Stephanie Pena has been on several pilgrimages in her life but after some recent family difficulties, she felt led to travel to Knock, in Ireland. Here’s why she thinks Easter is the perfect time to re-connect with God.
My Catholic faith has always been a foundation in my life and I continue to be overwhelmed by how much Jesus loves everyone one of us, especially on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Over Lent we are encouraged to make time to prepare, going deeper with our relationship with Jesus, with time for prayer, fasting and almsgiving. As part of my own practice, I make space for daily mass, Bible reading, weekly Stations of the Cross, adoration and regular confession.
This year, I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to go to Knock, in Ireland, to the International Eucharistic and Marian shrine. We have recently overcome, and continue to overcome, so much as a family that I felt led to go, to give thanks to God and pray for others. I am learning to be more obedient and so, encouraged by the comfort that comes from the prayer ‘Your will, Lord, and not mine’, I said yes. I found a trip, organised by Knock Pilgrimages, leaving in three days and in great answer to prayer, there happened to be space for Mum and me.
On arriving at Knock House Hotel we made our way to the Basilica. Wandering around the grounds, between the chapels and Parish church, there was an immediate sense of peace.
If you arrived in Knock feeling lonely and weary you soon felt uplifted within the group, coupled with the warm, Irish hospitality and prayerful location
On 21 August 1879, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Joseph and St John the Evangelist appeared at the Church in Knock. Beside them was an altar with a cross and the figure of a lamb, around which angels hovered. Fifteen official witnesses saw the apparition; young and old from the community who stood for two hours in the pouring rain, whilst reciting the Rosary. Times had been challenging for the people of Ireland and then Mary appeared. I felt a real comfort hearing about the apparition; a beautiful reminder of how Our Lady points us to our Lord Jesus Christ.
So many pilgrims have journeyed here for miracles. Healings have happened at the sight, you can touch and pray by the original stones from the apparition gable and receive Holy water. We went to mass, sacrament of reconciliation (confession), adoration and walked the Stations of the Cross.
God has a special way of knowing what we really need and the way it is given is so healing and unique
Community is a gift and we were blessed with other pilgrims joining us, who we now call friends. We took trips together to locations around County Mayo, we prayed together and shared stories. We had mass at the Fr Peyton Centre and Ballintubber Abbey and spent evenings singing together with traditional Irish music. If you arrived in Knock feeling lonely and weary you soon felt uplifted within the group, coupled with the warm, Irish hospitality and prayerful location. I was even encouraged to share worship songs on the piano.
God has a special way of knowing what we really need and the way it is given is so healing and unique. On several occasions I found that we were there at that moment of need for someone else and, at other times, pilgrims were there for us. We must wait on God’s timing, not ours; patience and humility are beautiful, saintly virtues. I needed to hear various things that were shared with me and was grateful for friends and family praying for us at home.
After our pilgrimage we were transformed with the reminder that ‘we are the salt of the earth and light of the world’ and so we continue to let our light shine. When you believe those words from Jesus it takes away fear and worry and we become courageous to step out, knowing that nothing is impossible for our Lord. This Easter, I encourage you to take time out to journey with God, whatever that might look like.
For information on Knock pilgrimages visit: knockpilgrimages.com
For information regarding Knock Shrine:
UK Pilgrimages to Walsingham:
Pilgrimages to Lourdes in France:
A Pilgrimage in Spain ‘Camino de Santiago (Walk way of St James): caminodesantiago.gal
Read Stephanie’s article on Walking the way of St James here