Angels adore the victorious Lamb as St. John proclaims the glorious revelation to which he was witness. Mary, the Queen of Heaven, and St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse, give thanks and praise before the altar of the Most High God. This celestial scene, which we all hope one day to behold in Heaven, was witnessed one August evening in 1879 outside a parish church in County Mayo, Ireland.
The church, now known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, honors this unique apparition with statues of the vision. Knock is unique among Marian apparition sites in that it is both Marian and Eucharistic and in that not a sound came from the miraculous appearance. Besides being a beautiful place of prayer and devotion, this apparition shrine offers a great opportunity for reflection on Dominican life, given the Order’s motto “Laudare, Benedicere, Prædicare.” The phrase is taken from a Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer in a Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary: “It is truly right and just… to praise, bless, and glorify your [i.e., God the Father’s] name on the feast day of the Blessed ever-Virgin Mary.” These three activities, integral to the whole Christian life and emblematic of the life of the Friars Preachers, are well portrayed by the three figures adoring the Lamb in this apparition.
Laudare – To Praise
The Mother of God, crowned in the glory of her magnificent role in salvation, lifts her eyes and hands to the Almighty God in sublime adoration and awesome praise. This duty of praise belongs, of course, to all God’s faithful, but ever more perfectly does Jesus’s own mother glorify God’s goodness. The figure of the Virgin stands with her hands uplifted in oblation, perpetually singing her Magnificat, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!” Praise from one’s lips serves to stir up the ardor of our own love as well as the love of those who witness this in our lives, as St. Thomas points out: “the outward praise of the lips avails to arouse the inward fervor of those who praise, and to incite others to praise God” (ST II-II, 91,1). The choral office, Holy Mass, sacred study, and preaching serve as occasions for Dominicans to praise God and to invite others to lift their own hearts to the Lord.
Benedicere – To Bless
St. Joseph, patron of this Province, embodies blessing through his prayerful fatherhood. At Knock, he stands with his hands folded and his head inclined toward his immaculate spouse, clearly praying with her on behalf of the world. St. Joseph was chosen to be the guardian of the Redeemer and the spouse of the Mother of God. Interestingly, the apparition at Knock came only 9 years after Pope Pius IX named Joseph Patron of the Universal Church. St. John Paul II drew attention to St. Joseph’s fatherly care for the entire Church in Redemptoris Custos: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1). The Order of Preachers–and especially this Province under his particular patronage–strives to carry out this mission of praying for the Church, doing penance for the sins of the world, and offering the graces of the sacraments, the Word of God, and the Rosary.
Prædicare – To Preach
St. John the Evangelist, crowned with his episcopal mitre, appears with open mouth and arm outstretched to proclaim the Word: “In the beginning was the Word… and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). He is preaching the Gospel of light and life and instructing his beloved little children in the new law of love. Although “prædicare” is translated in the Preface of today’s Roman Missal as “to glorify,” what better way is there to glorify the Lord than to carry out his command to bring the Gospel to all nations? Whether in the elevated pulpit of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the house-churches of the underground Church in China, or the classrooms of Providence College, the Dominicans have borne the light of the Gospel wherever the Spirit leads. Friars Preachers, “champions of the faith,” become like John the Apostle and Evangelist, bearing the light of Christ to those who have walked in darkness (Isaiah 9:2).
Laudare, Benedicere, Prædicare. The phrase adopted from the liturgical texts in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a fitting ensign for the Dominican Order, which takes refuge under the mantle of her loving patronage. The apparition of Mary, Joseph, and John at Knock is a beautiful invitation to all those who seek to imitate their virtues and to carry on the work of the Gospel. May we all continue to praise God, bless His people, and preach His loving mercy.
Image: Shrine of Our Lady of Knock