On August 15th, Catholic and Orthodox Christians around the world honor an event in the life of the Virgin Mary that, while not Scriptural, has been part of the tradition handed down by Christians and now very much a part of their beliefs. According to the teaching of the Church, the Virgin Mary - at the moment of her death - was taken to heaven to sit at the right hand of God, preserved from the horrors of death. Christians in the West know this as the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, while in the East it has been known as the Dormition of the Theotokos - the Mother of God. Catholics and Orthodox mark the occasion with feasts and joyous processions.
Traditionally, Catholics and Orthodox go on pilgrimages not only on feast days but also in prayer and petition for special graces and favors. One of these places is what was once a small town in Provence, a region in southern France. It was at Lourdes that according to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared to a peasant girl in 1858 who later inspired millions to come to a shrine that was built in latter years.
Catholics in the United States will change their travel plans from flying to Lourdes, to instead visit a 132-year-old replica of the French shrine. This is because it has been twice in less than a year that massive flooding in Lourdes has forced the closing of the popular shrine where 6 million pilgrims visit each year. Many of them are gravely ill and seek both spiritual and physical healing,
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish in Detroit MI, which is popularly known as Assumption Grotto because of its replica of the Lourdes grotto where the Virgin Mary appeared in the 1800s, is an alternative to a flight to France for pilgrims. Reverend Eduard Perrone, pastor of the parish, says many people in desperate need of healing do not want to take a chance of a last minute cancelation to the famous shrine in France. “The cost is tremendous of course to go to France”, Perrone said, “so a much more economical alternative is the Grotto here in Detroit where in past years there have been many miraculous healings and certainly a good number of conversions.”
The Catholic Church has now recognized 68 official miracles at Lourdes, France; 49 of those involve drinking or bathing in the spring water that flows into the cave. Pilgrims can obtain bottles of this Lourdes water from the French shrine at the Detroit Lourdes Shrine during the August 15th feast day celebration.
According to a release from the Detroit shrine, "Like at the Lourdes Shrine in France, the faith and devotion of pilgrims to the Detroit Shrine are often rewarded by God with conversions and cures. People in their seventies and eighties today remember seeing as children all the crutches and braces piled up at the Assumption Grotto Shrine in Detroit. Some of these are now housed in a reliquary in the Detroit shrine's gift shop."
Assumption Grotto is located at 13770 Gratiot Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. See: www.assumptiongrotto.com.
The parish is home to the Assumption Schola
- a male choir that chants the liturgies at the shrine in the age-old Gregorian tradition.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.