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

When Dreams Come True

Father Lochner continued to visit Tom Dooley's mother after his death and often admired the pastel of Dooley in her living room. On one of his visits, feeling her time was near, she told him she wanted him to have the painting that was reproduced on the dust cover of Dooley's book, The Night They Burned the Mountain. The pastel painting, a head and shoulders depiction of Dooley with his arm around a child, bears the artist's name, Elizabeth Daniels Baldwin. Father Lochner passed the painting on to his nephew, Richard Lochner, a Notre Dame alumnus and retired Marine Colonel, who also has a copy of the book autographed by Tom Dooley.

His nephew has his own fond attachment to the Grotto and the University of Notre Dame. He realized the dream of his life -- to retire close to his alma mater -- by acquiring a home at the entrance to Notre Dame. He said the house was the answer to a prayer and seemed to be waiting for him to discover it. He called it Lochner House. It has become known as "the house with the flags." The flags of the United States, the Marines and Notre Dame are positioned on his front lawn. They are lighted throughout the night. "The Marines do two things," he said, "we seize the high ground, and we plant flags." He accomplished the dream of his life, to retire near Notre Dame, so he planted his flags at the front entrance of the campus. Even his address is Notre Dame Avenue.

The house also has a special significance. The man who built it, a retired Notre Dame professor, planned to build a Grotto in the basement. When Dick Lochner bought the house it contained a missing 15' x 15' corner room, on the first floor of the house, that was walled off and floorless. It formed the cathedral ceiling needed to accommodate the height of the Grotto. The Grotto was started, but never completed by the original owner. This may account for the many rocks now used in its landscape.

Col. Lochner met his future wife after the war and they were married by his Uncle in Cleveland, Ohio, his hometown. Immediately after the ceremony, they packed their car and headed for the Morris Inn at Notre Dame. Before they had unpacked their bags, he said he took his new wife to see the Grotto -- she had never been to Notre Dame -- where he lit a candle and offered a prayer of thanksgiving that their lives had been joined together.

Dick Lochner also plans to pass on the Dooley's painting and his book to Notre Dame to be placed in their collection of Dooley Memorabilia.

In 1962 a replica of the Grotto at Notre Dame was erected by Rev. Sigmund Jankowski, C.S.C., Pastor of St. Stanislaus Church in South Bend for 22 years. It has become known as the St. Stan's Grotto. As with the Notre Dame Grotto, the contractor, William Buckles, the only one willing to tackle the challenge, was non-Catholic. Father Jankowski, an Alumnus of Notre Dame, had fulfilled the dream of his life, but it took many years to accomplish it. He wrote a book about his love of Notre Dame and the Grotto. He called it When Dreams Come True.(250)

In 1976, Rudy Ruettiger graduated from Notre Dame. In doing so, he also fulfilled the dream of his life. After a long struggle and countless setbacks, he graduated from Notre Dame and played in a Notre Dame football game. His time on the field was only 67 seconds, but he had accomplished his aim.

During his time at Holy Cross Junior College, while he was trying to get into Notre Dame, he "spent much of the night praying at the Grotto on campus." He said it was a great source of inspiration and solace to him while he awaited the chance to go to Notre Dame. It wasn't until Ruettiger completed the two-year program at Holy Cross, graduating cum laude, that he was accepted at Notre Dame.

Seventeen years after his graduation he had a second dream fulfilled. His story and his struggle were filmed in an inspirational movie which included scenes at the Grotto. They began filming on the campus in the fall of 1992 and the movie premiered in South Bend on October 6, 1993.

"It's a story of courage," said Pizzo the screenwriter. "'The most courageous thing an individual can do is to go against expectations, go against the identity and definition given by others -- whether it is family or community -- and take that huge leap based on no hard evidence but only an inner faith."(251)

Christine Astin, Sean Astin, and Rudy greeting Ara Parseghian
at the premiere party in the Hesburgh Library penthouse

Another item of interest, associated with Hollywood and the Grotto, occurred during the filming of a much earlier motion picture -- the 1931 Lew Ayres movie, The Spirit of Notre Dame -- the only other movie actually filmed on campus. It was mentioned in an obscure brochure in the University Archives:

When the Universal Film Co. was preparing the Knute Rockne movie The Spirit Of Notre Dame, (Lew Ayres, 1931) a sound recorder near Our Lady's Grotto caught the uproar of a deafening sky artillery. This gave the Hollywood operators many feet of unexcelled thunder which they insert in various films as the occasion requires. Thus movie fans never know how near they are to Notre Dame, the Grotto and Our Lady.(252)

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