common people, he was condescension and friendliness itself. “The lowlier the person, the more friendly and familiar was the dean with him,” says a witness of his labors in Sarntheim. When bishop he treated the simplest priest with such politeness and veneration that some found it quite embarrassing. On one occasion, he said to two newly ordained priests: “Behold now you are invested with a great dignity, but do not seek to make it a steppingstone to offices and honors. For my own part if I were to be born into the world a hundred times, a hundred times I would become a priest; but I would prefer to serve a secluded mountain village and would not seek to be a bishop – indeed not.” All the distinctions conferred on him by Rome or by the imperial court he kept carefully secret. Even when the claims made upon him by others were ever so unfair, he invariably yielded to them. “What harm is it?” thought he. “Perhaps I shall gain a soul for God.”

Out of this humility arose a great meekness and gentleness in his dealings with others. He was ingenious in finding mild expressions for necessary admonitions and reprimands, fully understanding the saying of Saint Paul of the Cross that “admonitions given with mildness will heal the wound they cause, but if they are dealt out with bitterness, the one wound will become ten.” But it would be false to conclude from this that he was not unbending in what he had determined upon. When all kindness proved of no avail, he could strike like a thunderbolt. Mild in manner, firm in deed, was his maxim, and it was this that gained him his powerful influence over others. This power was particularly manifest in his administration of the sacrament of Penance. Men wondered wherein lay the mystery of the powerful attraction he exerted upon his people. From near and far all flocked to his confessional. His mild but heart-felt admonitions made so deep an impression that people who had made their confession to him in their youth, even only once, still remembered it in old age. He always sought to enliven the despondent spirit of a penitent with renewed confidence. As the pastor of his clergy he recommended them to imitate the Good Shepherd in their spirit and work as confessors.

He was most particularly solicitous for the well-being of the young. It is not possible to tell in a few words the pains he took to improve the schools. His heart always warmed toward youth. He knew that precisely this period of life, in spite of its apparent gaiety, suffers most from downheartedness and timidity and therefore greatly needs the encouraging words of the priest. Wherever he met the young it was his invariable custom to begin friendly conversations with them, to show interest in their affairs and by his charming manner was always able to bring in some apt religious advice.

For the rest, the exterior life of this servant of God offered little that was extraordinary. He was a man who did his duty in everything as conscientiously as possible. He carefully avoided whatever was extravagant, for, according to Saint Vincent de Paul, “every singularity is only a corner for vanity to hide in.” When in the society of others he always contributed much to the cheerfulness of the company. Yet every one who, like his parish children and the clergy of his diocese, came in close contact with him, said: “He is a saint.” When he died at the venerable age of eighty-three years, 3 December 1860, this had become the universal conviction, for even before his burial he had begun to work miracles. Little though he valued himself during his lifetime, God glorified him after his death. Only two of the many miraculous cures obtained through his intercession will be mentioned here. In 1867, a child, four and a half years old, so utterly blind that the most piercing light did not arouse any sensation, suddenly recovered its sight by means of a relic of Prince-Bishop Tschiderer. In 1871, a young priest, so far advanced in the last stages of consumption that the last sacraments had already been given to him, was likewise restored by a relic of the holy bishop and within three days was freed from all traces of his disease. The process of beatification, it is expected, will soon be brought to its conclusion.

Editor’s note – Bishop John was declared Venerable by Pope Paul VI in 1968, and beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995.

– text from Holiness of the Church in the 19th Century by Father Constantine Kempf, SJ and Father Francis Breymann, SJ, 1916; it has the Imprimatur of Cardinal John Farley, Archbishop of New York

Servants of the Holy Family – Saint Gemma Galgani

Saint Gemma Galgani(18781903)

In the opening years of this century, a visitor to the ancient city of Lucca, strolling along the Via Zecca might have chanced on a strangely unedifying scene. A young girl of striking beauty and with downcast eyes was modestly making her way towards home from one of the city churches. She was rather dowdily dressed, with battered hat of black straw, rusty black gown and mantle, with a little crucifix on her breast. A number of small boys were playing on the street as she passed. Suddenly they swarmed round the girl, tugging roughly at her clothing, shouting insults and words of derision, while some of the bolder even spat in her face. She showed no sign of resentment and, when some passers-by rescued her, went her way with a quiet word of thanks. It was not the first time her unconscious oddity of dress and manner had attracted the unwelcome attention of the street urchins of Lucca. But the only comment she was ever heard to make was in a whisper to her frightened companion, “If the world despises me I may hope one day to become a Saint.”

She did become a Saint, one of a peculiarly rare and exalted type. And it needs no violent stretch of the imagination to picture some of those thoughtless boys, now grown to manhood, among the crowds of pilgrims from Lucca who rent the air of Saint Peter’s with their Vivas on 2 May 1940, when Pius XII proclaimed the heroic sanctity of their victim and commended her to the veneration of the Universal Church. For the girl was Gemma Galgani.

Gemma’s life was marked throughout by divine favors of an extraordinary character; but it was far indeed from being a life lived in a “stained-glass attitude.” Though an ecstatica, “bearing in her body the marks of the Lord Jesus,” the stigmata of His Sacred Passion, her spiritual life was quite hidden from the world. She was never the object of public curiosity or veneration. So far as she was known at all it was as a young girl of a piety too extreme to meet general approval. And there were no convent walls to shelter her from the misunderstandings and buffetings of the world. Her soul lived on the heights, but to ordinary appearances her life was commonplace enough. She was the busiest and most useful member of a large household, and went about her regular daily occupations to the last, as if she were quite unconscious of the high vocation by which she was singled out and set apart as a Victim of Divine Love. The little street scene just described shows her “in her habit as she lived” and is typical of the simplicity and humility that distinguished her whole life of labor and suffering.

