The Grotto

10-22-2023Letter from the PastorFr. Don Kline, V.F.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the morning of February 11, 1858, in the small town of Lourdes, nestled in the Pyrenees Mountains, a poor young girl named Bernadette Soubirous was out gathering firewood when she saw a vision of a very beautiful young Lady in a niche above a grotto called Massabielle. Over the next few weeks there were seventeen more apparitions, causing great consternation in the town. After revealing herself as Mary, the Mother of Jesus, under her title the Immaculate Conception, the Lady requested that a Chapel be built at the grotto for the faithful to visit.

Today, the grotto itself is actually under the churches that were built as the Lady requested — the Basilica of the Rosary and the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Pilgrims will find a statue of the Virgin Mary in the niche at the front of the cave, indicating where Bernadette saw her.

In one of the apparitions, Bernadette was told by the Virgin Mary to drink at the spring in the grotto and to bathe in its water. Although no spring was visible to her, Bernadette dug in the dirt and revealed it, and the spring continues today to provide water for the nearby baths and fountains—thousands and thousands of gallons per day. Within the grotto, you can see the actual spring and the site where it was discovered by Bernadette.

Our Lady of Lourdes

Mary is an important figure in Christian life because she lived by faith. As a young teenager, the Angel Gabriel appeared to her and asked her to be the mother of Jesus. She was young, unmarried, and poor. Yet, she trusted God’s plan for her. When she said “yes” and accepted this role, she became an example for all Christians who turn their lives over to God in faith.

As Catholics, we do not worship Mary. Everyone is called to honor Mary as a human being who was glorified through her willingness to trust God completely. Mary’s sorrows and joys, her hopes for her child and spouse, and her quiet endurance can speak to the experience of families today. As our model of faith and trust, all God’s children can identify with Mary and her faithfulness to God. We call her “Our Lady” because she is our mother in faith and our model of holiness.

The grotto, which features an actual stone from Lourdes as well as candles and water, is located on the grounds of St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. It replicates the grotto in France on a one-seventh scale and has become a special place of prayer and reflection on our campus for all who visit.

The candles you see in the grotto burn with people’s prayer intentions because when someone lights a candle here, they invest it with an intention—an offering of thanksgiving or a request for a need—and the burning flame comes to represent that intention, even after they leave.

These prayers are directed to God, the source of all things, through Mary. We ask for Mary’s intercession with these prayers— we ask her to carry our requests or offerings of thanksgiving to God—and we are confident that Mary will do so in her care for us as our mother in faith.

As it burns, each candle consumes itself and offers warmth and light. In uniting our hearts to God in prayer, we, too, are set aflame by God’s love. The more we allow ourselves to be consumed by that love, the more warmth and light we offer the world.

We invite you to pause as you approach the grotto with any prayer requests you might have. Light a candle and offer a prayer here thanking God or asking for God’s presence in some way. Please remember in your prayer those who have visited here before you.

God Bless,

Fr. Don Kline, V.F.