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

Chapter 13

Grotto Leaves Lasting Impressions

During the mid 1920s, Rev. Claude Boehm, C.S.C., then a seminarian at Holy Cross Hall, served tables in the South Dining Hall at retreats for laymen during the last weekend in August. On the last day of retreat, a conference conducted at Sacred Heart Church, which ended after dark, was concluded with a huge candlelight procession. It would wind its way from the front door of the church past Corby Hall and along the lake road to the Grotto for benediction. Father Boehm said it was a very impressive sight with as many as a thousand participants and people watching. The early annual May celebrations at the Grotto often included most of the student body.

In a 1932 Scholastic article, "Grotto Has Inspired Notre Dame Men For Forty Years," Raymond Waters describes some of those added "little touches" to the Grotto mentioned by Father Maguire in his letter of correction:

"A wooded dell . . . always a cooling and refreshing spot." These are the words a Scholastic writer used to describe the site upon which is the Grotto, our own shrine to our Lady of Lourdes as she stands in her niche in the arc of stone. Today, in describing the site, the Grotto itself, we have only to add the word . . . "inspiring." To those who find adversity smothering their hopes, who long for the soothing words of a mother far away, the Grotto is always a source of inspiration.

The Grotto is ever the scenic spot of the campus. In winter, in spring . . . at all times . . . it affords a perfect picture of serenity, of beauty. There is scarcely a student who at some time within his four years here doesn't take a snapshot of this spot, the students in prayer, the evergreens and ivy, . . . and towering above all, in the background, the golden dome.

For years it has been the custom of many to say their evening prayers at this spot. They trudged and groped their way down the terraces in utter darkness. When they reached the spot, the only light, saving that of the moon, was the glow of the candles, ever burning for some intention. It was a dangerous undertaking. This has been remedied during the past summer. Through the kindness of two students at summer school, funds were secured for the recently installed lighting system. Now the terraces leading to the shrine are lighted by lanterns of French design. The image itself stands out in the amber glow of hidden lights, linking the grotto with Lourdes at the Ave Maria hour. (218)

The practice of singing hymns at the Grotto after supper during May was introduced in 1929 by Father O'Hara at the suggestion of a student. One hundred students were present at the opening on May 1, 1929. This practice lapsed after 1948 when the dining hall service changed to a cafeteria system and students did not eat at the same time.(219)

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