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

The Saint Bernadette Reliquary

The Indiana Province Archives provided more information about Father Schaerf. In 1957, he made a trip to Nevers, France, to obtain a relic of Saint Bernadette from Mother General Ann Marie Crebassol of the Sisters of Charity. It was blessed by Pope XII and carried in a procession to the Grotto celebrations. It was then said to have been put in a gold box and placed on the altar in the Lourdes Chapel in the church.

The Lourdes altar was removed from in front of the Gregori painting of the Grotto scene during one of the renovations. The relic was placed in a reliquary in the Sacred Heart Museum. There was nothing in the church, or the museum, that resembled a gold box. Then an article about it, in the Notre Dame Alumnus magazine, carried this reference to the St. Bernadette Relic and its distinctive reliquary inspired by the Golden Dome:

A beautiful reliquary was presented to the Lourdes Confraternity from the Rome Club by Jerry Ashley '33 president of the Alumni Club in the Eternal City. A relic (1st class) of St. Bernadette will be placed in the reliquary which in turn will be placed on the altar of Our Lady of Lourdes in Sacred Heart Church on the Notre Dame campus.(241)

However, it was not a simple gold box, but a very ornate and beautiful golden reliquary in the shape of the golden dome of Notre Dame, set upon a pedestal, with Our Lady on top. It is on display, in the center glass case where the chalices are kept, in the Sacristy Museum of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart

Father Schaerf, on the occasion of Notre Dame's celebration of the One Hundredth Centenary of the Lourdes Grotto in France, spoke of its spiritual miracles in delivering a sermon about Lourdes at the Annual Alumni Mass at Sacred Heart Church a year later, in June 8, 1958:

You know the story of Lourdes and the one word that astounds the world: Miracles, something that cannot be explained by the laws of nature. Everyone knows of the physical cures, but the thousands of unwritten cures of the uncured: The miracles of resignation, these are the baffling paradoxes. The miracles of the conversion of the heart are astounding to those without faith. But it's an old story, it's the story summarized in an eternal mysterious 'Fiat.'

For over a hundred years, thousands have repeated that Fiat at Lourdes, and gone away strong in their weakness. Men like Franz Werfel the Jew, sang a song about Bernadette the 'little one.' Fulton Oursler, called it the Happy Grotto of Happy Failures. Ruth Cranston, the Protestant called it the Road Back Home. Notre Dame men have understood and lived this 'Fiat' like Fred Snite and Van Wallace, who understood and lived the paradoxical words of Bernadette 'my occupation is to be ill.' . . . Your presence here today . . . emphasizes that simplicity of faith, that purity of heart and humility of spirit without which all learning may become a snare, a delusion, a pathway to outer darkness. . . . Continue to make your 'Fiat' to Our Lady: Notre Dame, that you may have a deeper understanding of the words engraved on the seal of your University of Our Lady: Vita, dulcedo, Spes. . . . Our life, Our sweetness and our hope. Our Lady . . . a symbol of Notre Dame.(242)

<< back | Notre Dame's Grotto | next >>