Cave of Candles
Notre Dame's Grotto / by Dorothy V. Corson

Chapter 2

Lourdes Movement Begins at Notre Dame

In 1869, Rev. Edward Sorin announced the council's decision to build a new Church to replace the old one. Joseph M. White's history of the Sacred Heart Parish sheds additional light on Sorin's ongoing interest in making Notre Dame a mecca for religious pilgrimages:

A printed brochure proclaimed to the public the Holy Cross community's aim, decided by its local council the spring of 1869, to build a new church to surpass their inadequate one. In naming the church, it is interesting to note the new title "Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Jesus." The old place of worship was definitely dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the beginning. But a growing devotion to Our Lady at the university accounts for adopting a different but related name for the proposed church. One manifestation of Marian piety was Sorin's collaboration with Holy Cross Sisters in launching the national magazine Ave Maria in 1865 to promote devotion to Our Lady. Another instance was to place a statue of the Virgin atop the dome of the new college building completed in 1866.(21)

By the decree of Pope John Paul II, the Vatican named this second church built at Notre Dame a minor basilica on November 23, 1991. The church can now use the title the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.(22)

Father Arthur Hope wrote a pamphlet in 1958 entitled: "Sisters of the Holy Cross at Notre Dame." He was allowed, by Sister Mansuetus, to read the Sisters' Chronicles which were kept in a tremendous volume labeled "Record." From it, he took items of interest to reproduce in the pamphlet. Among them was this interesting excerpt which discloses St. Mary's contribution to the proposed new church at Notre Dame which replaced the first one completed on May 25, 1848.

Sometime in 1866 or 1867, permission was given Mother Angela by Father Sorin to carry out a project very dear to her heart: namely the erection of a church at St. Mary's [which she planned to name Our Lady of Sacred Heart]. She went to work with a will and with the aid of Sister Mildred, hundreds of letters were sent out to the wealthy patrons of St. Mary's soliciting donations for this object, and promising many spiritual benefits and a share in a Perpetual Mass to the benefactors.

Meanwhile, Very Rev. Father Sorin went to Europe [1869] and Father Granger, hearing of Mother Angela's success in making collections, wrote [a very interesting letter] to Father General [Sorin](23) relating to the subject -- suggesting to him that the church should be erected at Notre Dame, that Mother Angela could not fulfill the promise of the Perpetual Mass, etc. Mother Angela yielded to Very Rev. Father General's request, and gave Father Granger $3,452.00 which she had collected.

This was a great blow to many of the Sisters who had set their hearts on having a church at St. Mary's. In this, as in other things, Father General's strong will dominated, and St. Mary's had to be content with having inaugurated the movement.(24)

The Ave Maria, launched in collaboration with the Holy Cross Sisters, was already a popular national publication. The Association of Our Lady of Sacred Heart, formed soon afterward, seated at St. Mary's and advertised in the pages of the Ave Maria, was quickly gaining new members.

The Our Lady of Sacred Heart Association was also taken over by Father Granger. Its "seat" was transferred from St. Mary's to Notre Dame when building began on the new Our Lady of Sacred Heart Church. Favors granted by Our Lady of Sacred Heart to members of the association reported in the Ave Maria, encouraged more readers to become members and donations were sent for the building of Our Lady of Sacred Heart Church at the University of Notre Dame.

Lourdes Water Arrives at Notre Dame

The first discussion of the Grotto of Our Lady in Lourdes, France appeared in the Ave Maria in January 1870. It was an extract from the London Lamp. The following month, Ave Maria serialized an English translation of Henri Lasserre's Our Lady of Lourdes which Father Edward Sorin had sent from France.

Lourdes water shipped from France to Notre Dame encouraged even more donations ($5 to $50) to the new church at Notre Dame through cures published in the Ave Maria.

In 1871 the cornerstone for the church of Our Lady of Sacred Heart was laid. Over the next ten years contributions from grateful users of Lourdes water would be used to finance the church building. The church would become free of debt in 1888.

Our Lady of Lourdes had made her arrival on the Notre Dame campus and Catholics throughout the United States became interested in obtaining the miraculous water. Cures by Lourdes water, rather than from membership in the Association of Our Lady of Sacred Heart, began to be published.(25)

The Confraternity of Lourdes office on campus, which was established in 1874, continues to fulfill requests for Lourdes water. The Lourdes office custodian, Brother James Lakofka, also fulfills many requests to light candles at the Grotto from people who are unable to go there in person. Many requests come from alumni living too far away to visit, from parents for students, and from professor's wives for their deceased husbands who loved the Grotto.

First Pilgrimages made to Lourdes, France

In 1873 Father Sorin and Mother Angela made separate pilgrimages to Lourdes, France. They were both impressed and sent back mementos of their visit.

On June 21, 1873, Sorin sent a six foot statue of Our Lady of Lourdes from Paris for the Juniors.(26) He described it as "the finest representation we have ever seen." It arrived on November 1, 1873 and was placed in the large parlor.(27) Later, the St. Mary's section of the Scholastic reported that Father Sorin and Mother Angela arrived from Europe on September 13, 1873. It included this added bit of news:

In a few weeks there will be forwarded to St. Mary's from Paris, a life-size marble [later corrected to "terre cuite" and plaster cast] statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. [The Bernadette statue arrived earlier].(28)

The fate of Father Sorin's 1873 Lourdes statue is unknown, but the one Mother Angela brought back 123 years ago is in Lourdes Hall at St. Mary's today, along with the one of Bernadette.

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