In the early 1900’s when the Mount was a Jesuit scholasticate, there lived here a humble lay brother by the name of Joseph Giraudi. Brother Joseph had suffered a leg injury in Oregon where he had been assigned to an Indian mission previous to his transfer to Mount St. Michael. After he moved here, his hip became infected with a malignant cancer. Amputation was suggested; Brother Joseph refused. With childlike simplicity, the sufferer turned to the Blessed Virgin. “If you want me to die, I am ready,” he told her. “But…” And then Joseph did what not a few of Mary’s clients have done in a crisis — he made her a promise. He promised her that he would devote the remainder of his days to building a very special shrine in her honor if she would obtain for him a cure. And he was cured. Two novenas were made, and on the feast of the Purification, 1919, Joseph got out of bed and walked.
Joseph was faithful to his promise. A pile of volcanic rocks seemed an unlikely place to start, but the energetic lay brother, now in his fifties, was soon hard at work, transforming the hillside into a beautiful grotto in Mary’s honor. The white marble statue was placed there in the early 1920’s. Joseph kept the garden and shrine a thing of beauty, working there until two days before his death and telling visitors how he was cured and his leg was saved through Our Lady’s intercession. He died on August 1, 1953, at the age of 88 and is buried at the Jesuit cemetery at the Mount.
When Mount St. Michael was purchased from the Jesuits in 1978 to be a parish church and center of traditional Catholicism, the grotto was in a state of sad neglect and was quite overrun by brush and weeds. Once there had been a life-sized statue of St. Bernadette in the grotto as well, but it had been smashed by vandals. Parishioners and religious set to work, clearing away the brush and restoring the steps and walkways.
In the fall of 1979 a few dedicated women began the work of restoring the grotto to its former beauty. On October 8, 1980, the first Mass in the grotto since the purchase of the Mount was offered. In his sermon, Father reminded those present of the many miraculous graces granted through the intercession of our Blessed Mother at the shrine in Lourdes, France, and assured them that this grotto, too, is a very special place where great favors may be granted.
The idea of planting roses as offerings of devotion and thanksgiving has inspired the growth of the beautiful rose garden now adorning the grotto. Since 1980, well over 200 roses have been planted there, alongside thousands of annuals, shrubs and plants, in as incredible variety of color and fragrance. Future projects include the restoration of the rock walls and additional flower beds, the erection of St. Therese’s “Shower of Roses” Garden, and the addition of many various plants. The grotto needs are met solely by the kind donations of lay people.
Those who visit the grotto often find that it soon becomes one of their favorites places, both for prayer and for simply enjoying its beauty. And when the winter snows cover the rose plants and the flowers take their long sleep until spring, the Lady of the Grotto still draws her children there. In the still whiteness, they see the symbol of the virginal purity of God’s sinless One, the Immaculate Conception….