The Virgin Mary Appears in Limerick
Today we return to the theme of Marian apparitions and I think this is another one, like Our Lady of the Bass Fisherman, that has been overlooked. Once again, the Virgin is spotted up in the sky, but this time she is accompanied by the Christ Child and a pair of foliage-toting angels–and there are multiple witnesses of unimpeachable orthodoxy.
Limerick Children at Play Astonished by a Vision of the Virgin
Every citizen is familiar with the beautiful group of ecclesiastical buildings in our western suburbs, and the visitor of Limerick who has not seen them is a loser, if he has a taste for chaste architectural designs. The group comprises the church, convent and orphanage of Mount St. Vincent, being among the many grand religious and educational works which have been completed beside those in progress, during the prelacy of the present Lord. On the western side of the convent is a large and finely-conceived figure of the Blessed Virgin, carved in Caen stone, and underneath is a window which gives light to an oratory of our Blessed Lady situated in that part of the convent. The statue is thirty feet from the earth, and in front of it the play-ground of an open field extends to the boundary wall, the land thus inclosed being quite level, and including about one acre or more in extent.
To the north of the convent gardens is a belt of trees, which skirt the walls 500 or 600 yards away, and which inclose the grounds in that direction. We have given these particulars that the facts we are about to relate should be better understood, and to show, too, that what was seen could not be produced by accidental or by artificial means such as magic lanterns or such like apparatus. [This was a charge leveled at Knock. See below.] It will be remembered that on Sunday the Feast of Our Blessed Lady, though the weather in this locality was magnificently fine, yet the thunder pealed with crashing sound, and the lightning flashed with startling vividness. On the evening of that day the orphans left the convent to play in the rotunda in front of the new buildings, and they were told not to be alarmed by the thunder, but to pray to our Lady of Succor should they be so frightened. With the whole faith of our Lady’s protection with which the little ones, like their elders, are possessed, they passed into the grounds, and proceeded to their innocent amusements in the usual manner. Soon after the thunder rolled along the sky, and the children at once piously offered up their prayers for safety to the Blessed Virgin. Then they raised their voices and sang the touching hymn, “Look Down, O Mother Mary,” and while the beautiful music of their young, fresh voices was ascending, one of the children suddenly cried out: “Oh, look there!” and instantly the eyes of 200 others, her companions, were turned toward the belt of trees to the north of the Convent, and in the air above them the figure of the Blessed Virgin was beheld by all, attired in a white robe with a blue sash around her waist. The infant Savior was borne on her right arm, and a rosary depended from her left. She seemed to rest on a white cloud upheld by two angels who carried in their disengaged hands branches of some description covered with foliage. The children were spell-bound, and involuntarily offered prayers to the Blessed Virgin. After they had gazed on the vision for about ten minutes some of them ran to the Convent to acquaint the nuns, but before the good ladies had arrived at the spot the divine apparition had gone, the Virgin disappearing in the heavens. The children were found in a pale, terrified, trembling state, but all tallied in their account of what was seen, even to the description of the rosary, which they stated was large and white, and the beads of which were far asunder from each other. More startling still was it to find that children distant from them in another part of the premises had also seen the vision. There was no wavering and no contradiction among them. Several were from thirteen to fourteen years of age, and it was impossible not to be convinced of their truthfulness. So much for Sunday evening; but on Monday evening the manifestation was still more decisive. While the children were again at play one of their number called out to look at the blessed Virgin and instantly almost fainted. All eyes were directed toward the statue on the top of the building and above it in the air the children saw the immaculate mother, vested altogether in white, her hands raised as if in the attitude of invoking or expressing a blessing or prayer, her eyes cast down and silvery light surrounding the beatific figure. Some of the children again hastened to the convent to communicate what they saw, and one of the nuns, who arrived first on the spot, beheld the Virgin also. The children were unanimous in their descriptions of the strange apparition, and the little one who first saw the vision was absolutely rigid from the astonishment. The other members of the holy community did not see the miraculous spectacle, but they saw, as the sun set, globes of light—some white, and some of beautiful azure, more of brilliant red and other hues, come floating through the air from the direction of the orb setting in the West, over and around the convent, and, in some cases, apparently passing through the windows.
Indianapolis [IN] Sentinel 13 October 1880: p. 3
This apparition took place just slightly a year after the apparitions began at Knock in County Mayo. You can read the details about that approved apparition here. There were allegations at the time that the visions–which were seen on the end wall of the church–were merely magic lantern slides, hence the disclaimer in the article above.
There seems to be some discrepancy in the time-line. “Sunday, the Feast of Our Blessed Lady,” is mentioned. The closest Marian feast was 11 October, the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which does not sync with an 1880 date–the 11th was on a Saturday that year. Saturdays were the official “day” of the Virgin. Possibly this was just a misprint for Saturday. The other possible feast was 7 October, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, but this fell on a Thursday in 1880. However, the emphasis on the rosary might suggest that this was the correct feast.
Although syndicated in a few newspapers (as far as I can tell) this appears to be a single-source story. And, as is so often the way with anomalous events, after this publication–silence. It does not appear in lists of approved or unapproved apparitions.
If the apparition had only been that of the Virgin seen above the statue on the church, we might be able to dismiss it as a mirage or trick of the eyes–the statue refracted by a temperature inversion, perhaps. The Virgin above the band of trees facing away from the convent/church is much trickier to explain. I’m always reluctant to play the “school-girl hysteria” card. The fact that distinct groups, each at a distance from each other, saw the same thing is puzzling.
I would have to do much more detailed research, but this may be one of the earlier Marian apparitions involving balls of light. White balls of light and fire are found at La Salette , Fatima (1913), and Banneaux (1933) The colored orbs are rather a fascinating touch, particularly the ones going through the convent windows. This reminds me of a previous post where rainbow orbs were believed to be the souls of departed relatives.
I confess that I’m a bit suspicious about the influence a local statue might have had on the children’s vision. The illustration at the head of this post is “Our Lady of Limerick” and other than the leaf-bearing angels and the full blue mantle, it corresponds troublingly well to the vision in the sky. The historic statue was brought to Limerick in 1640 and is now in St. Saviour Church, less than a mile away from Mount Saint Vincent.
I’m having trouble locating photographs of the convent as it might have looked in 1880, although there are some modern images online. I’d like to get a look at the statue. Can anyone help? Chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com