Lourdes in Litchfield

Lourdes in Litchfield Shrine, Litchfield

October 10, 2009

llgHaving been to five billion sites around the state, you’d think I’d have no problem marching right in to anything on my itinerary. Oddly, that’s not the case at all. I still get cold feet now and then and the Lourdes in Litchfield shrine is a perfect example of this rare phenomenon.

I drove into their (rather huge) parking lot by myself once but didn’t get out of my car. Then one time I did the same thing with Hoang and Damian in tow. And over the course of our three weekends in a row driving out to Litchfield and points west for the purposes of this blog (ain’t Hoang great?), I threatened to drag them to it, but never did.

Finally, on our last trip out Scenic Route 118 of the year, I carried out my threat. We drove onto the 170 acre wooded property, parked the car and got out to explore. After all, no one is going to mistake Litchfield for Lourdes in France – though it is actually debatable which is prettier. And the food is pretty good in both. But this place is like a shrine to the famous shrine. Which is a little weird to me. Of course, not being Catholic, a lot of this stuff is a little weird to me.


From the days of the first apparitions in Lourdes, France, people have come to the Grotto for healing and for help with their faith lives. Men and women from around the world have journeyed to this small town in France to encounter the peacefulness that Mary, the Immaculate Conception, offers. The miraculous cures of physical, spiritual and emotional illnesses testify to the presence of God’s Grace to the lowly and the poor of this world.

lljLourdes in Litchfield in Connecticut is a place set aside for us when we cannot make the arduous journey to France. Since 1958 men, women and children have come to this simple grotto and encountered the loving and tender touch of God through Mary. Numerous people find this to be a place of tranquility and conversion, for themselves and for those who are held in their hearts.

Make the effort to come and experience the love God has for you in Jesus Christ. Make the sacrifice of time and effort to come here and be overwhelmed with the natural beauty of God’s creation as we pray in this cathedral without walls.

I must admit up front that we went there with no hope for miraculous cures of anything. Maybe that was our problem, because we were wholly unchanged upon leaving the property. Oh well.

llaThe Shrine of Lourdes in Litchfield was constructed 50 years ago fashioned as a replica of the Lourdes Grotto in France. That was where, in 1858, a young peasant woman, Bernadette Soubirous, had an experience of the Mother of God appearing to her with a message of hope and encouragement. Through Bernadette, Mary called believers to pray and to allow the grace of God to transform. Over the years, Lourdes in France has developed into a place of prayer and pilgrimage. In a similar way, Lourdes in Litchfield has become a place where each year thousands of come on pilgrimage.

I don’t really understand all that, but I’m not here to insult those who do. When Hoang and I were in France, we drove north of Lourdes and can report that we were stuck in traffic for a while with buses full of nuns on their way south to the shrine there. Here in Connecticut, of course, the shrine is a shrine to that shrine. I don’t know how that works, or how the miraculous apparitions halfway around the world have any effect on a hill in Litchfield, but we’ll roll with it.

Holy rain water on the left

The grotto itself was built of local fieldstone by two Montfort brothers, Brother Alfonso and Brother Gabriel, with the help of Montfort seminarians and people from the area. Open air mass is held in the grotto from May through October. The Grotto is complimented by a newly renovated and restored Way of the Cross that winds its way through the hillside overlooking the llcgrotto. At the top, there’s a giant crucifixion scene and you can also walk paths leading to shrines of the Sacred Heart, St. Joseph, St. Jude, St. Michael, and St. Louis de Montfort. These Shrines have been a ministry of the Montfort Missionaries since 1958. This is a place of prayer, peace and celebration for all people.

Okay, I was not “wholly unchanged” as I wrote earlier. I learned what “The Way of the Cross” is, and I probably burned a few calories following “the Way” up the surprisingly steep hillside. So here’s the deal, as far as I can tell. The Shrine is undeniably pretty, especially in the fall. The walk to the little grotto thing where services are held is alongside a stream and does have a very peaceful feel to it. When we arrived, there appeared to be a service about to start, but I’m not sure. I think people just go there at all hours (it’s open dawn to dusk year round) to sit and pray and meditate or be in the presence of Mary statues or something. Everyone did look very purposeful.

lleEven me. For I had to capture Lourdes in Litchfield for the purposes of CTMQ. I noticed the paved path leading away from the grotto, so I left Hoang and Damian (who was feeling particularly lazy in his stroller for some reason) and began fast-walking up the path. The path has rather well done sculptures of the various Way of the Cross stations.

