The quiet and humble little town of Knock, Ireland casts a mighty shadow in the Catholic world. In 1879, a young girl was said to have had an apparition of Mary, the mother of Jesus, or as she is more commonly called, the Blessed Mother. The word apparition means an appearance of a supposed ghost or something ghostly. In this era, it seems there were several – and more famous – sightings of the Jesus’ mother: Lourdes and Fatima.
As at Lourdes (1858) and Fatima (1917), the visitations came at a time of immense cultural, social and economic upheaval, and occurred to people whose traditional society was under threat from social change. And of course, this was true of Ireland as it rebuilt from the great famine of the 1840’s now once again feeling the weight of the industrial revolution that was sweeping through Europe.
It is November 2008, my co-leader, Rev. Mark from Iowa asked our guide, Mick, if we might schedule a time to view the National Shrine in Knock and go to Mass. It actually was quite thrilling, this immense modern church in almost the middle of nowhere. Born and raised a Catholic, it is odd to go to a Catholic Mass in another country. At first you look around, struggling to get used to something familiar in a foreign language. Then it just happens – the years of ritual, of formality and practice take over and I knew just when to stand and sit and kneel though I could not understand a word the priest spoke. It was beautiful and there was a true devotional sense of connection to something that binds us all together, one, holy, Catholic (universal) church.
Mick told us that at the completion of the Mass we had an hour before we would meet the bus and to shop and have lunch at one of the little places along the main street. My roommate, Mary Ellen and I stumbled upon the Central Restaurant which advertised hot soup and tea. We are in! As we sat in the quaint ambiance of the place, we talked about the Cathedral and its story, looking around at all the cute (and for sale) decorations and holy medals that hung in the showcase.
Soft music was playing in the background and our meal arrived. Ah, hot Irish soup and bread that was as heavy as a house; so rich, chewy and flavorful. There was a momentary lull in the conversation, long enough to begin to hear the music. Something about it was familiar, something about the beat and the rhythm. I listened more intently. “No way,” I thought. “I’m in Ireland” and they are playing a tune quite familiar to us, Tulsa Time!
I said to Mary Ellen, “Do you hear that? Tulsa Time!” Here we are thousands of miles from home listening to Don Williams wanting to get back to Tulsa. Our friends at the other table remarked, “Hey, you guys hear that?” Yes, indeed we did. Out the door we went and danced our way to the bus, singing our song for it would be another week before we went on back to Tulsa Time.