On Friday morning while on retreat at St. Meinrad, I found one of the two grottoes with Mary that are on this campus. Both of these special places are hidden away in the woods, away from the church, not on the map. They are nearly impossible to find unless you ask for directions from someone who has been there.
I’ve read that statues of Mary have been discovered in caves and in fields – and when they are removed and placed in churches, within a few days they have miraculously returned to where they were found. It is as if Mary does not want to be in church, in a cold, lifeless building. Mary is all about being among us, the commoners, where we are, as we are.
I find it significant that this image of Mary depicts her as if she is a non-Catholic at Mass. This arm position says to the priest to give a blessing only – that this person cannot take Communion. Following their rules – she could not take Communion because she was not Catholic. She was Jewish. But if it weren’t for her saying “Yes” to God – to letting the Holy Spirit of God work through her, Jesus would never have come into this world. The Catholic Church could learn a lot from Mary.
The other grotto is quite far away. You have to walk away from the seminary, the guest house, the church. You have to walk by two small lakes and into the woods. I found it on Saturday. This is the view looking back at the place where we stayed on retreat. It is the closest building to this grotto, and also the furthest building from the church. This is significant.
The actual grotto is another five minute’s walk from here.
There are no signs or path. You’d never know that this was here until you are almost upon it.
Mary greets you with open arms.
Notice the detail – she is barefoot, and she is stepping on a snake with fruit in it’s mouth. This is the snake from the Garden of Eden, and that is the apple that Eve and Adam ate. Mary is the antidote to that poison. It is said that they brought original sin into the world with this act of rebellion against God. Mary brought grace into the world by acting in accordance with the desires of God.
Someone had been here before me and left an offering of wildflowers for her. They had faded and were musty. We must daily refresh our faith and reconnect to the true Vine in order to remain alive in spirit.