Those who witnessed the alleged apparition stood in the pouring rain reciting the traditional Marian meditative mantra-like prayer, the Rosary. Though the very rain was spilling down, the claimed the gable end of the church, where the supposed figures stood, remained completely dry.
The appearance of railways brought new travel opportunities and challenges to closeknit communities, while the 1870s saw the beginnings of land reform that would change Irish rural life, reform initially fought for through mass mobilisation and sometimes violence with organisations like Michael Davitt's Land League and through the radical political leadership of Charles Stewart Parnell. (The infamous Land Agent Captain Boycott, whose communal oustracisation on account of his treatment of local tenantry in the late 1870s became a worldwide cause celebré and which gave the english language the verb to boycott - meaning 'to oustracise completely' - , was based in County Mayo only a few mile from Knock.) In a time of change, symbols like the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph (known together within Catholicism as the Holy Family) marked a reminder of stability and tradition in a society whose change many people found bewildering. Depending on whether one accepted the validity or the apparation or the religious beliefs underpinning it, it could be seen either as a dillusion by a marginalised traditional society clinging to old certainties, or in a Catholic religious context the appearance of the 'Mother of God' to people marginalised by society to show her support and offer her comfort.
Conservative Catholics, critical of Ireland's embracing of the liberal agenda in the 1990s (including the introduction of divorce and the decriminalisation of homosexuality), have used ceremonies at Knock to urge political campaigns on issues to do with 'family life', abortion and contraception. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, on a a visit to the Shrine in June 1993 spoke on the issue of abortion, as has conservative family values politician Dana Rosemary Scallon and visiting religious leaders from around the world.
Knock Shrine now attracts over one and a half million visitors annually and is the west of Ireland's major visitor attraction.