Thursday, June 26, 2008
Our pilgrimage to Knock (an Cnoc) was marred by spitting rain
(I was foolish, yet hopeful, when putting on capri pants and sandals).
It was not at all marred by a wrong turn, or rather, the lack of a turn,
which sent us careening off towards Claremorris. Getting lost, or turned
around, is one of my favorite things in Ireland. Adventure! There is
always something new to see. But to get back to the subject. (I'll admit
that my prose wanders almost as much as our car....) Knock is the site
of a religious apparation. In 1879, reputedly two women saw the
diaphonous forms of the BVM, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist.
And it was witnessed by 13 other people. (Why the guide books don't
say that 15 people saw this I don't know. But every accounting states
the two women plus the thirteen.) There are claims of miracle cures
from the waters that flow through the town -- once when we were there
in September all the holy water spigots (there's a wall of them)
were turned off. Ha! The big attraction for us Catholics-turned-Pagan
is the gift shops. (Be sure to check out CitizenK's account of this.)
For me, it's a romp through the iconography of my childhood, albeit
enhanced by the miracle of light-up Virgin Mary's and wall-sized
glow-in-the-dark rosary beads. There are perhaps a dozen shops,
all carrying nearly the same items, which number in the thousands.
Besides the holy water fonts and pick-a-size Virgin Mary's, there are
plastic farm animals, Bart Simpson t-shirts with "kiss my ass" in Irish,
linen dish towels (Irish family names, an Irish blessing, flowers
of Ireland), wool cable-knit sweaters, pot holders, mugs, decorative
thermometers, packages of green soldiers -- you name it. I was there
for the holy cards: St. Patrick, St. Dymphna, St. Clare.
At one shop I approached the proprietor with a handful of holy cards
and a miniature book of prayers, and he said, "how about a euro
for the lot?" What a deal. Paul, bless him, faces the Knock
Catho-capitalism with a bit more angst than me. He worries about
the cynicism we feel as we traipse from shop to shop -- it's like one
convenience-store-for-Jesus after another: a whole lot of cheap shit
(made in China) coveted by elderly women in wheelchairs.
It's an economy all its own, and I'm happy to trot away with my Padre Pio
medal in my pocket. Humming. I admit to being a sucker for cheap kitsche,
wherever on the planet it is found. (This goes right along with my fondness
for jell-o and multi-colored marshmallows and Lucky Charms.)
We tried like the devil to come up with at least one good
Knock Knock joke on the drive up. No luck.
I'm open to suggestions! (It must be Catholic in theme.)