She was the fourth of the eight children, and the eldest daughter, of Henry Galgani and Aurelia his wife, and was born at Camigliano, a village near Lucca on March 12th, 1878. At her baptism on the following day she was given the name of Gemma in spite of her mother’s objection that there was no canonized Saint of the name. It was an objection that can never be raised again. Happily it was overruled that day by the half-playful remark of a priest who was by, “There are Gems in Heaven, and let us hope she may become one of them.” But to be on the safe side, three Saints” names were added, including that of the Queen of all Saints.

A month after the birth of Gemma, the family removed to Lucca, chiefly in view of the larger facilities the city offered for the Christian education of the children. The Galgani parents were devout and enlightened Catholics, and naturally felt the importance of a sound Catholic schooling for their growing family. But all was not left to the school. Education began and continued in the home, and Gemma’s first and most lasting lessons in Christian piety were received at her mother’s knee. Her first prayers, her first simple lessons in the catechism, were learned from her mother’s lips: her mother’s crucifix was the first book in which she read the divine epic of the Man of Sorrows, and it was by her mother’s side in their parish church that she first learned to taste the “hidden and unutterable sweetness of the Mass.” “It was Mamma, “she said years afterwards, “who made me long as a little one to go to Heaven.”

At the age of three she was sent with her elder brothers to a private school in the city kept by two pious ladies, whom she surprised by her capacity for study and her taste for prayer. She had already, it would seem, attained the use of reason, and those ladies have since declared that when five years old she could read the Office of Our Lady from the Breviary as easily as a grown person. But there was nothing of the unlovely precociousness of the infant prodigy about her, and she endeared herself to all, companions and teachers alike, by her winning simplicity and good nature.

One reason why Gemma was sent to school so young may well have been that about this time her mother fell victim to consumption. Her long lingering illness, endured with saintly resignation, was only embittered by the thought that she must soon leave her children when they most needed her care.

Gemma came to know that her mother was going to the heaven of which she had so often heard her speak, and her one wish was to go with her. Every day as she returned from school her first thought was to hurry to the sickroom fearing that her mother might have taken flight in her absence. Meanwhile the day of her Confirmation came. May 26, 1885, and with it the first of those heavenly communications which played so large a part in her spiritual life. After the ceremony she was assisting at a Mass of thanksgiving. She tells us, “All of a sudden a voice in my heart said to me, ‘Will you give me your Mamma?'”

“Yes,” I answered, “if you will take me as well.”

“No,” the voice replied, “give me your Mamma without reserve. I will take you to heaven later.”

I could only answer “Yes,” and when Mass was over I ran home.

It was her first great sacrifice and it cost her bitter grief and tears; but when her mother died a few months later it was Gemma who consoled the others.

“Why should we cry? Mamma is gone to heaven.”

Shortly after her mother’s death, Gemma, now in her eighth year, was sent to the school of the Sisters of Saint Zita in Lucca. Here she soon became, in the words of one of her teachers, “the soul of the school. Nothing was ever done without her…and all her companions bore her the greatest affection.”

But she was no ready-made Saint, and for a time she had a hard struggle to be good. Her faults indeed were less of conduct than of character. She was a child of ardent temperament, full of life and high spirits, and rather apt to be impetuous. Some even called her a little madcap. Others, with less reason, thought her proud and willful. But the frank innocent smile and candid eyes told a different story.

“Gemma, Gemma,” one of the Sisters used to say, “If I did not read your eyes I would think as others do.”

Under the same discerning Sister, she acquired a greater taste for prayer and a tender devotion to the Passion of Our Lord on which she began to meditate daily. Her love for the Mother of God was always deep and intense; the more so as she had lost her earthly mother.

“If God has taken away my mother,” she would often say, “He has left me His own.”

Her constant prayer was, “Holy Virgin, make me a Saint.”

It was her custom to say the whole fifteen decades of the Rosary on her knees in the evening after her return from school. She even began to use penances and to rise in the night to pray. By these means and a continual watchfulness over herself she obtained the mastery over her natural impulsiveness of character and soon became so modest, retiring, and silent, that those who did not know her thought her naturally shy or stupid.

But it was a hard struggle. And the help she needed most and most desired was as yet denied her. She had long expressed the wish to make her First Communion. “You are too young,” the parish priest had told her, “you shall make it when you are seven.” But her seventh year had come and gone without any sign of the promise being fulfilled. When she began to attend the convent school she renewed her petitions with fresh hope. “Give me Jesus,” she would say to the Confessor or the Sisters, “and you will see how good I shall be: I will not sin again, I shall be quite changed.” But the custom of the time was against Communion at so early an age, and she was in her tenth year before permission was granted, and only granted then by special exception. “There is no alternative,” the confessor declared, “but to admit her to Communion or see her die of grief.”

Gemma’s first thought in her abounding joy and gratitude was how to make the most of her happy privilege. She obtained the rather unwilling permission of her father to make a closed retreat of ten days in the convent, during which she saw nothing of her family. Her constant meditation was on the words of Christ which she heard in one of the instructions, “He that eateth me the same also shall live by me.”

And the better to realize the life of Jesus in herself she asked to be more fully instructed in the mysteries of His Sacred Passion, to which she listened with many tears. Her little childish faults now took on a peculiar grossness, and she made a general confession of her short life and did it with such thoroughgoing detail that she found it necessary to make three visits to the confessor. One may imagine the angelic fervor with which she received her Lord for the first time on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, 17 June 1887. “I feel a fire burning here,” she said to one of her little fellow communicants afterwards, pointing to her breast. “Do you feel like that?” She could not imagine that there was anything exceptional in her own experience.