For you non Catholics like me, The Way of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. The tradition as chapel devotion began with St. Francis of Assisi and extended throughout the Roman Catholic Church in the medieval period.

llfTraditionally, The Stations themselves are usually a series of 14 pictures or sculptures depicting the following scenes: Jesus is condemned to death, Jesus is given his cross, Jesus falls the first time, Jesus meets His Mother – so on and so forth (he falls a lot) – then is crucified, dies, is removed and laid in a tomb. Although not traditionally part of the Stations, the Resurrection of Jesus is sometimes included as a fifteenth station.

The path up the hillside behind the grotto in Litchfield is pretty nice. However, the asphalt used to pave the path was covered by slick moss in some places, and is really dangerous for the elderly faithful to make the trek. Like Jesus, I fell. Maybe that’s the point?

Once up to the top, I stared up at Jesus on the cross. The view out across the valley was ruined by the fog and drizzle, but the Brothers have clearcut a bunch of trees in order to make it prettier on clear days. For those interested, there’s another rather unkempt Jesus-on-a-cross in Waterbury at Holy Land ( CTMQ Visit Here.)

“Angel Tours?” Really?

I continued to follow Jesus’ journey down the hill – and man, it’s REALLY steep here – and it was all very pretty. I’ve never been partial to the gory side of Catholic idolatry, but there were plenty of people there staring at the sculptures and yes, even taking pictures. One couple (I took a picture of THEM), was taking about 10 pictures per station! I suppose they were actually on a pilgrimage to Lourdes in Litchfield!

lliBack at the bottom, I saw Hoang and Damian wondering around in circles waiting for me, so I quickly went into the building to see what was in there. It’s called Pilgrim Hall and contains a large giftshop (of course) and The Grotto Café. There was nothing for me in there, so I went back outside to my family.

If you are so inclined, the shrine can do a “full pilgrimage” for you. This lasts from 10:30AM to 4PM and you get to do all sorts of praying and baptizing and communioning and stuff. I’ll say this, it’s certainly a beautiful place to do such a thing, if such a thing is your wish.

One last note: Every year in mid-May, they do a “Blessing of the Motorcycles” there. I suppose all the local Catholic motorcycle gangs descend upon the shrine to get blessed to have a safe year of riding.

And I think that’s pretty funny.

Lourdes in Litchfield


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  1. says

    I’ve been to both Litchfield and Lourdes (although not to either grotto), and I have to admit that I think Lourdes is prettier. For one thing, Litchfield doesn’t have snow-capped Pyrenees in the distance.

  2. Bruce Edwards says

    Whoever wrote the previous article has the spititual awareness level of a cockroach-but that’s too insulting of the insect!The mockery,sarcasm and failed attempts at humor[I guess He fell a lot]belie an ignorance of subtleness rarely encountered in this age.Regardless of the writers’ own beliefs,her bone-headed comments are truly the seventh wonder of the world.Didn’t know they still made ’em like that.Does anyone suspect she could discuss eloquently about the life of Bhuddha-Tagore or wonder about her musings on the Vedas?I guess she fell a lot.

  3. says

    I’ve always found it particularly odd that when a certain subset of folk attempt to be witty in their replies on blogs to which they disagree, they almost universally always purposely call male authors a she. I’ve seen it all over the place on the Intertubes, notably at wingnut websites and the like.

    Though I wonder, since you noted the Asian woman in the post, perhaps your mention of “Bhuddha-Tagore” [sic] was a dig at her? I don’t know.

    Rest assured, Bruce, if there was a similar Buddhist shrine in Connecticut, I’d visit and display an equal amount of ignorance and bone-headedness. I am secure in the knowledge that this post is not insulting at all (Jesus certainly DID fall during the Way, and the moss covered path here IS very slippery and steep in places), and was, in fact, rather complimentary.

    Regardless, thank you for stopping by the blog and spending nearly an hour here after you got so upset at the first page you read. I commend your ability to forgive – a trait rarely encountered in this age.

  4. NitaC says

    Lourdes in litchfield is a beautiful place that has a peaceful welcoming atmosphere. It is a place i visit often and have been going there for over 50 yrs.,( since I was a young child and went there with my grandmother)

    The priest who run the Shrine are Montfort missionaries and are most welcoming.
    They come from around the world to serve here.
    Loyal volunteers,some who are now into their senior years make sure everyone feels welcome and takes pride in their shrine.
    The Gift shop sells treasures from around the world and meets all price points.
    The Grotto Cafe makes delicious homemade food and desserts and the prices are very affordable.
    The Gift Shop and the Cafe help to support the Shrine.
    The choir is outstanding and during the season when mass is outside you feel like the time just goes by too quickly.
    I now take my grandchildren there and they love to go, often asking if we can go see Mary and Jesus.

