NATIONAL SHRINE GROTTO OF LOURDES
About the Grotto
Jesus is Stripped
In 1728, a group of Catholics wishing to find religious freedom left St. Mary’s City and headed west. The chief family of the group was the Elders. The Elders and others traveled hundreds of miles to the Blue Ridge Mountains. There they gave the mountain that we stand on its name, “Saint Mary’s Mountain.” They named the valley that lies under St. Mary’s Mountain, Saint Joseph’s Valley. There they built homes and founded a settlement for themselves in peace and religious freedom.
In 1805, Father John DuBois, a refugee from France, came here, via Frederick, and settled. He built a church “St. Mary’s on the Hill”. According to legend, Father DuBois was attracted to “a light on the mountain and found a blessed spot, one of the loveliest in the world and there erected a crude cross, the symbol of the holy work he was undertaking.” This was the original Grotto. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton came to Saint Mary’s Mountain in 1809 and lived in Father DuBois’ log cabin for six weeks---until her home in St. Joseph’s Valley was completed. It is possible that Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton first called this holy shrine the “Grotto”, for we find this reference in one of her letters dated May 27, 1810.
Father Simon Gabriel Brute came to St. Mary’s Mountain in 1812. Father Brute had many talents, which he used to help frame the school, but of all these talents, the one useful to the Grotto was his love of nature. Father Brute believed the Lord was with us at all times. He sought to “smooth the frown from nature’s erring face.” He and others took it upon themselves to clean up the Grotto. They began a project of removing trees and stumps and cleaning out streams. Paths were made that led from the Terrace to the Church and to the Grotto. Father Brute attached crosses to the trees from the Church to the Grotto that now line the Stations of the Cross along the entrance. Father Brute, Father DuBois and Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton completed the “trinity” that began and cared for this spiritual place, The Grotto.
Rev. Msgr. Hugh J. Phillips is known as the Restorer of the Grotto. After completely refurbishing the Shrine, he opened it to the public in 1958. Monsignor was appointed Chaplain of the Grotto by the Archbishop of Baltimore when it was proclaimed a Public Oratory on December 8, 1965. Monsignor took care of the Grotto, a task he loved, and has made it what it is today---a beautiful place of worship. Monsignor passed on to his heavenly reward in 2004, but his legacy continues. Please remember his teachings, imitate his virtues and pray for his eternal rest!