Her life henceforth was a constant growth in union with Jesus. “Gemma is good for nothing,” she would say, “but Gemma and Jesus can do all things.” And the closer her union with Him, the greater her desire that all should share in it. “She longed for the universal reign of Christ,” the Sister we have already quoted tells us, and took an especially keen interest in the work of the Propagation of the Faith and of the Holy Childhood, in which the children of the school were enrolled. Her constant prayer was for the conversion of the infidel and for that of obstinate sinners nearer home, so that “the kingdom of Christ’s love might be extended over the whole earth.” But her growth in holiness and her zeal for souls did not interfere with her regular school work, and she even excelled her companions in her aptitude for learning. In mathematics, science, and literature, the chief subjects of the school curriculum, she always acquitted herself with distinction, and she had a special gift for music and painting.

As the years went on, her devotion to study seemed excessive to those at home and was the subject of frequent remark, “Why do you study so much? You know such a lot already and you are not satisfied.”

Needless to say religion was her favorite subject, and in Christian Doctrine, Sacred Scripture, and Church History she showed unusual proficiency. Towards the close of her school career she was entered for a competitive examination in Christian Doctrine open to the children of the various parishes of the city, and she was awarded the gold medal and a prize of five pounds. Such success seemed to augur a brilliant future. She was now sixteen and her father offered, if she wished, to send her to the University. But Gemma’s answer was a decided “No. No university for me!”

Her decision, doubtless, was a blow to her father. Gemma was his favorite child: he had high hopes of her and was very proud of her beauty of mind and person. His partiality, indeed, amounted to imprudence, and Gemma would sometimes gently remonstrate with him and remind him that he had other children to consider. “I know,” he would say, “I love them all, but then you are my eldest daughter.” He would have her as his constant companion out of doors. Her clothes should come from the most expensive shops. Any excuse for lunch in the city meant bringing her to the best hotels. If it chanced she was not in his company his first inquiry on his return home was, “Where is Gemma?” This was generally answered by a nod towards the little room where she shut herself up to work and pray in solitude.

Without meaning it, for he was a deeply religious man, he did all in his power to spoil her. But Gemma was not to be spoiled. She did indeed try to fall in with his fancies. And once, to please him, when she went to receive her gold medal at the public distribution of prizes by the Archbishop of Lucca, she wore a stylish costume specially made for the occasion, with a pretty necklace, a ring, and other trinkets, and a gold watch. It was her last appearance as a smart young woman of the world. On her return from the ceremony as she laid aside her finery, her Guardian Angel, to whom she always had a great devotion, appeared to her with the words,” “The true ornaments of a spouse of the Crucified are Thorns and the Cross.” She never wore her worldly finery again.

Thorns and the Cross were no strangers to Gemma, and were henceforth to be the normal experience of her life. Already she had passed through a painful spiritual crisis, lasting a whole year, during which her intense love for Jesus was overshadowed by the feeling of being abandoned by Him. She saw nothing .in herself but evil, nothing in her daily life but scandal to others. Prayer was a torture to her. Her devotion turned to repugnance and disgust. She met the trial by a still more earnest fidelity to her spiritual exercises: more than ever the crucifix and the tabernacle were the two poles of her life. The members of her family noticed the change in her, and completely misunderstood it. They reproached her with spending too much time in church, opposed her rising early for Mass, and generally added to the bitterness of her sufferings with the best intentions. But the trial passed leaving her soul with a fresh strength to face the sufferings that were still to come.

Gemma’s school life was brought to an end by a painful illness. An injury to her foot (which she made light of) resulted in deterioration of the bone and laid her up for some months. An operation was necessary, but she refused an anesthetic and with eyes fixed on the crucifix suffered the excruciating pain without a moan. The doctors were amazed, and applauded her courage and endurance. But Gemma only smiled: she knew the secret of it.

Restored to health she now took her place in the home to do the duties that naturally fall to the eldest daughter in a motherless family. They were many, for it was a large household, and her hands were never idle. In the intervals of domestic work she busied herself in making altar linen and vestments for the church or clothing for the poor. She had a particular care for the religious education of her young brothers and sisters, teaching them their catechism, leading their daily prayers, or bringing them to the devotions in church. And in their childish differences and quarrels she was always, as one of them said, the “bearer of the olive branch.” But her activities were not confined to the home. She would often gather the poor children of the neighborhood together for religious instruction. She frequently visited the sick in hospital, bringing them little material comforts but especially “comforting them with thoughts of God.” Her charity to the poor and afflicted went almost to the point of extravagance. She not only dispensed food and clothing with unstinted hand to those who came to her door, but she sought out those unable or unwilling to come and whose needs she knew. Every time she went out she would ask her father for money to give in charity, and if sometimes he refused she would coax permission to take bread or flour or whatever she could lay her hands on at the moment. When family circumstances became straitened and she was reminded that she could no longer afford to be so generous she would reply, “The Providence of God will never fail.” At last her Confessor severely restricted her bounty and her father cut off money supplies. Poor Gemma was plunged in grief and left the house as little as possible to avoid meeting the poor whom she could not help.

Her home duties and her pressing concern for others were in no sense an obstacle to the growth of her interior life. Rather the contrary: her busy life of active charity drew its inspiration from her life of prayer and union with God. When she was most occupied with external things she seemed to those around her wholly absorbed in God.

“Her life was one continual prayer” says a priest who knew her well, “and her prayer-book was the crucifix.”

The thought of the sufferings of Christ never left her, and it was in those days, as she tells us, she “began to feel a growing desire to love Jesus Crucified with all her heart, and together with this a longing to help Him in His sufferings.”

“O Jesus,” she prayed, “I wish to follow Thee whatever it may cost me of suffering – to follow Thee fervently. I wish to suffer, to suffer, oh, so much, for Thee.”

