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

Father Corby's Trip to Lourdes

In 1895 the University was fifty-three years old. Father Sorin had been gone two years.

Father William Corby, provincial at the time, made a trip to Europe. He visited the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes with a desired request. One year later, in the spring of 1896, the Annals of Lourdes magazine detailed the outcome of that trip -- the inspiration to build a larger more exact replica of the Lourdes Grotto at Notre Dame.

The Annals chronicled events associated with Lourdes, France. Volume 1 was published at Notre Dame in 1885. Volume 72, the last one published, was printed in 1949. The Annals printed letters regarding cures effected with the use of Lourdes water, here and abroad, as well as articles pertaining to 19th century piety and pilgrimages. It also included the announcement of plans to build the 1896 Notre Dame Grotto:

Grotto of Lourdes at Home of The "Ave Maria"

For many years it has been the cherished desire of the best and most devoted clients of Our Heavenly Queen to see erected a Grotto of Lourdes at Notre Dame. . . . Notre Dame the Home of the Ave Maria, Notre Dame the home of Mary to whom all the grounds are dedicated, to whom all the buildings are dedicated, to whom is given all the credit of the work done here for the past fifty years. Mary is sole superior at Notre Dame and for a thousand other reasons this is the most suitable place in the new world for a real Grotto of Lourdes, and a place of pilgrimages . . . . Many go all the way to France to visit the grotto and they do well; but many can not go and the next best thing for these is to visit the grotto reproduced at Notre Dame. . . . (119)

Mary and the School Colors

Another aspect of Notre Dame's dedication to the Lady in Blue is mentioned in an article written by Lelia P. Roby in 1891:

It is interesting to know that the college colors are yellow and blue; in heraldry, yellow is light and blue is truth.(120)

The school colors for both campuses honor Mary. St. Mary's colors are the traditional ones associated with Our Lady -- sky blue and white. The archives on both campuses reported that very little was known about their meaning. Their original symbolism was apparently lost in history along with this early 1890s reference to the school colors.

The following information regarding the school colors chosen to represent Notre Dame and St. Mary's shows that all the attributes listed with these colors are also associated with Mary:

BLUE Truth; the Intellect; revelation; wisdom; loyalty; fidelity; constancy; chastity, chaste affections; spotless reputation; magnanimity; prudence; piety; peace; contemplation; coolness. . . . Christian: Heaven; heavenly truth; eternity; faith; fidelity; the colour of the Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven.

GOLD -- The sun; divine power; the splendour of enlightenment; immortality. . . .

WHITE . . . White is associated with both life and love, death and burial. In marriage it symbolizes death to the old life and birth to the new, while in death it represents birth into the new life beyond. . . . The purified soul; joy; purity; virginity, innocence; the holy life; light; integrity.

YELLOW Christian: As golden sacredness; divinity; revealed truth; 'the robe of glory'; used for feasts of Confessors.(121)

Notre Dame's Blue and Yellow, and St. Mary's Blue and White are emblematic of everything Our Lady represents.

Sometime, undoubtedly after the Dome and Statue were gilded, Notre Dame's colors, Blue and Yellow, became Blue and Gold. The first evidence of this appeared in an account of a pilgrimage to the Grotto in 1896. It describes the badges that were worn: "The badge was a circle with a picture of the Grotto, suspended from a blue and gold ribbon hanging from a gilt bar."

It is interesting to note that St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas, was also founded by the Holy Cross order. It was established while Sorin was still alive and founded by him. It also explains why St. Edward's Day was always a special celebration at Notre Dame during Father Sorin's lifetime.

This item of special interest about the school colors for both universities appeared under the heading, "St. Edward's, King and Confessor," in a 1965 copy of The Tower yearbook:

We recognize Saint Edward, King and Confessor, during the celebration of the 900th anniversary of the foundation of Westminster Abbey by our patron saint on Holy Innocents' Day, 1065. Father Edward Sorin, founder of Notre Dame and St. Edward's Universities, held King Edward as his patron saint. Blue and Gold, the royal colors of the king, are the colors held dear by the two educational institutions. The death of Saint Edward is commemorated on October 13, his feast day. This day has been celebrated at Saint Edward's University since the founding of our university in 1881, Austin, Texas.

A 1995 newspaper article also illustrates how devotion to Mary inspired one person to bless the lives of others:

The estate of Mary Frances McNamara gave $1.2 million to establish the McNamara Scholarship Fund in the Notre Dame Law School. A Chicago Public Schools teacher who died last year at age 99, McNamara wrote in her last will and testament, "Through my lifelong devotion to Mary Our Mother, I have been blessed with a long productive and happy life. . . . In thanksgiving, I bequeath all of the rest, residue and remainder of my estate . . . to her university, the University of Notre Dame du Lac . . . for the purpose of establishing more funded scholarships in the Law School."(122)

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