Impractical beauty

In the parking lot of our church, there’s a grotto to Mary.

It’s clearly been there a while. Mary looks a bit weathered, somewhat in need of a paint job if you get up close to her. But she’s still Mary.

It’s lovingly tended by the gardening group. When I took these photos last summer, there were pink cosmos and lavender and white shrub roses bordering this little space (outside of the photo, alas). A small stone cherub sits pensively in a birdbath. Little votives burn inside the cave.

There’s a bench in front of Mary, and I’ve seen ragged people lying on it, asleep. It’s nice to think that they have a beautiful place to come and rest. Hopefully the peacefulness of this spot rubs off on them.

It occurred to me once that this grotto takes up a lot of prime space. This church parking lot gets crowded at Mass time. Many folks have to circle the block looking for a curbside space, and if you’ve ever lived in San Francisco, well, you know why SF Catholics have a great devotion to Our Lady of Parking (“Hail Mary, full of grace, please find me a parking space.”) A pragmatist would say, “Gee, if that grotto weren’t there, we could fit twenty more cars into this space … maybe more ….”

But I hope we never get that practical. This grotto, standing in the heart of a busy parking lot in the heart of a busy city, has — on more than one occasion — calmed my own busy heart. And our world needs more places like this, places where nature and prayer come together in one beautiful space.

Is it a stretch to call it holy ground? Maybe so. But it’s sure sacred to me.

4 responses to “Impractical beauty

  1. Andrea Kanelopoulos

    It’s been there at least 24 years since I started High School at St Rose Academy…now the parking lot! 🙂 Fr Cassidy cared for it then…

  2. Andrea, thanks for that bit of history. I never saw St. Rose before it was demolished … I tend to forget that the whole parking lot area used to be, well, not there.

    And thanks for the mention of Fr. Felix. The mere thought of him brightens my day. No wonder the grotto is such a happy place.

  3. The kids love to visit Mary after Mass. Sometimes I’m in a hurry to get to our next commitment, but how can you say no when they ask? Even if it’s just a few minutes and a Hail Mary, it’s a moment that stays with me throughout the week.

  4. Hi Maria,

    You’re so right; how can you say no to that??? How nice to think that your kids are building warm Mary memories at such a young age.