How The Marian Grotto Came To Be

The Grotto is a Catholic Shrine dedicated to Mary, Our Sorrowful Mother. It was founded by Ambrose Mayer who joined the religious order of priests also known as the Servite Order. Founded in Florence, Italy, in the middle of the 13th century by seven men who sought to lead lives of penance and prayer. This is a ministry of the Servite – Order of Friar Servants of Mary. Their goal is to sanctify humanity through devotion to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, under her title of Mother of Sorrows. They wear black habits and follow the Rule of St. Augustine.

When Ambrose Mayer’s mother was close to death after giving birth to his little sister, he begged God to spare her life. He promised that if his mother survived, he would someday do something great for the Church.

Fortunately for him, his mother lived and in order to fulfill his promise, this Canadian born Priest kept his eyes and heart open for an opportunity to fulfill his promise and give glory to Jesus Christ and his Mother for the life of his.

One day, he spotted a “for sale” sign next to an unkempt area formally used by a railroad as a quarry,  at that moment, he knew the land was perfect! But, when he asked, he was told that the asking price was $48,000, which in today’s currency would be about $672,000. At that time, Father Ambrose only had $3,000, but he was not a stranger to miracles and he trusted in God to perform yet another miracle as he did during his sister’s birth and the bible where Christ  multiplied loaves and fishes, Father Ambrose offered the little he had which was surprisingly accepted as a down payment. Yet, he still had to raise the other $45,000, God helped him through Pope Pius XI letter which he wrote, giving a special apostolic blessing to those who, “in any way or measure, show their goodwill and assist in erecting the Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother in Portland.”

The money came, just like he had asked God.

In September 1923, work began at the grotto and the first Mass was celebrated less than a year later, on May 29, 1924. Three thousand people came to the Mass, during which Archbishop Alexander Christie offered this prayer:


“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 a sanctuary where the human spirit can seek peace and consolation.”

The Purpose Of The Grotto

The Grotto provides a welcoming presence and nice atmosphere conducive for peace, quiet, and spiritual inspiration. It offers understanding, compassion, support, hope, and spiritual directions. It is endeavored to serve everyone.

Due to its beautiful gardens, and through the Grotto’s Spirituality Program, it offers enrichment and education, provides a serene setting for business meetings, community workshops religious retreats and most importantly, it is a source of strength for the helpless.

Aside from the beautiful prayer spaces available at The Grotto, many events hosted year-round provide great opportunities to evangelize. Among them is the Christmas Festival of Lights that the Grotto says is the largest Christmas choral festival in the world, with 150 performances from area choirs, more than 1 million lights, an animal petting zoo, caroling, and more.




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