In the tradition of St. Francis’ profound love for the Blessed Mother, a few feet from the Portiuncula Chapel stands the Marian Grotto.
Thomas of Celano tells us of St. Francis, “Toward the Mother of Jesus, he was filled with an inexpressible love, because it was she who made the Lord of Majesty our brother. He sang special praises to her, poured out prayers to her, and offered her his affections.”
Like St. Francis, visitors to the Marian Grotto invoke Mary’s intercession as Mother of all.
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The Marian Grotto was dedicated in a special ceremony on April 28, 1996. At the dedication, University President Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, gave a reflection on Marian devotion in the life of the University.
Sometimes called “Our Lady of Praise,” the original bronze-colored Mary statue stood in the grotto’s alcove with her hands outstretched in a gesture of prayer to the Father.
In 2016, under the guidance of University chaplain Father Shawn Roberson, TOR, a new Our Lady of Lourdes statue replaced the original Mary statue, which was relocated to a residence hall chapel. Our Lady is depicted as she traditionally appeared to St. Bernadette, wearing a blue sash and a simple white gown with gold trim. She also holds a rosary to encourage her children to pray daily.
The choice of Our Lady of Lourdes recognizes Franciscan’s deep connection to Lourdes, where dozens of students participate in the biannual University-sponsored Lourdes mission trip while studying in Gaming, Austria.
Several Marian faith households pray together at the grotto shrine, and individuals frequently visit to pray, lay flowers, and sing at the feet of the Our Lady of Lourdes statue.
Take a moment at the grotto, and consider the example of Our Lady’s humility, poverty, and love. Ask her to intercede for you before the throne of God. Let her wrap you in her mantle and carry you as a child to the throne of her Son.