Herb Juliano

In Herb's Archive this month, Herb tells the story of what the Grotto meant to him, and how it became an integral part of his spiritual and personal life.

If 1996 marks the 100th anniversary of the Lourdes Grotto at Notre Dame and the 46th year of my involvement on the University of Notre Dame campus. During that time, the Grotto has meant more to me than any other campus landmark: more inspiration, more spiritual charge and, in times of despair, more consolation. I first set eyes on the Grotto when, quite by accident, on my first day on campus in 1950, I found myself sitting there in despair and confusion, after having been told by the good Brother Superior that, in his opinion, I really didn't want to be a Holy Cross Brother. It was here, to the Grotto, that I brought my troubled mind and it was here, by the grace of God, that an unidentified Brother appeared who, recognizing my torment, suggested that perhaps I would be more interested in training to be a Brother in the Priests' Province. These Brothers, be said, were trained to work in offices and departments at Notre Dame, an exciting and rewarding life about which Father Daniel O'Neill, the vocations director, would be happy to talk with me. Even in the short time I had been on campus, I sensed that this was a special place where one could find happiness in a dedicated life. I agreed to talk with Father O'Neill and set in motion the wheels that would take me on a long journey, fascinating and exciting, through the worlds of spirituality and sports on the Notre Dame campus. Though this journey has culminated in a full circle, taking me back to the Grotto where it began, the journey is not over. In these, my 'retirement" years, I seldom miss a Rosary at the Grotto, often leading the hymn singing and praying of the decades. Sometimes on a cold and blustery Christmas Eve, when the students have abandoned the campus and snow covers the ground around the Nativity scene, Brother Beatus and I are the only semblance of the faithful, but the Rosary is recited. And usually, at some point during these Christmas Eve rosaries, Brother Dennis, chief sacristan of Sacred Heart Basilica, can be seen trudging through the snow to place the infant Jesus in the crib.

Senior years are an adventure, I believe, a special gift from God. I count my days in privileged moments, the most rewarding of these moments coming at the end of each day in prayer at the Grotto. It is a constant reminder of the peaceful beauty of God's creation, leading me beyond what can be seen to the Unseen One who walks beside me on life's journey. Perhaps I am most indebted to the Grotto because it was there that I received the inspiration for the ministries which have kept me active in the Lord's work. The first fruits of this inspiration was SERV, Students Encouraging Religious Vocations, approved by the University in 1990 and still showing tangible evidence of success. On the heels of this success came the inspiration for The National Legion of SERV, helping high schools, colleges and parish vocation committees around the country to establish SERV clubs. Most recently came the inspiration for the Saint Peregrine Prayer Society, an international network of people praying to Saint Peregrine for his intercession to bring down God's healing and compassion on those who suffer from cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Unlike the Golden Dome, Notre Dame's familiar landmark and shining symbol of its tradition, the Grotto touches lives in a quiet, more meaningful and precious way. If I were to pick the perfect time and place to extol the beauty, both natural and spiritual, of the Notre Dame campus, it most certainly would be 6:45 in the evening at the Grotto. It is precisely at that moment, every day of the year, without exception, that the Holy Rosary is recited in devotion to the Lady after whom the University is named. And it is at that time, for the better part of the year, that the sun is setting beyond the mirrored lake of St. Mary's, splashing its rays of reds, pinks and blues across the stone face of the Grotto and onto the white and blue image of Our Lady as she looks down from her perch in the rocks.

I have already mentioned the Grotto's warmth on a blustery winter's eve. The days of summer, too, are a time of grace at the Grotto. The quiet evenings when we are joined by a few summer school students trying in six short weeks to become a part of the spirit of the place. And autumn, of course, is that special time of year when Mother Nature spreads her most colorful carpet; when red fires smolder on trees, on ivy-covered walls, and on the eternal stone face of the Grotto, drawing to itself the multitudes of football fans who descend on the campus. I cannot count the number of people I have met at the Grotto who have become life- long friends and partners in prayer. I would be willing to forfeit the rest of my life if I could be buried in the immediate vicinity of my beloved Grotto. That being impossible, however, it fills my heart with peace knowing that I will be buried in the Notre Dame addition to Cedar Grove Cemetery, just a short walk from the Grotto's peaceful and serene surroundings.

How many lives have been touched by this monument to Mary? How many tears have been shed in relief at her feet? Like the mysteries of the Rosary itself, they embrace the joyful, the sorrowful and the glorious.

To read previous installments of Herb's archive please click below:

September 1998
October 1998
November 1998
January 1999
March 1999
May 1999
July 1999
August 1999
October 1999
December 1999