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Beacon of Hope

Beacon of Hope

Grotto of Lourdes News
Keyword: mary

VietPilMore than 3,000 Vietnamese Catholics celebrated mass at the Grotto of Lourdes on Saturday, August 30, afternoon.

This weekend marked the 31st anniversary of the annual pilgrimage, which brings together worshippers from 19 Vietnamese communities in the mid-Atlantic states, said Monsignor Joseph Trinh, president of the Vietnamese Catholic Community in the region.

Nine priests celebrated the afternoon mass in Vietnamese, and other church members performed traditional songs and dances. "It's a lot of spiritual fun, and it's inspiring to see God's love manifested through different languages and cultures," he said.

Trinh, of Philadelphia, has made the trip to Emmitsburg every year since 1991. The event is primarily religious, but it's also a reunion for many church members, he said.

"We're here to honor Our Lady, but it's also a place we meet and see old friends," Trinh said.

Members of the Vietnamese Catholic Community travel to other religious sites and shrines throughout the year, but Trinh's group enjoys the pilgrimage to the Grotto of Lourdes for its history, he said.

Fr. John Brute built a lovely bower as an entrance to the Grotto and this was enlarged and kept in repair through the years. Certainly in his day (circa 1827) and by his example, began the tradition of industrious devotion to Our Lady at the Grotto which was so well express by Dr. McSweeney in the Great Rule of the Seminary written in 1898:

Mountaineers"Of Devotion to Our Blessed Mother and the Grotto -- The Shrine on the mountain is dear to every heart that has beaten within the sound of the splashing stream tumbling past this holy spot. Fr. Brute, the Angel of the Mount, and Mistress, Seton (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton), the heroic foundress of the Sisters of Charity, sanctified the place by their visits and cherished it with loving care. The seminarians should care for its rustic beauty and cultivate, as a most precious flower, filial devotion to dearest Mother Mary."

The Seminary Sodality, first formed September 8, 1819, and reorganized in 1868, listed in its Rule as one of its duties "Keeping the Grotto in order." Through the years this loving care of the Grotto continued, each generation of Mountaineers adding its contribution of love and receiving its legacy of devotion.

processionA memorable devotion centered about the old Grotto was the annual Corpus Christi procession. It was during Archbishop Purcell's term as president of the college (1829-1833) that these annual processions to the Grotto over Brute's paths began, or at least began to be chronicled, and another charm was added to the Mountain.

The "Story of the Mountain" contains a number of articles by Mountaineers who try to put into words the unspeakable joy of their memory of these holy occasions. Reading them, we are reminded of the comment of the poet Miles: "Who can wonder that we turn with overflowing hearts to Mount Staint Mary's and speak to her with a tenderness that makes a worldling smile."

The lovely road between the site of the old church and the Grotto is still called the "Aisle of the Corpus Christi Procession."

duboisThere is a legend that Dubois, on one of his pastoral journeys, was attracted by a light on the mountain and found this blessed spot, one of the loveliest in the world, and there erected a rude cross in 1808.

Those of a more practical mind may surmise that Father Dubois was seeking the source of the stream which flowed out of the ravine into the valley below. In any event, John Dubois found the Grotto site, a dell of breath-taking beauty. It is worth a trip from the other side of the world just to see the natural beauty of the spot. 

Just what did John Dubois find on his day of discovery? He climbed a steep ascent through a rocky ravine along a tumbling torrent, which was much broader and more unruly than at present. About 500 yards above the present Mount St. Mary's University Main Campus, the priest came upon a lovely clearing, a masterpiece of natural beauty.

Sharply sloping hills from almost every side formed a natural amphitheater where nature "displayed itself in all its wild and picturesque beauty." In the center of the clearing, where now the Corpus Christi Chapel stands, Father Dubois saw a mound, shaded by the branches of an ancient oak. Such huge oak trees are seen even to this day on the mountain. With the passing of time, the earth had been washed out from beneath the great, gnarled roots of the oak. A recess or grotto was thus formed underneath the great trunk and the thick roots which overhung the bed of the stream. 

In the summertime when the stream was low, one could enter the grotto and find there a rustic room. Here John Dubois erected his cross, the symbol of the holy work he was undertaking. This was the original Grotto. 

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