The mystery in which “the memory of His Passion is recalled “was therefore the center around which her whole spiritual life revolved. A glimpse of her at this time by an eye-witness gives a vivid impression of the fervor of her devotion to the Holy Eucharist. The words are those of Miss Ethel Rose, an English convert, “I saw her one day in the church of Saint Michael as I awaited my turn for confession. A priest came to give Holy Communion to the people, and among them was a young girl who made a deep impression on me, not only by her modesty and recollection, but by the extreme pallor of her face. I was so fascinated that I watched her for nearly an hour. I observed how she received Jesus, and afterwards, her face lighted up and flushed with the ardor of her love, how she knelt by the altar with hands clasped and head gently bowed upon her breast totally absorbed in prayer. She was like a statue.” The impression thus made on a complete stranger was not less than that produced on the members of her own household, under whose somewhat more critical and exacting observation her daily life was passed.

They did not always understand her, but they could not help admiring how perfectly she seemed to combine her home duties and her charitable activities for others with the closest union with God. But “there is only one Gemma,” they said. And an old man-servant of the family who knew her long and intimately, in after days summed up his impression of her in a phrase of simple eloquence, “Gemma stood alone – there was no one like her.”

Those happy home days were soon to pass. Gemma seemed to have a sense of coming tragedy. In her spiritual diary at the opening of 1897 she wrote, “In this new year I purpose to begin a new life. I know not what is going to happen to me this year. I abandon myself to Thee, O my God. I feel my weakness, O Jesus, but I rely on Thy assistance.”

The Galgani family had hitherto been in easy circumstances. The father was a chemist with a flourishing business in Lucca and a country house and considerable property in its neighborhood. He was a large-hearted man with little worldly prudence. His good nature was well known and often unscrupulously turned to account. People would come to borrow money or ask his signature to bills of exchange, and no one with a plausible case was refused. If his tenants were behind with their rents, or his customers with their accounts, they were never pressed. The result eventually was disaster for his family. Signor Galgani was spared the worst. He died in November, 1897, and Gemma’s sad forebodings at the opening of the year were more than fulfilled. Her father’s body was scarcely cold when his creditors obtained an execution, seized his property and turned his family into the street. With truculence hard to imagine, they even searched the children’s pockets for money and took from Gemma the few pence found on her person. The Galganis were reduced to hopeless beggary and were forced to live on the charity of strangers. The relatives who might have assisted them were in great part involved in their father’s ruin.

Gemma found refuge for a time with an aunt almost as poor as herself. It was about this time that she received more than one tempting offer of marriage which to a girl less spiritual might have seemed a providential way out of her difficulties. To Gemma who wished to belong entirely to Jesus they were an insufferable annoyance. She was suddenly freed from all annoyance of the kind by a disease which made sad havoc of her personal beauty. She had felt symptoms of its oncoming, but her repugnance to medical examination made her conceal them until she found herself a helpless invalid with tuberculosis of the spine. Her pitiful condition, and the patience and sweetness with which she suffered, got abroad and drew many pious visitors to her bedside. One of these brought her the Life of Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, already famed for his sanctity and miracles though not yet canonized. Some had begun to pray to this young Passionist for her recovery. Gemma at first took little interest in the Life or in her friends’ prayers, being equally pleased to live or die as God willed. But having once invoked the Saint’s name in a distressing temptation with instant effect, she read the book not once but several times and conceived a special devotion to him. More than once he appeared to her, speaking words of consolation and encouragement, but she never once dreamed of asking him for her cure. In February, 1899, the doctors pronounced her case hopeless and she received the Last Sacraments.

Her confessor. Monsignor Volpi, auxiliary Bishop of Lucca and afterwards Bishop of Arezzo, who was then spiritual director of the Visitation Nuns at Lucca, visited her on February 19 and suggested she should make a novena to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque for her recovery. Twice she began the novena, but forgot to continue it. What followed may be best told in her own words.

“On 23 February, I began it for the third time, or rather had meant to begin it for it was now within a few minutes of midnight, when I heard the clink of rosary beads and felt a hand laid on my brow. A voice said the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Gloria nine times in succession. I hardly answered I was so weak. Then the voice said, “Do you wish to be cured? Yes, you will be cured. Pray with faith to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I will come every evening till the end of the novena and we shall pray together to the Sacred Heart.”

“And what of Blessed Margaret Mary?” I asked.

“Repeat the Gloria three times in her honor.”

“It was the Passionist, Saint Gabriel. He came every evening and we recited the prayers together. The novena was to end on the first Friday of March. Early that morning I received Holy Communion. Oh, what happy moments I passed with Jesus.”

He, too, asked me, “Do you wish to be cured?”

My emotion was so great that I could not speak, but in my heart I answered, “Whatever Thou wiliest, O Jesus!”

The grace was granted. I was cured. I rose from bed. Those in the house were crying for joy. I too was pleased, but not so much that I had been cured as that Jesus had chosen me for His child. That morning before He left me He had said, “My child, the grace thou hast received this morning will be followed by many others still greater.”

Gemma’s cure was complete and permanent. Her illness had lasted more than a year and had brought her to death’s door, but ever afterwards her health was perfectly normal and even robust. Her first thought after her recovery was one she had long entertained – to enter a convent. Circumstances had hitherto made it impossible to realize, but now her way seemed clear. Several religious communities in Lucca would gladly have accepted her, and even encouraged her hopes. But ecclesiastical authority was slow to believe in the permanence of her sudden cure from such a dangerous disease and Gemma, to her grief, found the convent doors gently and regretfully but firmly barred against her. Meanwhile her spiritual life grew in intensity and fervor, her union with God became more conscious and intimate, and her soul began to be visited with divine communications of the most extraordinary and exalted kind. She had been accustomed even during her illness to make the Holy Hour in honor of the agony of Jesus in Gethsemani. In gratitude for her recovery she now promised the Sacred Heart of Jesus that she would never omit it. And on the Holy Thursday following she prepared for this pious exercise by a general confession of her whole life. It was as if she knew what the Holy Hour was to mean to her, for it was during this hour that Jesus henceforth began to pour into her soul those marvelous graces which made of her life a martyrdom of love. Her first experience on this Holy Thursday she thus described to her spiritual director.

