This Sunday, 26 January, will mark the inaugural “Sunday of the Word of God”, which will be dedicated to the celebration, study and spreading of God’s Word.

Knock Shrine

As part of this celebration, Ireland’s National Marian Shrine at Knock will participate at a Mass presided over by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Basilica.

During Sunday’s Eucharistic celebration, a new pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Knock, which was commissioned to celebrate the 140th Anniversary of the apparition at Knock in 1879, will be displayed at the Papal Altar.

The statue was blessed by the Pope in Rome last year following his visit to the shrine during the World Meeting of Families in 2018.

The story of the apparition is a unique one. On the 21 August 1879 fifteen people in the village of Knock watched for two hours in the pouring rain as Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, a Lamb and a cross on an altar appeared to them at the gable wall of the Parish Church.

On the occasion of the 140th anniversary of the apparition last year, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, addressed the National Novena in Knock. Following his visit, the shrine was invited to participate in a prominent way at the inaugural “Sunday of the Word of God” Mass.

The Knock Shrine is situated in the Archdiocese of Tuam in the west of Ireland, which is the largest diocese in the country.

The Archbishop, Michael Neary, who will be participating at Sunday’s Mass, spoke of his delight that Knock was involved in this way, calling it a “privilege”.

The importance of silence

The apparition of 1879 was a silent one, and the Archbishop noted that, “for the Word of God to be in a position to take root, there is a need for a welcoming in silence.”

He went on to say that, “when you consider the proliferation of words today in chat shows and all of that, maybe what we need is time for silence. A silence that will be creative, receptive, and a silence that will enable us to listen to what is really taking place.”

The “Sunday of the World of God” was established by Pope Francis in his Apostolic Letter “Aperuit illis”, and is to be celebrated on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Pope Francis, said Archbishop Neary, has emphasized that “the Word of God can never be just the preserve of a few… that the Word of God is for everyone.”

Irish pilgrims

Many people from the Parish of Knock and farther afield are coming to Rome for this celebration and the Archbishop said there is great excitement surrounding the occasion.

He also said a choir from Knock, which will perform on Sunday, has been rehearsing very hard in preparation for the celebration in St Peter’s Basilica.

Irish bishops publish pastoral letter for ‘Sunday of the Word of God’

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Ossory, also in Ireland, has released a pastoral letter for the “Sunday of the Word of God”, in which he offers a series of reflections and suggestions that aim to help the faithful mark the observance in the best possible way.

Bishop Dermot Farrell’s pastoral letter, entitled Opening the Way to the Scriptures, quotes from Saint Jerome, who famously said that “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

He said “his words resonate every bit as much today.  The risen Lord continues to speak to us through the Scriptures.  He continues to knock at the door of our hearts and minds; if we hear his voice and heed it, then he will enter our lives and remain with us.”

Farrell points out that the Bible “is not the preserve of the few. It belongs to all of us.  It is the book of the people of God.  It is a rich source for prayer, for contemplation and consolation.”

A challenge to live a Christian life

The Scriptures – Bishop Farrell continues – “continually call and challenge us to permit the Word of God to take flesh in our lives” and live a life worthy of the call to be disciples of Jesus.

He noted that they require a response and said that we are called to “listen attentively to the Sacred Scriptures, study them assiduously, reflect on them carefully, and interpret them in the light of the same Spirit through whom they were written.”

“When our hearts and minds are open to the presence of Christ in the Scriptures, we will also find Him in our neighbour in need,” he says.

The Sacred Scripture challenges us to incarnate the Word of God in daily life

Scripture is at the centre of everything the Church does, Farrell goes on to say, the Scriptures “nourish and shape our prayer and our worship.  They help us understand our world.  They shape our world view.  They teach us how to live and relate to each other.”

It is through the Scriptures, he explains, that Lord “speaks to his people, showing them the path to take in order to enable the Gospel of salvation to reach everyone.”

Practical suggestions

Finally, Bishop Farrell offers some practical suggestions for celebrating the “Word of God Sunday” in the best possible way.

These include praying the Psalms and volunteering to proclaim the Word of God at Mass.

The importance of Lectio Divina

Bishop Farrell concludes highlighting the importance of the practice of Lectio Divina, which he describes as a “fruitful way of welcoming the Word of God.”  It is built, he explains, upon a person’s choosing a few lines of the Scriptures they wish to pray, and then taking the time to ponder and pray in silence.

“Remember you are not “performing” or seeking some goal.  Only strangers perform for each other.  Those who have learned to love, have learned to be with the other.  Praying God’s word has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.”

(Source: Vatican News)

Next on Novena:

Pope: New ‘Sunday of the Word of God’, a special day to encourage all the faithful to read and meditate on the Bible

Francis explains ‘Word of God Sunday’: “God’s word has the power to open our eyes and to enable us to renounce a stifling and barren individualism”

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.