Knock(ing) on Heaven’s Door

On October 3rd I had the opportunity to make pilgrimage to the Shrine at Knock, in Co. Mayo, and what a blessed day it was! I woke up before the sun and boarded a bus – I traveled for three-ish hours by bus to reach the tiny village that is home to the popular pilgrimage site. When I say tiny village, I mean TINY. The village consists of a handful of hotels, coffee shops, religious stores, and the sprawling grounds of the Shrine itself.

The Shrine property includes a visitor center, Adoration Chapel, book store, museum and cafe, reconciliation chapel, the Basilica, and the parish church, with the Shrine on the rear wall of the church.

In August of 1879, Mary, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist appeared to 15 villagers in Knock for two hours. The message of the apparition was a silent one, unlike many other well known Marian apparitions. Since 1879, millions have made pilgrimage to Knock seeking the intercession of Our Lady. Many have been healed of physical and non-physical ailments, and many have simply experienced the peace of the place. In 1979, Pope St. John Paul the Great made pilgrimage and said Mass there, to a crowd of nearly half a million! Bl. Mother Teresa also made pilgrimage there in 1993, drawing another large crowd to her powerful personality.

Many have made pilgrimage there, and I was so overjoyed to join the ranks of these other pilgrims. It was my first time visiting the site of a Marian apparition, and I must say that I experienced a peace there that I have never felt in my life before. I participated in Mass at the Basilica with hundreds of others, and felt connected to them through the Blessed Sacrament of Our Lord and also the tender affection for Our Lady. It was a long, yet extraordinarily peaceful and joyful day. Thanks be to God!

The Basilica.

The Basilica.

The Shrine itself.

The Shrine itself.

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This past weekend, I embarked for Galway City with two friends. We had a blast exploring the city – so many shops, so many street performers, and so many interesting sites within the compact city center. It’s a bustling city, with many students and tourists milling about. We really, really enjoyed going out in the evening to find live musicians.

Old city wall inside the underground mall!

Old city wall inside the underground mall!

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Galway Cathedral!

Galway Cathedral!

Magical children's store!

Magical children’s store!

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On Saturday, we took a day tour of Connemara, a beautiful mountainous region in County Galway. My heart was overwhelmed by the majesty of the mountains and the peace of open fields, lakes, and sheep at every altitude. We also visited the famed Kylemore Abbey, which was built in the latter half of the 19th century by a dedicated husband for a beloved wife. After her premature death, the castle and estate were sold, and in 1920 the Irish Benedictine Nuns began to call the castle and the estate their home. They ran a girls boarding school there from the ’30s until 2010, and still live and work on the site. It was GORGEOUS. The castle (now abbey) and the grounds are astonishingly beautiful, and I loved the serenity of the castle nestled in the heart of the Connemara Mountains.

CONNEMARA MOUNTAINS

CONNEMARA MOUNTAINS

Kylemore Abbey - Benedictine nuns still live and work here.

Kylemore Abbey – Benedictine nuns still live and work here.

Sitting room inside Kylemore.

Sitting room inside Kylemore.

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On Sunday, we traipsed about the city some more, went to Mass at Galway Cathedral (which has an AMAZING choir), I experienced the coolest bookstore I’ve been to yet in my life, and we enjoyed the sunny weather out on the Bay.

Coolest book store I've been to in my life.

Coolest book store I’ve been to in my life.

Galway Bay!

Galway Bay!

All in all, a wonderful weekend in Galway. (And yes, we sang Galway Girl on a constant loop haha!)

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