“I spent the whole hour praying, and weeping for my sins. Feeling weak I sat down. The sorrow continued, but after a little I felt rapt in recollection. Shortly afterwards I suddenly lost the use of my senses. I tried to get up and lock the door of my room. Where was I? I found myself in the presence of Jesus Crucified, blood flowing from His wounds. The sight filled me with pain. I lowered my eyes and made the sign of the Cross: I felt great peace of mind, but still intense sorrow for my sins. I had not the courage to look at Jesus. I bent down with forehead to the ground and remained so for several hours when I came to myself the wounds of Jesus were so impressed on my mind that they have never since left it.”

The vision filled Gemma with a new horror for sin and with an intense desire to suffer with Jesus and to become a victim for the salvation of souls. The desire was to be gratified in a way she little expected.

One morning after Holy Communion she heard the voice of Jesus say to her, “Courage, Gemma, I await thee on Calvary whither thou goest.” The meaning of the words was soon made plain. A few days later, on Thursday, 8 June, the eve of the Feast of the Sacred Heart, when she began as usual to make the Holy Hour, she felt a piercing sorrow for her sins such as she had never experienced, and a peculiarly vivid sense of the sufferings of Jesus. Suddenly she was rapt in ecstasy and found herself in the presence of her heavenly Mother and her Guardian Angel. The angel made her repeat an act of contrition, and Mary comforted her with the assurance that her sins were forgiven, and told her she was to receive a great grace through the love of Jesus.

In Gemma’s own words, “Then she opened her mantle and covered me with it. At the same moment Jesus appeared with His wounds open but instead of blood, flames as of fire seemed to issue from them. In an instant those flames touched my hands and feet and heart. I felt as if I were dying and should have fallen to the floor, had not my Mother supported me under her mantle. I remained in that position some hours. Then she kissed my forehead, the vision disappeared and I found myself on my knees alone: but I still felt intense pain in my hands, feet, and heart. I rose to go to bed, but I found that blood was flowing from the places where I had the pain. I covered them as well as I could and got into bed with the help of my Guardian Angel. Next morning I found it difficult to go to Holy Communion. I put on a pair of gloves to hide my hands. But I could scarcely stand, and felt every moment that I should die. Those pains continued until three o’clock on Friday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart.”

Apart from her confusion and distress at such a sinner being so favored, Gemma’s only thought seems to have been like that which occurred to her after her First Communion when she felt a fire burning in her heart – that it was a common experience with those whom Jesus had chosen for His own. She began to make timid inquiries among her friends during the day, but only succeeded in mystifying them without obtaining any information. At last, feeling that she must confide in someone, as the blood continued to flow, she went to her aunt and holding up her hands said with the simplicity of a child, “Aunt, see what Jesus has done to me.” The good woman was struck dumb with amazement, but as little understood the meaning of the strange phenomenon as Gemma herself.

The phenomenon was repeated regularly every Thursday evening, beginning about eight o’clock and lasting until three in the afternoon of Friday. Gemma seemed to pass through all the phases of the Passion and bore in her body all the marks of Christ’s physical sufferings: not only the wounds in hands, feet, and side, but the punctures of the crown of thorns, the marks of the scourging, the wound on the shoulder caused by the weight of the Cross, all accompanied with the most excruciating pain.

Throughout those hours she engaged in loving colloquies with Jesus in a low voice, often tenderly pleading for mercy for sinners and offering herself as a victim in expiation for their sins.

For some little time Gemma kept these extraordinary occurrences a secret even from her confessor: partly through her extreme humility, partly through the difficulty of explaining them in the confessional. A few weeks after they began, however, a mission was given by the Passionist Fathers in Lucca which Gemma attended. After the general Communion on the last day of the mission, she heard an interior voice which said, “You shall be a daughter of my Passion, and a favorite daughter: one of these shall be a father to thee: go and make everything known to them.” She found a prudent and sympathetic adviser in one of the missioners, who communicated with Monsignor Volpi, her confessor, with the result that the Passionist Father Germanus was ultimately appointed her spiritual director. Monsignor Volpi was perplexed and doubtful about the genuineness of the manifestations. The mission Father and those whom he consulted were equally at a loss. Father Germanus, a priest of large experience and of a dry and scientific turn of mind, was frankly skeptical when first consulted by Monsignor Volpi, declined to have anything to do with Gemma, and advised him to make his penitent follow the beaten track. It was only after considerable pressure that he was induced to visit her. After a searching and thorough investigation, however, he came to recognize in her an elect soul, “a true Gem of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” and remained her spiritual director for the rest of her life.

“It is good to hide the secret of the King.” And one of Gemma’s chief anxieties was to keep the secret of the great things God had done to her from profane eyes. It was soon evident that in her aunt’s house this was impossible. The younger members of the family were curious: not one was sympathetic: things began to be talked of outside, and in no kindly spirit. Gemma was frequently rapt in ecstasy even in the course of her daily occupations and was thus at the mercy of the light-minded. She had to suffer much in consequence. At length, through the influence of the Passionist Fathers, she was received into the home of their benefactors the Giannini, a well-known family in Lucca, first as an occasional guest, finally as an adopted daughter. The household consisted of the father and mother with eleven children and an aunt named Cecilia, who already knew and admired Gemma and was henceforth to act the part of a mother to her. The character of this family may be guessed from a sentence or two of the father’s evidence in the Process for the Beatification of Gemma where, telling of her influence in his home, he speaks of “my five sons who are a great consolation to me. They go to Holy Communion every day and are much engaged in the field of Catholic Action. Of my daughters, five are nuns, one has remained at home, and one is married.”

