The recent visit of President Joe Biden to the shrine of Our Lady of Knock drew a great deal of publicity both nationally and internationally. President Biden is only the second Roman Catholic in history to hold the highest office in the USA.

He has spoken often of the importance of his faith and is ‘not behind the door’ in acknowledging its importance in his life.

Although the visit to Knock was an entirely private one, it was obvious that it was an intensely important and meaningful moment for him on his ‘homecoming’ trip to Ireland as President.

A happy reunion

Fr. Frank O’Grady is an Irish born retired US Army Chaplain who is presently resident in Knock assisting with Masses and Confessions. On the day before the visit, he casually mentioned to the rector of the shrine Fr. Richard Gibbons, that he had been the Chaplain at the military hospital when President Biden’s son Beau had died some eight years ago, and had ministered the Sacraments to him. On learning this, Fr. Gibbons then arranged for Fr. O’Grady to be present in the apparition chapel when the President visited.

It seems that the encounter proved deeply moving for the President who remembered Fr. Frank well, and he spent some ten minutes in conversation with him together with his sister Valerie and his son Hunter. Fr. O’Grady described the meeting as ‘like a reunion’.

Later that evening, during his speech in Ballina, President Biden made reference to the meeting and spoke of how he took the encounter ‘as a sign’.
Whatever about the importance of a Presidential visit to Knock, it was good to know that a still grieving father had found some solace at a place where so many others have been blessed.

Philip Curran