Whether as a drive-by or as your intentional destination, chances are that, if you have ever been to the University of Notre Dame, you have been captivated at one point or another by the glistening light of candles that cast their shadows upon the inside walls of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. Or, perhaps your attention goes directly to the statue tucked discreetly inside a relatively small niche on the upper right side of the striking stone structure.
It is undoubtedly one of our University’s greatest blessings to have on its grounds a one-seventh scale replica of the original Marian shrine located in Lourdes, France, where Our Lady appeared on several occasions in 1858 to the young St. Bernadette Soubirous. After various visits to the shrine in his native France, Fr. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., founder of Notre Dame, set his mind on recreating a replica at his new University. Thanks to the generous gift of Rev. Thomas Carroll, Sorin’s desire was fulfilled when the first boulders were collected from surrounding farms and laid out for construction in 1896.
Since its construction, hundreds of thousands of people have approached this sacred site each year, prayerfully laying their requests and needs at the feet of our loving Mother, confident that, through Our Lady’s powerful intercession, the Lord will grant the prayers and intentions they hold in the silence of their hearts. Visitors to the site also have the opportunity to lay their hands on a piece of stone brought directly from the original shrine in Lourdes (located directly under the statue of Mary).
As I visit the Grotto, I can’t help but be mesmerized by the serene and soothing motion of the glimmering light that emanates from each flickering candle. My mind turns to all those brothers and sisters who have come to this place searching for something, needing something.
To me, each candle represents not just a symbolic object commonly used for liturgical purposes, but a unique human being. Each and every one of those candles has been lit by a trusting and hopeful fellow student, parent, faculty or staff member, or visitor to campus who has trusted that our Holy Mother will intercede for them before her Son.
Reflecting further upon the imagery of light leads us to recall that each and every one of us carries a light within us—the light of our Baptism, the light of Christ. We are all called to share this light with others, to ensure that it is always burning.
As someone preparing for a career in lay ecclesial ministry, this theme of sharing the light resonates deeply within me. I feel a particular calling to give of my time, to share my talents and gifts. I remember that it was Jesus himself who called all of his disciples to light a lamp. This lamp, as Jesus clearly communicated, is not meant to be set under a bushel basket—as that would defeat its purpose—but to be placed on a lamp stand, to give light to all in the house (see Matthew 5:14–16). In a world that seems to be cloaked by darkness, this light becomes ever more essential.
This sacred site serves as a continuous reminder of the words of St. Louis de Montfort, a seventeenth-century saint known for his intense devotion to Our Blessed Lady, who taught that Mary, as the one through whom God came to earth in Jesus, is in turn our surest path to heaven, truly the easiest and quickest way to holiness. Thanks to the initiative of Fr. Sorin, we are blessed to have a beautiful connection to this incomparable channel of grace at the heart of our beloved campus.
You who are blessed among women and who are the quickest and easiest path into your Son’s loving arms, with confidence we approach you, hopeful that through your gracious intercession and the power of your motherly bond with Jesus, the petitions we place before you will be heard.
May he enkindle in us the flame of the Holy Spirit so that our hearts may always shine brightly with his light and so that we may continue to share that light with others.
May what we desire in our hearts be done to us according to his will.
We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
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