Here Gemma was sheltered from the prying eyes of the world and from the reputation for uncommon sanctity which she so dreaded. Her life in the Giannini household may surprise those who perhaps imagine that a life of exalted and continuous prayer must be one of inaction. Instead,, she experienced a life of constant and useful activity. Signor Giannini, just quoted, summed it up by saying, “Gemma was never idle.” “At first when she came to us,” says her friend Cecilia, “she used to crochet, but she preferred knitting or mending stockings, because I believe it permitted her to keep more recollected. It kept her busy, for she mended for the whole family. She was always ready to do whatever there was to do. If there was need, she put the rooms in order, assisted others with their work, and helped the children with their lessons. She was never unoccupied.” A priest who lived with the family and saw her at her daily duties could not help admiring “her spirit of recollection and union with God. Even in the midst of the most distracting domestic occupations she always seemed as if absorbed in God and in continual meditation. But this did not hinder her from attending with great care to whatever she was doing.”

She especially loved caring for the sick. “She always looked after those who were ill in the house with the greatest care and attention, punctual with their medicine, noting their temperature, and in all things showing the greatest kindness, charity, and intelligence…and all this she did for the love of God.” The charity to the poor which she had practiced as a child in her own home, and which her poverty checked for a time, now found a fresh and ample outlet. Her benefactors allowed her to exercise a large discretion in giving alms of their goods, and she always put aside something of her own at table for the poor.

“But,” says Cecilia Giannini, “I did not want to encourage poor people to come to the house in a procession, it might have led to awkward incidents.”

So Gemma dispensed her charities outside, “at the foot of the steps in the loggia,” where her friend often watched her from a window above, sitting with the poor, giving them good advice, instructing them in some point of Christian Doctrine, or comforting them in their sorrows with the thought of Jesus Crucified. Gemma, indeed, seems to have had a special devotion to the spiritual work of mercy that concerns the instruction of the ignorant. Signor Giannini tells us that even when she went with the family to their country house she would gather the men and boys of the neighborhood to teach them their catechism and give them some appropriate spiritual instruction.

Few indeed would have suspected from Gemma’s external life the sublime spiritual heights to which she was raised. Her simplicity and humility threw an effective veil over the secrets of her interior life. A priest, who frequently visited the Giannini family and knew her well, was unaware of her extraordinary holiness until it was revealed at her death.

“Her modesty and simplicity,” he tells us, “made a most pleasing impression on me. And though I often came in contact with her I could not find in her the smallest imperfection …. Her words were few and in answer only to questions asked of her. I never heard her speak of herself. But while knowing well that she had a most delicate conscience and a beautiful soul, all intent on loving God, I should never have thought that she was so far advanced in sanctity.”

Father Germanus tells us that if there was a virtue characteristic of Gemma, it was her evangelical simplicity. It distinguished her from childhood and accompanied her all along her ascent to the summits of the supernatural life. “With her, yes was yes and no was no, white was white, and black was black. There were no middle meanings, no folds in her heart. As she felt, so she spoke and so she acted.”

She could not bear to think or speak to the detriment of anyone.

“You would need a wrench,” a witness said in the Processes, “to draw a word from her regarding others, even when the information was necessary, if it had to be an unfavorable word.”

In conversation on spiritual subjects, though she spoke freely, she never took the lead or professed to know more than others. She was frequently rapt in ecstasy during the day, but on returning to herself went on with her work apparently unconscious of any interruption. And after the long weekly ecstasy “she would rise as if nothing had happened, wash away the stains of the blood which had flowed so profusely, draw down her sleeves to cover the large scars on her hands, and believing that no one had noticed her, would return to the other members of the family and take her part in the work of the day.”

It was her simplicity that led her to think at first that her mystical experiences were common with those who wish to love God. When she realized that they were exceptional, she was haunted by the fear that she might be deceived or be a deceiver. She had heard of such cases from those least qualified to deal with her. She had even heard a whisper of the ugly word, hysteria. She would ask her director, “Am I to believe it is Jesus, or the devil, or my own imagination? I am ignorant and may be deceived. What would become of me if I were the victim of delusion? You know I do not wish these things. I only wish Jesus to be pleased with me.” Or again, “Can it be that I am a deceiver? If I am I shall lose my soul. I should like you to explain what a deceiver is, for I do not want to deceive anyone.” She found her only consolation in absolute obedience to her confessor and her spiritual director, “Oh, what consolation my heart finds in obedience! It fills me with a calm I cannot explain. Dear obedience! Source of all my peace.”

Her child-like simplicity was wedded to a deep and touching humility. She seemed to be unaware of her high spiritual gifts and regarded herself, like the Apostle, as the chief of sinners. Once during a retreat made in childhood she had heard the preacher say, “Remember that we are nothing and that God is all,” and the words made an impression that never faded. The thought was always in the forefront of her mind, and as she grew in the knowledge of God she saw less and less of good in herself and was filled with confusion and dismay at the divine favors granted to her. The more God exalted her the more deeply she sank in her own estimation. She always sought the humblest place and the most menial duties, and “If through the mercy of God,” she once said, “I have experienced some happy moments they were when I saw myself despised and humiliated.”

Again and again she implored Our Lord to withdraw His extraordinary favors from her and bestow them on someone more worthy. She dreaded the account she should have to give for her fancied want of correspondence with God’s grace, and she put her whole trust in His mercy. “Thy mercy, O Lord,” she would say, “is the anchor of my soul. I know that Thy mercy is greater than my ingratitude. If I saw the gates of hell open and I stood on the edge of the abyss, I should not despair; I should not lose hope of mercy, because I should trust in Thee.” When asked on her death-bed what was her favorite ejaculation she answered simply, “My Jesus, mercy.”

