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The Grotto: Place of Hope

The Grotto, Place of Hope

Listen to this segment of the tour when you are standing in front of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Narration by Fr. Nate Wills, C.S.C.

At this point, you should be standing in front of the Grotto. Because this is a special place of prayer, you might stand toward the back —on the lake side of the gathering place—as you listen to this portion of the tour so that it doesn’t interrupt anyone’s prayer or reflection.

In his many travels back to Europe in the 1850s, Father Sorin heard the stories that had started coming from a place in France called Lourdes. A young, poor shepherd girl, named Bernadette, had saw Mary appear to her near a cave there, and a shrine was attracting thousands of pilgrims. Father Sorin visited Lourdes himself and was moved by the faithfulness that Mary was inspiring in people. He had an idea to re-create the Lourdes Grotto here on campus as a way for students to turn to Mary for her intercession.

In 1896, three years after Sorin’s death, his vision was fulfilled when the Grotto was constructed behind the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. It replicates the shrine in France on a one-seventh scale and has become a special place of prayer and reflection on campus.

The Grotto is where Notre Dame students, alumni, and visitors come to pray at all hours of the day and night. The rosary is prayed here every day at 6:45 p.m., rain or shine, and many students seek hope in this quiet corner of campus throughout the year, especially during exam week.

The candles you see at the Grotto burn brightly with the hope of people's prayers. When someone lights a candle here, they invest it with an intention—an offering of thanksgiving or a request—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—that she would carry our requests or offerings to her son Jesus—and we are confident that our prayers will be heard by our loving God.

At the conclusion of this segment of the tour, take a moment to 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.

Leading away from the Grotto is Saint Mary’s Road, which leads to Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame’s sister institution of about 2,000 women. Notre Dame was a men’s only university for its first 125 years. It nearly merged with Saint Mary’s in 1972, but instead went co-educational. Notre Dame’s student body is now 52 percent men and 48 percent women.

When you are ready to resume this tour, retrace your steps and return to the quad in front of the Golden Dome. The next segment will begin there.