This grotto out in South Bend, Indiana is a replica of the holy shrine at Lourdes, France, where in 1858 Our Lady appeared to a humble peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous. In memory of those apparitions, Notre Dame's grotto includes a statue of that young girl--who would later be canonized and become St. Bernadette--kneeling in prayer before the statue of the Blessed Mother that stands up high in a niche. There are also two small, smooth, black stones mortared into the wall of Notre Dame's grotto that actually came from Lourdes.
If you're ever out in South Bend, I highly recommend a trip to the grotto. When you're there--when you light a votive candle for a special intention and kneel down in front of it to pray--you get a sense of peace that is indescribable. You can feel Our Lady--in French, Notre Dame--there at the grotto, just as She's there atop the iconic golden dome (which you can see in the background in this photo, peeking through the trees), and She's watching over the university that bears Her name.
PRAYER TO OUR LADY OF LOURDES:
Blessed, Immaculate Virgin, by your appearance in the Grotto of Lourdes, many have been cured of their infirmities, both spiritual and physical.
Mother of Mercy, Healer of the Sick, Comforter of the Afflicted, you know my needs and sufferings. Look upon me with compassion. I come to you with confidence in your maternal intercession. Obtain for me, from your Divine Son, this special request...[mention your needs here].
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for me. Amen. [And St. Bernadette, pray for me, too!]