Under the calm unruffled exterior of her life in the Giannini household Gemma was all the time suffering a veritable spiritual martyrdom. She had once said “Jesus is the Man of Sorrows and I wish to become the daughter of sorrows.” The wish was fulfilled in part by her share in the physical sufferings of Christ, but she was to taste also of the sorrow and dereliction of His soul.

In one of her first ecstasies Jesus had revealed to her something of the griefs and humiliations she was to endure for the rest of her short life. He told her that she should show the sincerity of her love when her heart became as a rock and she would feel nothing but aridity of spirit, affliction and temptation. “The devils will make continual efforts to wreck your soul. They will put evil thoughts in your mind; fill you with a hatred for prayer, with doubts and fears. You will suffer outrages and injuries: no one will believe in you. Heaven will seem deaf to your prayers. You will seek Jesus and will not find Him: He will appear to have forsaken you. When you call on the Blessed Virgin and the Saints they will seem to have no pity and to have abandoned you. When you go to Holy Communion or to Confession you will have no fervor. You will go through your exercises of devotion as if by routine, and you will feel the time lost. Yet you will believe, but as if you did not believe: you will hope, but as if you did not hope: you will love Jesus, but as if you did not love Him, because you will be bereft of all feeling. You will grow weary of life and yet be afraid of death, and you will not be able to find relief even in tears.”

It was an image of the desolation of Jesus in Gethsemani and His dereliction on the Cross, and it was all fulfilled to the letter in the life of this heroic child, who, Father Germanus tells us, was so natural and unaffected that she could scarcely have been distinguished from an ordinary young Catholic girl.

Gemma had offered herself as a victim, in union with the sufferings of Jesus, for her own sins and the sins of the world, and she yearned to make the sacrifice complete by consecrating herself to God in the religious life. She had never lost her childhood’s desire of entering a convent. From the time she first met the Passionists and heard of a contemplative Order of Passionist Nuns she felt that her place was with them. There was a convent of the Order at Corneto, some two hundred miles from Lucca, and after asking advice she determined to go there for a course of spiritual exercises and ask admission. She met with a decided refusal, worded in no genial terms, from a Reverend Mother who seemed wiser in her generation than the children of light. It was a bitter disappointment to Gemma, but she bore it bravely and patiently. Subsequent efforts were made in her behalf by Monsignor Volpi and Father Germanus, but without effect. Gemma began as far as she could to lead the life of a Passionist Nun outside the cloister. She had already made a vow of chastity during her serious illness, and to this she now added with her Confessor’s approval the vows of poverty and obedience, the wore the Sign of the Passion on her heart underneath her clothing, and recited the Divine Office daily like the until near the end of her life Passionist Nuns in choir. She never lost hope of joining them, if not at Corneto, then elsewhere.

Her hope was in some sense strangely realized. In her first letter to Father Germanus, before she had yet met him, she predicted in minute detail the establishment of a convent of Passionist Nuns at Lucca.

There was no thought of such a project at the time, but a year or two later it began to be discussed. Gemma was filled with enthusiasm and began to pray and to use all the influence in her power to hasten the coming of the nuns. The difficulties in the way seemed at times insurmountable, but she was never disheartened. During the last year of her life it was her constant thought and the constant object of her prayers. She even searched Lucca more than once for a suitable site and interested herself in the material resources necessary for the foundation. She still had hopes of finding her vocation in the new convent. Towards the end she made the sacrifice even of these, if only the work on which she had set her heart might be accomplished. “I no longer ask to enter a convent. Jesus has the habit of a Passionist Nun waiting for me at the gates of Heaven. Let me die so that the Passionist convent may be established.”

She assured those who were losing heart that the foundation would be begun after her death and completed in the year of the Beatification of Saint Gabriel. Her words, contrary to all expectation, were verified by the event. Two years after Gemma’s death the first little group of Passionist Sisters came to Lucca and, though they met with many obstacles and disappointments, a full community took possession of the new convent in 1908, just two months after Saint Gabriel was beatified. Pius X, of holy memory, had already blessed the project, and, in words that would have brought joy to the heart of Gemma, assigned as the special object of the community that “of offering themselves as victims to Our Lord for the spiritual and temporal needs of the Church and of the Sovereign Pontiff.”

The convent continues to flourish. Gemma’s body reposes near the altar in the little chapel and the nuns venerate her as their foundress and the patroness of their work. “The Passionist Nuns would not accept me,” she had said, “but for all that I wish to be one of them and I shall be with them when I am dead.”

So Gemma’s wish was fulfilled at last. “If for reasons independent of her will,” writes a companion of hers now a Carmelite nun, “Gemma never wore the Passionist habit, she was none the less a true Passionist. She was a Passionist in soul, and she had the spirit of the Passionists. The Order has made her its own. Her convent has been established for years and continues to flourish exceedingly.”

The same thought was expressed by Benedict XV in the decree introducing the Cause of her Beatification, “The pious virgin. Gemma Galgani, if not by habit and profession, undoubtedly by desire and affection is rightly numbered among the religious children of Saint Paul of the Cross.” And Pius XI in proclaiming her heroic sanctity congratulated “the sons and daughters of Saint Paul of the Cross on the possession of this true gem of sanctity who would be an additional honor to their Congregation.” Gemma had once described herself as “wandering like a soul that had gone astray.” Her long cherished vocation was at last realized and perhaps no vocation ever cost a more painful sacrifice.

