In the deepest depths of the atheistic Pacific Northwest lies a sanctuary filled with the grace of the Blessed Mother. The Grotto in Portland is a beautiful estate on the east end of the residential sprawl of the largest city in Oregon. The centerpiece is an impressive sanctuary embedded in a shallow carved out cave, a former quarry, featuring a replica of Michelangelo’s famous Pieta.
This is a place visited by Catholics from all over the world seeking answered prayers as any traditional pilgrim would. Sunday Noon Masses are celebrated at the main grotto although there is a church building for indoor masses as well a mere steps away. An elevator takes the pilgrim above the grotto to a clifftop garden featuring a Stations of St. Joseph, featuring key moments in His life and its touchpoints to salvation history, various shrines featuring the various forms of enculturation of honoring the Blessed Mother, and an enclosed meditative space overlooking the skyline of the City of Portland.
This shrine was built in the early 1900’s as a fulfillment of a promise made by a young servite priest Fr. Ambrose Mayer, who was originally from Kitchener, Ontario. His dying mother was spared an untimely death and Fr. Ambrose in adulthood managed to secure this land at a curate price to dedicate to the Lord and Our Blessed Lady, in particular. The project was blessed by Pope Pius XI and now the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother in Portland remains an ever important symbol of Faith and ecumenical peace in a region that habitually marginalizes it.
“Let this be a sanctuary of peace for all peoples of the earth and surely in this day a sanctuary is needed. Torn with differences, strife, and grief, the world needs sanctuary where the human spirit can seek peace and consolation.” – Archbishop Alexander Christie, Archbishop of Portland, 1924.
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