I joined the Army to see the world. Sounds cliché but for a girl from small town Iowa, the Army has taken me places I could never dream of. After having children, we wanted to make that dream a reality for our children too. But we especially wanted to try to show them some Catholic Holy Sites and places of special significance. Our tour in Germany accomplished just that!
My Irish heritage has always given me a longing to see the lush, green countryside of Ireland. Everyone knows that the Irish have a great affinity for St. Patrick for his impact on the Emerald Isle. What we also found out is that Ireland has an approved Holy Site right in the little town of Knock.
So we set off on our adventure, greeted by rolling green hills, sheep galore and charming towns at every turn. We split our week by staying in only two locations and working out from each. First we headed up to the gorgeous town of Murrisk, Westport in County Mayo at the foot of the Croagh Patrick Mountain. This is where St. Patrick is said to have hiked up and prayed.
We stayed in lovely cabins and were greeted by a lovely Catholic woman, Mary and her children, heading off to Catholic school. Most of the public schools there are Catholic!
Our first day trip was to Knock to see the Shrine to Our Lady of Knock. We thought it might be closed as the town seemed empty!
We learned at the Shrine that the previous day being Divine Mercy Sunday, there had been an historic number of pilgrims attend the Mass and devotion there. So the day after, there was sort of a lull! We were able to see the Cathedral, built on the grounds of the original church to honor Our Lady of Knock. There is a lovely museum with all kinds of information on the miracle that occurred and the thousands of miraculous healings that have taken place. We were also able to attend Mass at the original church, which has been modified with a large glass window (seating inside is very limited) so the many pilgrims outside can observe and participate as well. There is a lovely rosary as large as the side of the church.
There is also healing spring water, dispensed from fountains on the grounds. Many people fill plastic bottles or jugs to take with them. Our trip to Knock was truly a wonderful stop on our spiritual journey. We were able to offer up so many people in prayer to Our Lady.
We also ventured out to the Cliffs of Moher, not necessarily a holy site but as the kids put it, one of the biggest God Sightings we’ve ever seen! You can’t look out on these breathtaking cliffs and expansive water, without thinking of the Creator who put them there.
We visited so many lovely churches there but our favorite things (aside from the warm and welcoming people) were the grottos throughout our drives. We played a game with the children that every time they saw a grotto and said a Hail Mary, they could work off poor behavior they had shown. We quickly found that they began to offer up their prayers for a sibling to help them out. We loved searching for grottos and the more we drove, the more we found!
For a small island, Ireland has too many wonderful Catholic sites to see in one week… But it’s definitely worth making a pilgrimage to if you are able to!
Our Lady of Knock, Pray for us!
St. Patrick, Pray for us!
“Knock, Knock!” contributed by Katie Hanna.