“…It’s great to be in Our Lady’s Shrine at Knock at the beginning of the pilgrimage season. While Knock is a Marian Shrine of huge international status, essentially I always see it is a Eucharistic Shrine, with the central focus on the Eucharist, the Lamb of God on the Altar surrounded by Our Lady, St. John the Evangelist, St. Joseph and the Angels. Eucharistic Adoration is now a central part of parish life…”
“… they pressed him to stay with them”. Imagine for a moment if they hadn’t! Imagine if they hadn’t bothered and Jesus kept walking until he bumped into someone else downcast and forlorn? Imagine if they had enough of this stranger on the road on his self-centred lectio divina rant! Everything in Luke’s account is thought out in a highly forensic way. “It is nearly evening”, they said “and the day is almost over”. The journey was taken during a cooling off period after the resurrection; the glow of that first Easter day had begun to fade. In a most beautiful style Luke interweaves scepticism with hope; nervous chatter with gentle probing; incessant conversation with powerful stillness and silence. Pressing him all the time to “stay with them”.
The story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is the story of the very first Mass celebrated after the Resurrection, the very last words of our gospel: “they had recognised him at the breaking of the bread”. That moment of recognition is well recounted by St. Luke: “And their eyes were opened and they recognised him”. Eucharistic Adoration is an eye-opening moment; it is a powerful encounter with the Lord. I want to draw attention to the Children of the Eucharist, who spend fifteen, twenty minutes in quiet prayer; they are here with their adult leaders today. An encounter with the Lord for every one of those children; an encounter with the Lord for every adult. The silence of the hour teaches us humility, no need for idle talk or empty gossip, no need to impress with a c.v. or a qualification, just allow the silence to speak. Where else will you find it today? It is a wounded Christ the two meet on the road to Emmaus, a wounded risen Christ and we come before Him to Knock with our wounds. Kneeling or sitting in His presence the weak find strength, the lonely find friendship and the sinner finds mercy.
As we gather in Our Lady’s shrine here at Knock, I am so conscious of the many people, whose belief and faith in the Eucharist has bolstered my belief and fortified my faith. Obviously, I think of my deceased parents with me, Den and Nan, but also many others. I think for instance of Ginger Lacey, whom I attended monthly with Holy Communion at his home in St. Brigid’s Terrace, Mullingar. Ginger greeted me each month with the very same greeting, as I tapped on his door, entering his home: “Come in Fr. Denis, you are both very welcome”. He recognised the Lord in those monthly visits. Though you may never be aware of it, your prayer and adoration brings hope and encouragement to many, including myself. None of you can fully realise the impact of your witness, just like Ginger Lacey all those years ago. None of you know who may follow one day in your footsteps.
I think of the joy I had at the end of 2014 celebrating Mass in St. Peter & Paul’s Church, Portlaoise, commissioning our new Diocesan Committee for Eucharistic Adoration, covering the fifty-six parishes of Kildare & Leighlin – missionaries of the Lord’s presence in every parish of the diocese. And then I think of the notice written by my predecessor Fr. John C. O’Reilly in St. Mary’s Adoration Chapel, Drogheda, that greeted you as you entered the chapel to pray: “No notices or posters are to be displayed in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The people who use this chapel come to pray, not to be reminded of any forthcoming event, religious or humanitarian however important it may be or to be recruited for any organisation, movement or cause however worthy they may be”.
We have come to pray in Knock. For me there is always that tender moment when I place my hands on the small section of stones from the original gable wall at the Apparition Chapel beyond; the decade is interrupted, a queue forms, there is a pause or a suss and the decade resumes. Was it the third or the fourth decade; is it the ninth or tenth Hail Mary. Who’s counting? Jesus isn’t! Knock offers us an encyclopaedia of our faith – in the Apparition Chapel beyond we find the scene that was visited upon the fifteen witnesses captured in the magnificent mosaic behind me. Our Lady is there, as is St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, the Lamb of God on the altar with the angels and the Cross circling the altar. Everything we need for our faith is there. Remember Our Lady never spoke in Knock, she spoke through the Eucharist, her Son. She continues to speak to us through the Eucharist, “to Jesus through Mary”. I am so delighted that the Eucharistic Rosary is being launched here this afternoon at our Pilgrimage Mass. Each decade begins with a short reflection on that particular decade and the Eucharist. I was very moved by the fourth decade of the Glorious Mysteries, when the narrator reminded us Our Lady was the first tabernacle of His presence. Remember without Our Lady, there would be no Eucharist. Without priests, there is no Mass, that is why the prayer for vocations must always be central to our Adoration prayer, and it’s great to welcome our seminarians from Maynooth here today.
Returning to that earlier verse from Luke’s gospel: “… they pressed him to stay with them”. As we gather in Our Lady’s Shrine here at Knock, like Cleopas and his pal we too say: “Mane nobiscum, Domine!” – “Stay with us, Lord!” My prayer is that through the support of this new Eucharistic Rosary CD, through the encouragement of your Diocesan Adoration Committees, through your quiet hours of adoration and prayer, you too will pray: “Stay with us, Lord” and he will stay with all of us.
Perhaps Katherine Tynan’s poem ‘Sheep and Lambs’ best encapsulates this staying on this last day of April:
“All in the April morning,
April airs were abroad;
The sheep with their little lambs
Pass’d me by on the road.
The sheep with their little lambs
Pass’d me by on the road;
All in an April evening
I thought on the Lamb of God.
The lambs were weary, and crying
With a weak human cry,
I thought on the Lamb of God
Going meekly to die.
Up in the blue, blue mountains
Dewy pastures are sweet:
Rest for the little bodies,
Rest for the little feet.
But for the Lamb of God
Up on the hill-top green,
Only a cross of shame
Two stark crosses between.
All in the April evening,
April airs were abroad;
I saw the sheep with their lambs,
And thought on the Lamb of God”.
 Lk. 24:29
 Lk. 24:35
 Lk. 24:31
 Lk. 24:29
 Tynan, Katherine: ‘Sheep and Lambs’, published in 1911