Have you ever regularly driven by a place and been curious about just what was there?
And if you then finally got a chance to visit, you wished you had done so earlier?
I suspect many a motorist has passed the main drive to the Our Lady of Lourdes National Shrine on Chardon Road in Euclid, Ohio, and wondered just what was there behind that vast tree line.
As one who frequents this shrine, I can only tell them that they are driving past one of northeast Ohio’s hidden treasures, which is free and open to all.
What they will find on those special grounds are peace and tranquility.
It is a natural draw for Catholics devoted to Mary.
The shrine itself has been around for a long time, as my grandmother used to visit it when she was young. Some portions of it probably look exactly the same as they did to this pious mother of nine in the 1940s.
My mom told me how, as a little child, she used to take a bus with her mother to a now-closed entrance to the shrine, and, together, they would walk up a stone stairway to access these holy grounds. The stairway itself is still there today, and when walking on it, one can imagine the fleeting images of past visitors — dressed for their particular eras in time — walking up and down those stairs. Each one was likely carrying the joys and stresses of their days, as they traversed these splendid grounds in search of Christ’s presence.
I suspect my grandmother carried much to Our Lord, as she had sons in the military serving during World War II, while raising her other daughters and sons with very little money.
Now, modern-day visitors will carry their burdens to our Savior in almost the same way, which brings an almost timelessness to these acres of land.
Once a first-time visitor arrives, he or she will be struck by the shrine’s vastness and park-like setting. It stretches out over large areas of green, with rolling hills and paths to walk.
Interspersed throughout the shrine are Christian statues, a natural, hilly Stations of the Cross and a circular path that is a “walking Rosary.”
When I asked one religious sister who helps run the shrine what the shrine can bring to the average visitor, she shared how it is a special place where visitors can spend time with God — and all without any cost to the traveler.
As Christ has promised us, the yoke is light and the road is wide and easy for those who love him.
The shrine itself is modeled after the one in Lourdes, France, where a vision of Mary appeared to a young teenager named Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. It was there that the Blessed Mother declared that she was the Immaculate Conception and directed that a chapel be built there.
What stands there now is a magnificent church and a place where we know many miracles and healings have been documented throughout its history, attributable to Our Lady of Lourdes — whose feast day is Feb. 11 — and the faith of St. Bernadette.
But across the Atlantic Ocean in Euclid, one will find a modest church — and a Marian statue modeled after the one in the Grotto of Lourdes. This American grotto includes chips of rock from the same holy place in Lourdes where Mary appeared, and it is easy to recognize one of the spots from a distance: Visitors will see people bending forward to kiss a large rock, where one of the chips is attached. The other one is part of a fountain stream that allows water to run over the rock and into the paper cups of pilgrims, who can drink it or wet their fingers with it to make the Sign of the Cross.
The grotto is both simple and beautiful — and a place where visitors can light candles and offer up petitions to God.
There is much to see, and one can stop at the gift shop to learn more about this holy place, which is run by the Sisters of the Most Holy Trinity, a devout group of religious women whose lives are a living testimony to love, prayer and service.
In a world dominated by selfishness, they stand in opposition by living selflessly. These nuns are a beautiful example for our young people, who face a society that values flash over substance and short-terms results over long-lasting or eternal ones.
At Our Lady of Lourdes National Shrine, which is open year-round from 7am to dusk, a pilgrim may discover a peaceful feeling that quiets the heart, which is so difficult to capture in our on-the-go culture.
I encourage every reader to make it a point to stop when in the area — it is a place to behold.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!
Tom Wetzel writes from
Our Lady of Lourdes National Shrine
21281 Chardon Road
Euclid, OH 44117