Gemma’s whole life indeed was one long uninterrupted sacrifice of the most heroic kind. To a worldly mind such a life of suffering may seem an irritating and insoluble mystery. There is one secret which fully explains it. From her earliest childhood the contemplation of Jesus Crucified filled her with a sense of her own sinfulness and a desire to atone for it, and then to be associated with Him in His sufferings and to share them in expiation of the sins of the world. To win souls for Jesus through prayer and suffering was the one passion of her life. Even as a child at school, her teacher says, “Gemma suffered because sin was committed. I remember that when she was quite a small child she grieved if any of her companions acted wrongly. She prayed much, but especially for poor sinners, and offered for them such mortifications as a child can perform.” It was the feature of her life which the witnesses to her sanctity invariably singled out as characteristic of her. “She was especially attracted to pray for poor sinners.” “She was much afflicted by the thought of the sins committed in the world and she often offered herself to God on behalf of sinners.” “She would gladly have gone through the world to work for the extension of Christ’s kingdom by converting pagans, heretics, and sinners.” “The sins of mankind and the insults these offences offered to Jesus were an acute and constant source of suffering to Gemma.” She was often heard in ecstasy pleading for sinners and even offering her life for them. “What dost thou wish, O Jesus? My life? It is Thine. I have already offered it to Thee. Wilt thou be pleased if I offer it again as a victim in expiation for my sins and those of all sinners? If I had a hundred lives I would give every one of them to Thee.”

And in her letters she frequently returns to the same thought, “What is sweeter than to be filled with the thought of Jesus and to kneel before that Divine Victim of love and sorrow – a Victim for my sins, for my salvation and for the salvation of souls?” “I should willingly give every drop of my blood to please Him and to prevent sinners offending Him.” “I shall be satisfied only when I am a victim – may it be soon – to make reparation for my innumerable sins and for the sins of all the world.” She did not confine herself to intercession for sinners in general, but almost constantly “carried on her shoulders,” as she would say, some obstinate sinner for whom she was asked to pray. Endless conversions were wrought by her prayers, from the dying man that refused to receive the Last Sacraments, who was converted by her prayers as a child at school, to the notorious sinner of Lucca whose conversion was announced to her the day before she died. Her sufferings were not meaningless, nor merely a personal discipline: they were the instrument of a great apostolate for the sanctification of souls, and especially for the conversion of sinners, that drew all its inspiration and all its virtue from her continual union with Jesus Crucified.

Gemma had offered herself to God as a victim in expiation of the sins of men, and her offering had been accepted. She had shared in all the sufferings of Jesus except one – the last and greatest, the agony and dereliction of His last hours on the Cross. Terribly as she had hitherto suffered in soul and body her suffering had been in secret, and her life was more like Gethsemani than Calvary. After her miraculous cure her health had been perfectly normal, and no one would have suspected that the strong, healthy girl was enduring the tortures of a living martyrdom. But the moment came when her sufferings could no longer be hidden: it was the immolation of the victim. At Pentecost, 1902, she was suddenly stricken with a mysterious illness which lasted, with one short interval, for the remaining nine months of her life. She could not taste any food, her body was tom with the most violent pains, and she was reduced to a skeleton. At first she managed to drag herself to church, with the aid of her friend Cecilia, for Mass and Holy Communion, but this consolation soon had to be abandoned. Doctors were called in, but disagreed in their diagnosis and for the most part confessed themselves baffled by the mysterious nature of her disease. The pains which racked her body without ceasing were aggravated by furious assaults of the devil on her body and her soul, so fiendish and continuous that she imagined herself possessed and begged to be exorcized. Her heroic life, all the virtues she had practiced, all the divine favors she had received, were now represented to her as an accumulation of hypocrisy and deceit. And during all those months of suffering no ray of divine consolation reached her heart. She continued to pray unceasingly, calling on Jesus and Mary to be with her in this hour of bitter dereliction, and outwardly preserved a serene and unruffled calmness. Of her bodily pains she never complained but once, when she murmured, “My Jesus, it is more than I can bear.” When the Sister in attendance on her reminded her that with God’s grace it is possible to bear all things, she never used the words again. On the contrary when the Sister once asked her “If you had your choice which would it be: to go at once to heaven and cease to suffer or to remain here and suffer for the glory of God?” “Better to suffer,” she said, “than go to Heaven when the pain is for Jesus and His glory.”

One last consolation remained to Gemma and of this she was soon to be deprived. Pitiable as was her condition she was at least in the midst of affectionate friends. Some of the doctors, however, were of opinion that her disease was tuberculosis, and Father Germanus was anxious that the children of the family should not be exposed to the danger of infection. It was decided to remove Gemma, much to the disappointment of the Gianninis, who offered strong opposition. Some months passed indeed before they could be induced to consent to it. At last a compromise was made and a room was rented in a neighboring street from which communication could be held with the Gianninis” home by means of a bell fixed to a cord stretched across an intervening courtyard. Gemma was moved there on 24 February, making her last sacrifice with a calm resignation that astonished even those who knew her best.

She might well say, “I have made a sacrifice of everything – nothing now remains for me but to prepare for death.” Death was not far off. Some two months later, on Good Friday; she entered with outstretched arms into a prolonged ecstasy, nailed, as she said, with Jesus to the Cross. Those who saw her suffering throughout that day and the following night knew that the end was at hand. On Holy Saturday a priest was called and gave her Extreme Unction, and then Gemma was left alone to taste the full bitterness of the desolation of Jesus on Calvary. She had prayed to die in loneliness and her prayer was heard. The end came peacefully when with a look of seraphic joy on her face she gave up her pure soul to God an hour after midday on Holy Saturday, 11 April 1903.

Gemma Galgani was beatified by Pius XI on 14 May 1933, and canonized by Pius XII on Ascension Thursday, 2 May 1940. Among the vast multitude that filled Saint Peter’s on the day of her Canonization were thirteen hundred of the citizens of Lucca headed by their archbishop. Many of them had known her, including the numerous members of the Giannini family who had so devotedly befriended her. There too was her youngest sister Angelina sitting by the side of the nun of Saint Zita who had taught her as a child and guided her first steps in the path of heroic sanctity.

The feast of Saint Gemma is kept on 14 May.