HISTORY – Visit – Lourdes
THE GROTTO OF LOURDES 
written by Father Richard Ober
In turning to our right, we proceed to the base of the south tower. Dedicated to her own sweet memory, the church bearing her name must needs shelter a shrine of our own Blessed Mother. Thus in June of 1912 was realized another ambition of the gifted Pastor of St. Mary’s and the Grotto Lourdes in miniature was transplanted from the banks of the Gave de Pau. Here as in the Grotto of the Agony the entrance is suggestive of the spirit of the interior. Above the archway is a bas-relief representing Paradise, showing the angel ordering Adam and Eve to quit the garden. Sin-stained Eve was to be henceforth the fruitful mother of a sin-stained progeny. Through Mary, the sinless one, this vast progeny will become regenerate.
In 1858 the Blessed Virgin in apparition to a peasant girl at Lourdes, France, gave testimony of her Immaculate Conception. The Catholic Encyclopedia briefly summarizes the history of the miracle of Lourdes. “The Pilgramage of Lourdes is founded on the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin to a poor, fourteen-year-old girl, Bernadette Soubiroux. The first apparition occurred February, 1858. There were eighteen in all. The last took place July 16, of the same year. Bernadette often fell into an ecstasy. The mysterious vision in the hollow of the rock Massabielle was that of a young and beautiful lady. ‘Lovelier than I have ever seen,’ said the child. But the girl was the only one that saw the vision, although sometimes many stood there with her. Now and then the apparition spoke to the seer, who also was the only one that heard the voice. Thus, she one day told her to drink from a mysterious fountain in the grotto itself, the existence of which was unknown, and of which there was no sign, but which immediately gushed forth. On another occasion the apparition bade Bernadette to go and tell the priests she wished a chapel to be built on the spot and processions to be made to this grotto.” It was on the 18th of February that Bernadette questioned the identity of the apparition. The Blessed Virgin told her simply, ‘I am the Immaculate Conception.’”
If the angel in the Garden of Eden drove hence with flaming sword our first parents, two angels in the entrance of the grotto at St. Mary’s bid us draw nigh and enter the facsimile of that other Eden of the Immaculate Eve. We are heartened by the legends they bear: “Refuge of Sinners”, and “Help of Christians.”
Fashioned after the original of Lourdes, the interior adapts itself to the twenty square feet of space without crowding and is built of Tussa rock. Countless thousands of pebbles, stones, shells, and valuable bits of ore from practically every nook and former of the world have been gathered together and used in the construction of this beautiful grotto. Some idea of the distance from which the stones came and of their variety can be had from a note written on a card, found in one of the boxes. “In the bottom of this box are stones that were found in the bed of Lake Superior. The six smooth white stones came from Belgium, while the iron and copper ore are from the mines of Montana. The black material is slag taken from the copper furnaces.”
On the summit of a hill stands the life-sized statue of the Blessed Virgin. The figure rests in a niche lined with precious bits of metal encased in their coverings of mother rock from mines of Mexico on the south, and from the silver in Cobalt on the north. Little electric bulbs fixed in the arch of the niche reflect their radiance in myriads of sparkling prisms that cast a halo of light on the statue. Beneath the statue, fixed permanently in the hillside and readily distinguishable, are two bits of stone taken from the very spot of the apparition in Lourdes. At some short distance kneels the simple peasant girl, the blessed Bernadette. In the center of the grotto, set back in the rocky bed, stands an altar. With its construction it is so wonderful that it is hard to believe that it si not a natural cavity with a tiny altar chiseled out for its worshippers. Every Saturday morning throughout the year, Holy Mass is celebrated at this altar. Outside and to the left of the altar, is an opening from which bubbles forth a tiny stream of water, dripping down the face of the rock. We may never see the grotto in the Hautes Pyrenees, but as we feat our eyes on this realistic replica, we pray with the same simple faith that stirs the hearts of the devout pilgrims that worship at that shrine. That the Queen of Heaven looks with favor upon those who here would pay her homage is attested by the several marble slabs that have been erected in thanksgiving for extraordinary favors received.
Within the grotto, affixed to the wall, is a reliquary. That most precious of all relics, a piece of the true cross is here reverently preserved. While there are in addition relics of the Saints, one is surprised and pleased to find here that rarest of relics, a portion of the veil of the Virgin Mother. This relic is exposed for veneration every Saturday afternoon after the recitation of the beads and Benediction at 4 o’clock. The clients of Mary approach the altar rail to kneel and kiss this most worthy object of devotion. In 1923 a veteran of the world war, in a letter addressed to the Pastor, declared positively that a disabled hand, which no natural means had been able to restore to normal use, had become tractable by contact with the relic after a novena of Saturdays. In response to an inward urge, he took a pencil in his fingers and began to write – something he had been unable to do since his experience overseas.