THERE is a stone plaque in the wall of the Parish Church of St John the Baptist, the Church of the Apparition here in Knock. Inscribed on it in 1828 were the words "My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations". Was it Divine Providence that prompted the then Parish Priest to choose these words rather than so many others from the scriptures for what you might call Knock's motto?

A Unique Place of Prayer Since the Apparition at Knock on 21 August 1879, Our Lady's Shrine has been a unique place of pilgrimage and prayer for all the nations.

It continues to be so. Knock is a sacred place. It's a place of peace. It provides pilgrims with a special opportunity to connect with God and with Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

It's an oasis that beckons people amidst the noise, din, clutter and stress of modern life. It's a sacred space.

That's why a million or more people . . . from the five continents . . . come on pilgrimage to Knock every year and why they keep coming. Because Knock is a unique place of prayer.

A Deep Hunger There is a hunger within us all for the transcendent, the Divine. Nowadays, many people are searching for ways to reach out to God and to connect with Him. Sometimes they are not sure how best to do this. Knock Shrine can facilitate people in that search . . . and offers many opportunities for prayer and worship, for stillness and peace in our souls, which is so necessary in our busy and sometimes hectic world.

Knock can help people experience peace, freedom and reconciliation and healing.

The 90 acres of the Shrine domain, with its tastefully landscaped grounds of lawns, trees, shrubs, pathways and flowers speak of the wonder, beauty and majesty of the Creator God and helps us raise our hearts and minds to God.

There is the Liturgy . . . the summit of the Church's activity and the source of her vitality and energy . . . the Masses, Ceremonies, Anointings, Rosaries, Processions, Holy Water. The Apparition Chapel with its pristine white marble tableau of the Apparition itself is a haven of peace and a source of blessing and grace for the tired, the weary and the searching pilgrim.

The Confessional Chapel provides an opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation and experience God's forgiveness, healing and peace. The Shrine Bookshop has a wide range of books when 'faith seeks understanding' and when prayer needs support and nourishment, as it does. The museum reminds us of our heritage and roots. In the Prayer Guidance Centre, trained Prayer Guides teach people how to pray. There is the Family Life Centre which provides resources and support for the family. There is a professional Counselling Service. In the Blessed Sacrament Chapel one can spend a few quiet moments with the Lord. There is the majestic Basilica and the old Parish Church.

There's the Shrine staff and the hundreds of volunteers, generous with their time, loyal, committed, friendly and helpful. And there is a warm cead mile failte for people of all faiths and none. There is welcome for everyone at Knock.

But above all there is Mary, the ever loving and caring Mother of Jesus, who invites us to do whatever her Son tells us . . . Mary, who made Knock a sacred place by her appearance and visitation here in 1879 with St Joseph, St John and the Lamb of God.

Witness at Knock At Knock too, you experience the powerful effect of witness and example in a unique way. You see pilgrims pour out their hearts in prayer and open their hearts to peace, forgiveness, healing, reconciliation and nourishment in the Mass and the Sacraments. You experience care, love, faith and goodness at Knock, the likes of which you rarely see. At Knock, as a philosopher once said, "the heart has reasons that reason knows nothing of". The sick, the troubled, the disabled and the elderly who come to Knock, who are so much part of Knock . . . their faith, courage and endurance, their gratitude, their prayers and their tears can only touch and enrich you. They give every Service we celebrate with them a special meaning.

The late Dame Judy Coyne, who was deeply involved in all aspects of Knock's life and development for 70 years, sums up what Knock is in her memoirs, Providence my Guide.

"People come to Knock to pray, whether it be for better health, better living conditions, better relationships, or sometimes, even better weather. Frequently there are those who come to give thanks.

"Giving thanks is very much part of our devotion, especially for the few of us who have been privileged to see Knock grow since we first saw it with wondering eyes all those years ago. It is no longer a poor village on the edge of civilisation, forgotten by all but a few.

Today it takes its place among the great shrines of the world, as people from every country in that world gradually come to know about it and, like all of us, when they at last discover it, marvel at the splendour, the richness and the majesty of its unique apocalyptic Apparition."

In the words of Jesus to his inquiring disciple: "Come and see."