Our Lady of Czestochowa Visits the Earliest Known Replica of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes

On Friday September 13th, the pilgrim icon was taken from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary to the Chapel of St. Mary on the Hill at National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto

It was here that, in 1724, Catholics came seeking relief from religious persecution. The first Catholics had come to Maryland in 1634.  The colony they founded ("Mary's Land") was the first to explicitly respect the rights of others to freely practice the faith.  But in 1645, during the English Civil War, Puritans from the neighboring colony of Jamestown, Virginia invaded and burned St. Mary’s City to the ground.  The beloved Fr. Andrew White, S.J. – the Apostle of Maryland, was arrested for Catholic preaching and brought back to England in chains, never to return.

In 1724, a group of Catholics fled St. Mary's City again seeking a place where could freely practice their Catholic faith.  Led by the Elder family, they travelled northwest hundreds of miles to a place they called St. Mary’s Mountain.  Legend says they were drawn to the place by a light coming from the mountain.  In 1791, Fr. John Dubois escaped the violence and intolerance of the French Revolution by coming to America carrying a letter from the French hero of the American Revolution and friend of George Washington – the Marquis de Lafayette - to President James Monroe.  One of Fr. Dubois’s fellow students in college was the bloodthirsty Robespierre, one of the leaders of the French Revolution. Here in America, Fr. Dubois was treated hospitably by President Monroe and was taught English by the great hero of the American Revolution – Patrick Henry.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton also founded her Sisters of Charity dedicated to the service of children and the poor in Emmitsburg. The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes here, which dates to about 1875, is the oldest known replica of the revered Grotto in France.  The apparitions to St. Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes occurred in 1858. 

I was honored to celebrate Mass with about a hundred people attending, including many priests and seminarians. Fr. Frederick Miller gave a powerful homily showing the numerous "types" of Mary in the Old Testament and showing how the Blessed Virgin Mary is the one who will, at her Son's direction, crush the head of Satan and put an end to the culture of death. 

After Mass, there was a nighttime procession to the Grotto itself as people prayed the rosary and sang hymns in honor of the Blessed Virgin.  At the Grotto, people came forward to venerate and touch their holy cards to the icon. A Polish seminarian from Mount St. Mary’s sang Czarna Madonna.  It was truly a grace filled evening!

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