    Even if there are hundreds of people on the property you can still feel the wonderful sense of peace.
    Come out and see and feel it for yourself.
    It is a beautiful, spiritual place.

  5. Tom Fatone says

    Quite and serene. There is something about this place that will take your breath away. I find myself remeniscing everytime I venture here. The Stations of the Cross tell the story of Christ. A great place to cry, pray and spend sometime alone if you wish. I have never scene an Outdoor Church and I believe this could be the only one in Connecticut.

  6. says

    Why? Is it not true?

    Jesus is condemned to death
    Jesus carries his cross
    Jesus falls the first time
    Jesus meets his mother
    Simon or Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the cross
    Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
    Jesus falls the second time
    Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
    Jesus falls the third time
    Jesus’ clothes are taken away
    Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
    Jesus dies on the cross
    Jesus is taken down from the cross (Deposition or Lamentation)
    Jesus is laid in the tomb.

  7. says

    I found your site as I conduct research for an article I’m writing myself on Lourdes in Litchfield. I have to say, I find your articles about Catholic sites to be honest–from a non-Catholic perspective–and even fun, and I don’t usually have a sense of humor when it comes to people joking about the Church or the faith.

    I think the thing people need to understand is not only that you’re just not Catholic, but that you’re not poking fun. You’re just making observations that happen to be funny. There is a difference. You’re coming at this from a completely foreign perspective to the one Catholics have, so saying things like “He falls a lot” shouldn’t be insulting, because you don’t mean it to be.

    Here’s a similar story–I was talking to a non-Catholic friend once about the stigmata St Rita of Cascia had–a thorn from Jesus’ crown of thorns stuck in the middle of her forehead. Not only did it cause her pain, but it stank, bc of rotting flesh surrounding it, so it was embarrassing, too. My friend, in her innocence, said to me incredulously, “THAT is a blessing?!”

    How can it be inconceivable to us that someone who wasn’t born in our faith, who didn’t grow up hearing stories of saints and the Bible, might not understand the things we hold so dear? And why respond to such lack of understanding with anger and hatred instead of with love and patience? You call yourself a Christian–then BEAR CHRIST. Do everything with love. Otherwise, you are a clashing gong.

    To be fair, Jesus does fall a lot. That said, you and I would too, if we were carrying a huge, heavy cross on our way to crucifixion after getting beaten up the night before, being imprisoned in a cold dark cave overnight, and then flagellated mercilessly the next morning before being handed the method of our execution. I would suspect one would have not so much energy at that point. :) (I am writing this on Maundy Thursday, interestingly enough–Steve, that’s the day before Good Friday, which is the day on which Jesus was crucified.)

    From a spiritual perspective, Jesus falling three times resounds hugely for Christians. Aside from showing how exhausted He was, it reminds us that we, too, will continually fail in life, fall down, make mistakes. But we need to get back up, just like Jesus did, and keep on keepin’ on. That is why Jesus’ three falls are commemorated in the Stations.

    With regards to how weird it is that this shrine is a shrine to another shrine–totally get that. But the website says it itself. This shrine was built for those who can’t make it to Lourdes, but who want the experience. Lourdes Grottos dot the world–Notre Dame (in Indiana) has one, too. They’re just places for people to pray and remember the miraculous that happened more than a century ago. As to whether there is a tie to the miracles in Lourdes, I’d say yes and no. No. Litchfield has no tie to Lourdes except that they have a shrine that looks a little like the shrine in France.

    But here’s the thing about miracles. God isn’t limited by time and space. He can do whatever He wants, wherever He wants. So if someone who is sick comes to Lourdes in Litchfield for healing, ain’t nothing stopping God from healing them, if He is so inclined.

    The Stations of the Cross are probably the first manifestation of this practice–as you said in your very well-written blog, St Francis created them specifically for those pilgrims who wanted to go to the Holy Land to retrace Jesus’ footsteps, but who couldn’t for one reason or another. It’s like having a statue of a saint, or a photograph of your mother by your bedside. They’re not really THERE, but that image serves to remind you of someone you love.

    I also read your posts about your beautiful family. This might not mean much to you–and it’s ok if it doesn’t–but I’m totally going to be praying for you guys from now on. Including when I go to sacred sites like this and others (I produce a Catholic TV travel show, so this is what we do). Your struggles are amazing, and you write about them honestly and well. Thank you for sharing your life with us. I know it has affected me in the sense that, from now on, I won’t cringe when I hear a child throwing a tantrum in a store or at a restaurant. Instead, I’ll think of Damian and your family and say a prayer for you guys.

    Keep on doing what you’re doing. You’ve made me want to visit CT! And when I do, I hope we can grab lunch. Or maybe go to Lourdes in Litchfield together. :)

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