Monday 21 January 2019

The Lamb Will Conquer Reflections on the Knock Apparition - Father Nigel Woollen

The Lamb Will Conquer:
Reflections on the Knock Apparition
Father Nigel Woollen
Veritas Publications
ISBN 9781847307897

The apparition in Knock has always fascinated me. Likely in part because of my Irish heritage, and in part because it was talked about so much less then Fatima and Lourdes, when I was growing up. This apparition happened almost a ninety hears before I was born, and yet learning about it is one of my earliest memories. I remember our teacher talking about it as we prepared for our first communion. When I first saw this specific book, I had just finished reading The Story of Knock by Alice Curtayne and was doing some research for reviewing that booklet. I immediately wanted to read this volume, but it was hard to track down in North America. I have since read this volume twice and will likely read it again at a latter date.

Father Nigel Woollen has written a wonderful little volume. And of all the readings I have done on Knock it is the one that turns it into a devotion, and not a historical study. The book begins with these words:

“‘You’re mad to go to Knock!’ the kind lady said, chuckling. I was a bit taken aback. Where I come from, this means: you’re crazy or stupid to go to Knock. She hastily explained that in West of Ireland parlance, it signifies: you really want to go to Knock – you simply can’t wait to go! And indeed I couldn’t. From my first visits to Ireland, this village in County Mayo has held a deep fascination for me; it’s a place in which you feel at home straight away, but also sense something quite unique. There’s an atmosphere of peace rarely found elsewhere, a feeling that heaven touches earth in a particular way. So, for the many of us who are ‘mad to go to Knock’, it’s worth exploring in depth the meaning of the Knock event, to understand something of what God wanted to reveal to those witnesses of 1879, and what he wants to say to us today. ‘I will hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace’ (Psalm 84:9).”

I have never been to Knock, and I might never make it there. But that does not mean I cannot learn from the events there and use them to help me grow in my faith and in living out that faith. I want to pull out one phrase from the above quote to emphasise the point:

“So, for the many of us who are ‘mad to go to Knock’, it’s worth exploring in depth the meaning of the Knock event, to understand something of what God wanted to reveal to those witnesses of 1879, and what he wants to say to us today.”

I might not be mad to go to Knock, but I am mad about Knock, and this book is a wonderful read to help stoke that madness. Father Woollen further in the introduction declares:

“To ask God to reveal himself is a risk! He always answers our prayers – yet not always in the way we think: ‘the heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:9).”

And that is in part what we do when we explore the apparitions of Mary, and specifically Knock, we are asking God to reveal himself to us. We open ourselves to the greater spiritual reality. The chapters in volume are:

Tear the Heavens Open!
Joseph: Icon of the Father
John: The Beloved Son
Mary: Bride of the Spirit
The Lamb: Love Conquers All
Conclusion: A New Creation
Appendix: Novena Prayer to Our Lady of Knock

There are chapters on each of the figures who appeared, except for the angels. One of the things that has always fascinated me about this event was the silence. And Father Woollen states:

“In order to hear God speaking to us we need silence. A key element of the Knock apparition was its silent nature; neither the Lamb, nor Mary, nor Joseph nor John the Apostle say one word (even though the Evangelist appears to be preaching), yet this silence speaks volumes! Silence – not just an absence of words, but a loving desire to adore the Lamb – begets a joyful expectancy that God will speak to us. Within silence, we encounter the presence of the one who is Love, we can experience a glimpse of heaven: ‘there was silence in heaven for about half an hour’ (Revelation 8:1).”

I think this message of silence is even more important in our world today. How many of us really get time to silently reflect, and to listen? Without a device, without words, maybe even without others. Father Woolen says:

“We could describe the Knock phenomenon as a divine secret. In its biblical sense, a secret (or mystery) is something that is incomprehensible to us human beings without a special light from God. The secret of the Knock apparition, this vision without words, is awesome in its depth and radiance: as we’ll discover, it reveals the Trinity, the mysteries of our redemption, the sacraments and, above all, the beauty and splendour of Jesus the Lamb of God, our Bread from heaven, the one who gives himself completely to us, and invites us to give ourselves to him, in a covenant relationship of mutual sacrificial love.”

And from there walks us through the apparition, with a focus on Joseph, Mary, and John the disciple. And as he leads us in reflection on these three and the Lamb as Jesus we will grow. Later in the book he says:

“It’s good to come back home after a trip, especially when you’ve been away a long time. For some, it might be the family home, that contains many happy memories; for others instead, it would be a place they felt an affinity with, even if far from their origins – for some of us, a place such as Knock becomes a home, because that’s where we’ve found something that seems to correspond to the deepest yearnings of our hearts.”

And that sums up a feeling I have had about Knock for most of my life. But was not something I could ever have put in words. At my confirmation I received a print of the apparition in Knock, it was on my wall for a few years and was lost during one of my moves during my university years. I can still recall reflecting and meditation on the image and feeling a sense of peace, of belonging of homeness. In the conclusion Father Nigel writes:

“To sum up, the secret of the Knock Apparition is manifold. It affirms our redemption by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, the Lamb of God, who is in his own flesh our gateway to heaven. It presents his closest friends, who seem each in their turn to reflect in a particular way one of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. St Joseph shows us how we can become merciful like the Father, while St John encourages us to live as a beloved son or daughter, as a true child of God. And Mary, Bride of the Spirit and Woman of the Eucharist, shines out for us as she stands beside our crosses, imparting to us the faith and the hope she lived to the utmost on this earth, so that we can experience the joy of the resurrection and a new Pentecost of love, in the Holy Spirit.”

This book is a wonderful read. For people who already have a devotion to the apparition at Knock it will deepen your knowledge. But it will also serve as an excellent introduction to Knock for those less familiar. I believe that anyone who reads this book with an open heart, will be challenged, will be encouraged and will grow. As mentioned, I am already planning to read this book again, and am looking foreword to reading Father Nigel’s new book, Learning to Love: Journeys Through Life with the Rosary. I give this book my highest recommendation it is an excellent read.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Nigel Woollen:
The Lamb Will Conquer: Reflections on the Knock Apparition
Learning to Love: Journeys Through Life with the Rosary
The Father Wants To Heal You: A Retreat with the Lord’s Prayer

Music by Father Nigel:


Other Books About Marian Apparitions:
20 Answers Apparitions & Revelations - Michael O'Neill
Those Who Saw Her: Apparitions of Mary - Catherine Odell
Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World – Jean M. Heimann
Apparitions of Mary: Their Meaning in History - Donal Anthony Foley


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