Ireland is experiencing a spiritual famine

Dear Editor, I think it is the unspoken pain of Archbishop Michael Neary’s recent homily to the association of Papal Knights that prompted me to write this letter (IC 13/11/2014). I would like to draw his attention to the heavenly message given to the Irish people at Knock, Co. Mayo in 1879 during a time of suffering for the whole nation. The people had endured persecution for their Faith, death from starvation, the loss of their children to emigration and bitter strife over land.

The apparition that took place at Knock brought to us a Mother’s presence not only to comfort us in a time of distress, but also to remind the Church of her roots in the Gospel and in the Eucharist as a solidarity between Heaven and Earth.

It is a solidarity that showed itself as a family, imaged for us by Joseph, Mary and John standing near the Lamb. Why else would the Lamb of God have shown Mary to us at Knock as our heavenly Mother if not for the sake of family?

I do not believe that the message of 1879 was only for that time. Being from Heaven it has an eternal quality that can speak to us again in this new time of famine in 2014.

The breakdown of the Church as family and also the breakdown of family in society is, I believe, at the heart of this new famine. It is a famine at the level of spirit. We have become starved of faithful love – God’s love, a father’s love, a mother’s love, the faithful affection of family, of neighbourliness and of caring community. And even in the Church today, God’s divine Spirit of affection for us is often replaced by a manufactured social warmth.

Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium, that, “Mary is the Mother of the Church which evangelises, and without her we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evngelisation”. Let us return to the message of Knock and to our Mother Mary, the better to understand that Spirit of family that cries out “Abba, Father” in our hearts, the better to evangelise.

Yours etc.,


Fr Freddy Warner SMA,




Co. Galway