The city of Lourdes in France has been famous since 1858, when a 14 year old peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous was said to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary. According to legend, the girl was told to drink from the spring where the apparition had been seen, and that the priests should build a chapel on the spot.
Ever since, the grotto and church has been a popular pilgrimage site, with pilgrims drinking and bathing in the water out of a belief that it would heal countless ailments.
Ready to Go to France?
Luckily (and oddly enough), you don’t have to jump on a plane to visit this magical spot. In 1958, two brothers (in the religious sense of the word) from the Monfort seminary in Litchfield decided to replicate the sacred French site right here in CT. Brother Alfonso and Brother Gabriel, with the help of other workers from the seminary, recreated the shrine as best they could before dedicating it for service.
The shrine was built, ultimately, so that the area’s prayerful could visit, pray, and reflect on their own lives and imitate the life and character of Mary—without needing to go to France to do so.
Sure, it isn’t the exact same grotto where the apparition appeared to Bernadette. And sure, it doesn’t flow with holy water touted to cure all that ails you. But it’s still a really cool place to visit, whether you believe or not. And, believe it or not, thousands of individuals and families from Connecticut and all around the Northeast visit the site on a regular basis over the course of the year with the sole reason of pilgrimage in mind. If you can’t afford a trip to France, but want to show your piety and devotion, Lourdes in Litchfield may be just the place for you to visit.
The grotto grounds are open year-round, from dawn until dusk. Mass and other services are held at the grotto in the open air from May through October (as weather permits).
There is also a newly renovated Way of the Cross that winds through the hillside overlooking the grotto, a peaceful path for prayer and reflection. Beyond this, there is a large Crucifixion scene, and different paths will take you to shrines of the Sacred Heart, St. Joseph, St. Jude, St. Michael, and St. Louis de Montfort.
Blessing of the…Motorcycles?
The shrine is also known locally for 2 big events held every year. In October, there is a “Blessing of the Animals” service, where people are encouraged to bring their pets for blessings of health and wellness (though, if your dog is a barker, it may be a better idea to leave him at home).
And in May there is a “Blessing of the Motorcycles” service, where hundreds of bikers bring their bikes to be blessed with holy water and prayers for a year of safe driving. The event has apparently run for 46 years, almost as long as the replica has been around, and in 2016 saw some 500 bikers attend.
If You’re Interested in Going
As we mentioned earlier, the shrine grounds are open year-round from sun up to sun down, and mass is held daily (except for Mondays, I believe) from May through October, as weather permits. The shrine is located at 83 Montfort Rd in Litchfield. Though it is free to visit, donations are always welcome.