Since then, the Knock Shrine has become one of the most visited religious sites in Europe, visited annually by over 1.5 million people including Pope John Paul II in 1979 and Mother Teresa in 1993. The facility has swollen into a great sow of a place that includes a shop, a chapel, a church, a counseling center, a rest and care center, and such amenities as an endless row of holy water fonts.
Nestled against the facility like so many suckling piglets is a plethora of shops and kiosks offering religious kitsch such as wall rosaries and the holy water containers shown above. A crass mixture of capitalism and Christianity, the shops have the spiritual presence of small city of convenience stores. Honestly, I find it harder and harder with each visit to get a kick out of the kitsch, feeling more the cynic each time. Nonetheless, there have been some real finds. My favorite remains a plastic hand of God with the infant Jesus glued onto the palm, all fastened securely by a rubber band onto a prayer card. I look for a really good (bad) snow globe, but haven't had any real luck so far. We went today because Premium T. needed some illustrated holy cards for the postcards she 's making. (She had no trouble finding them.)
Luckily, we got lost on the way. Getting lost is one of the many pleasures of driving in Ireland. It's inevitable, so you might as well enjoy the countryside and learn a few new roads. In this case, I missed a left turn in the town of Kiltimagh, a turn that turned out to be unmarked. Well, it wasn't like we didn't have the time.