Monday’s Meander: The Grotto in Early Spring

Another family gathering in March during a sporadic rainfall included a visit to The Grotto, the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother in Portland. Though I am not Catholic, I find it a lovely meditative expanse among huge trees. I do walk the labyrinth, designed after the one at Chartres Cathedral, from time to time.

It felt like a good choice to stroll about and share quiet talk.

The 62 acres upon which it was designed were purchased in 1924. A cave for a scultpure of Mary holding the crucified Christ was chiselled from a 110 ft. high mound of basalt rock. A stone altar was made shortly after. People come to pray, leave flowers and light candles for loved ones. The first mass was conducted in 1924. There is also a church and smaller chapels on the grounds, as well as a contemporary place of prayer that oversees some of Portland and across the Columbia River towards Washington.

Our twin grandchildren were fascinated.

This is a Roman Catholic sanctuary and place of worship, lived within and run by the Order of Friar Servants of Mary. Sometimes they are glimpsed moving about, but mostly they do their work on the grounds or in the monastery atop the bluff. In this area there were built the Stations of the Cross, small chapels and gardens.

Below, outdoor seating is seen for Mass in good weather and various family members (2 daughters, daughter-in-law, a future son-in-law, Marc and me, granddaughters) chatting before using the elevator to the top of the bluff. My son Josh and visiting daughter, Cait, are middle photo.

Shots below: a glimpse of the glass/cement chapel when disembarking elevator; entrance to walkways on second leve; 3 views of the contemporary chapel atop the bluff. This building holds a copy of the Pieta.

I am always stilled and deeply moved as I slowly make my way to the center of this labyrinth (see small areas above). When I arrive at the center unbidden tears flow. I feel the power. I became enthralled with Chartres Cathedral and the original labyrinth when I read about it and studied photos as a teen. I had hoped to one day visit. But, too, this sacred space of daily, intentional compassion and healing prayer of the Servites imbues the area. The quietude of the Grotto reaches and settles inside; towering trees tower over all as people walk and rest. I am reminded anew of my love of God and God’s love of us as we sort out life amid the pain and troubles of this world we live in for a short time. The labyrinth reminds me of the intricate design and mysteries of the universe, eternal Light, and the soul journey we each undertake to find or refresh hope and wholeness.

I wrote no poem last Friday. It was Good Friday, and I am Christian. And the following day was both the third birthday of our twin granddaughters, as well as the first anniversary of our 26 y.o. granddaughter’s sudden death last year. Yes, the same day. I could share nothing of it. Now it is noted and over this year, and I am grateful so many of our family were gathered together in love.

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