As I write thousands of people, the vast ,majority of them Irish are assembling at the largest public worship building on this island in eager expectation of a Marian apparition. The Roman Catholic church runs Knock and played a vital role in the building of the basilica, local economy, airport & marian cult.
Mary is thought by Catholics to have made her first apparition within a generation of the death of Paul and the apostles on a column perhaps more apt for a sceptic philosopher in what is now the Aragonese city of Zaragossa. Since then she has been held to appear on a roughly bicentianeal basis throughout Europe with some notable gigs in Latin America, none in Africa or Asia.
This might tell us more about the kind of people who see, expect to see or have thought they have seen her than it would indicate any particular favouritism on her part. Each time she has appeared she has been reported as bringing news for the world, after all & not just the typically poor communities.
She has also changed her style over the centuries. Crowns, imperialistic pomp & glory have gradually been replaced with simple blue and white robes. Her solo appearances have sometimes been expanded to include guest appearances from bearded european looking sainted gospel writers holding their correct medieval symbols of hagiography. No doubt after the catholic absorbtion of the rosary and angelus from Islam, she's been promoting those prayer techiques for the last 2 centuries. Shortly after her son Jesus appeared to a catholic mystic with a bared heart of post-enlightenment anatomical detail - she also included that little detail (as illustrated).
Her visits have never gone without much controversy - Our Lady is indeed a controversial visitor.
There are some who dismiss out of hand the idea that she appears at all. This is for several reasons. The most obvious being that some do not believe in her & such fall under the category of sneering infidels and sinners. The second which ought bear serious consideration by any who do believe in her, is what might be called the protestant approach that scripturally and theologically the marian cult is not satisfactorily compatible with christian thought in that intercession of demigod or semigoddess characters is an internalisation of pagan thought and dilutes the central tenets of Christ's mystery & redemption. In to that later category would fall those boring people who still quibble over the question of where she went & the thorny concept of did she die. For some she ascended in much the same way as Jesus and Muhamad to go out there into outer space or heaven and though forever worrying about us is not really expected to offer an appearance this side of Nostradamus.
Which brings me quite logically to considering without upsetting those of catholic, christian or no faith - the common sociological factors behind marian apparitions in history. They have mostly occured during times of social change, insecurity, economic crises and shifting moral or ethical values. They also tend to occur in areas with poor infrastructure and generally low level of educational attainment.
But undeniably once the marian cult approves an appearance, generally after systematic brutalisation and cruelty to the poor chap or as is the norm - chapette who had the guts to claim s/he had seen Our Lady - the economic benefits are extraordinary.
The RC church frowns upon today's flock who on the word of a Dublin clairvoyant have trundled off to Knock bringing with them what will undoubtedly be a short term economic stimulus. A bIshop has spoken of the dangers to people's faith (one presumes the Roman Catholic faith which accomodates many paradoxes not least of which is the marian cult) on the basis that She did appear in Knock as in Fatima, Lourdes, Zaragossa, Guadalupe, Walsingham, Pontmain, Beuarraing - clocking up a majority of spiritual interventions in times of plague and a fair share of famines - but did not appear in Medjugorje in the lead up to the Yugoslavian wars, the deployment of EU and NATO troops and a contigent of Gardia.
Nor could we not in passing have any of her appearances in north America been approved. I've already made the point that nobody in Africa or oriental Asia (excluding India) has ever dared to report her appearance with the great exception of 7 children who did see her just before the Rwanda Hutsi/Tutsi genocide in Kibeho.
Her un-approved message came in the form of a black woman who called for prayer, penance, conversion, the rosary & warned of an imminent war.
The rest is history.
It ought not go without general social reflection in Ireland, why and how these people not only sustain the cult at Knock but can move to discourage the phenomonal movement of people supported in true 21st century style with youtube and blogs to Mayo today.
It is a very telling sign that for many people who are, I would opine, psychologically vulnerable responding to a synchretic meme. A clairvoyant of the charlantan ilk of fortune tellers and thaumaturgs may to some be a bizarre mish-mash of new age, theosophy, traditional religion, pagan sentimentalism, publicity seeking opportunism & paranoia. To others he and his followers are no different from those who exercise their legitimate and enshrined rights of free worship, assembly and expression.
But regardless of whether or not, today Mary makes an appearance & updates her usual message for the first time in over 200 years - we can not ignore the fact that there are multitudes of post-Celtic Tiger citizens who want to see her.
Perhaps it is time for the magic lantern box to be updated & the fraud bulit on a fraud (For I do ascribe to the theory that the first apparition was a hoax) & some wise soul could ensure that Mary does appear.
- on a regular basis.
Thanks then to "our Lady" or rather her representation & place in mass psychology - not only will Ireland's economy recover from the tourism stimulus but there will be succour for the vulnerable.
I can see no possible harm in that for anyone.
+ here endeth the lesson.