Life, Living, Becoming...
Gerry Coughlan

 In Search of a Miracle

I once went with my dad and some of his friends across Ireland to Knock; that's the name of a little town where Our Lady appeared to a few locals. They built a church on the spot of the apparition and if you couldn't save enough money to go to the more famous Lourdes in France, you took a train to Knock in Co. Mayo. If you were really desperate, you tried both.

I was only 8 or 9 and I had 4 blind guys including me da to look after and take around. The train journey took hours as I listened to how each guy had been afflicted. There was one guy that held my hand really tight. He had a huge Adam's apple and smelt of hospitals. I can't remember how he'd been made blind but the guy who did most of the talking had been a hurling player who'd been hit across the face with the stick by an opponent. Hurling is a mad Irish game that wasn't even played at schools, it was so dangerous. It was a tiny bit like hockey but they had rugby posts and the ball was slashed all over the park at all heights.

One we got to Knock, just me and a few nuns and priests had all our faculties. I swear; every man, woman and child in Ireland that

  • had a limp,
  • used a wheelchair,
  • had been stuck in the birth canal a few minutes too long,
  • had had an unfortunate accident,
  • was born to an elderly mother
had descended on Knock that day.

Some bishop or other came and said Mass in the open air but because it was Knock it was a Super Deluxe one; 3 hours with poor unfortunates getting bored and wailing. They didn't know any better but the nuns who looked after them would have been failing in their duty if they didn't try to keep them in God's family and take them to Knock just in case one of their charges would be blessed and cured.

All the wheelchairs were down the front. They always get the best seats :-]
Where do you think the blind people were? Bringing up the rear. No problem, they didn't need to see, as long as they could hear! I remember my dad leaning against the Church itself and having a cigarette.

It was a much quieter ride home. It must've been because everyone was full of the Holy Ghost, or more likely we were all knackered after an afternoon in the sun. We got home eventually and I sensed me Da had had enough of chasing miracles for a while. He never stopped going to Mass but thank God we didn't bother with Knock again.

I was thrilled to have him to myself again. He never held my hand too tight.

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