Self-guided Retreat

The Grotto is a peaceful sanctuary in the middle of the city. It is a place suited for reflection, relaxation and spiritual growth. Full of beauty and the sounds of nature, The Grotto is a place of solitude, peace and prayer.

Whether you come for a spiritual retreat, or just to enjoy some personal time away from the hustle and bustle of life, we welcome you.

We encourage you to use the scripture, prayer and reflection materials included here in a way that suits your schedule. You can break it up and do one 20-minute segment, set aside an hour and reflect on a couple of the segments, or you can follow the materials from start to finish.

We hope that the content and the images are a source of encouragement, inspiration, nourishment, and challenge.

Use your mobile device to follow along.

Where to Start

Begin your retreat by stopping at the Visitor Center to purchase you admission to the Upper Gardens.

Option: Enjoy the 12-minute video about the history of The Grotto, which plays throughout the day in the Visitor Center Theater.

Option: Purchase a self-guided tour book to learn more about the art and architecture you will encounter.

Then make your way to Our Lady’s Grotto, located in the plaza outside to pray …

Come Holy Spirit – Renew the Heart of your Faithful Servant

Let us begin our retreat as we begin all things:

+In the Name of The Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Take as many moments as you wish to pray in front of the cave and clear your mind.

Option: Light a candle in the outdoor cradles. Candles may be purchased in the Visitor Center or you can bring one of your own.

Part 1: Reflection

Make your way up the elevator, turn left at the circle, and enter the Meditation Chapel.

The Holy Spirit brings to us these gifts mentioned in Scripture: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. In addition, God’s spirit brings us consolation, peace, and the ability to forgive.

Spend some time reflecting. You can do this by sitting quietly in one of the comfortable chairs. You can also choose to do this outdoors on a bench, or by taking a gentle stroll.

Ask yourself these questions:

When have I felt closest to God? When have I felt closest to others? When have I felt distant from God? When have I felt distant from others?

When you are ready, offer each of those moments – the good and the bad, the close and the distant – all of them, to God.


Heavenly Father, I know that you have created me, the world around me, as well as the people and the relationships that enrich my life. Here are the moments of Grace and of Challenge that I lift up to you in prayer today. Help me to be grateful for each moment – every moment – as a gift from you.

Part 2: Lectio Divina – The Prayerful Reading of Scripture

Choose a scripture passage and read it three times. Each time, read it slowly and deliberately. Pause for a few moments of silence between each reading.

Choose either …
(Joel 3:1-5)
Thus says the Lord:
I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.
Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, our old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; even upon the servants and the handmaids, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
And I will work wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke; the sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, at the coming of the day of the Lord, the great and terrible day.
Then everyone shall be rescued who calls on the name of the Lord; for on Mount Zion there shall be a remnant, as the Lord has said, and in Jerusalem survivors whom the Lord shall call.

Or …
(Romans 8:22-27)
Brothers and sisters:
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
For in hope we were saved.
Now hope that sees is not hope.
For who hopes for what one sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.
In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.

Once you have read the Scripture you chose three times, ask yourself:

What word or phrase stands out to you? What is it about that image, word or phrase that speaks to you?
Share that with God in prayer.

Part 3: A Time for Listening

Spend some time listening to the birds, the wind, the rain, or just the quiet of the Upper Gardens. Find a spot that brings you comfort or joy.

Then enjoy your walk through St. Joseph’s Grove and the Rose Garden, on your way to the Peace Garden.

Option: Spend a moment inside St. Anne’s Chapel, the oldest structure at The Grotto. Say a prayer for all those who have come before you the past 100 years.

When you get to the Peace Garden, enjoy the tranquil sounds of the water falls and babbling brook.

Part 4: Pray The Glorious Mysteries

1. The Resurrection of Our Lord

2. The Ascension of Our Lord

3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles

4. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven

5. The Coronation of Our Lady as Queen of Heaven and Earth

Each of these Glorious Mysteries focus on a special, holy event in the life of Christ and his Church. As your intention while praying the Rosary, offer to God the area in your life, the person, or situation, where you seek God to draw you closer to Him.

Option: Walk the Labyrinth

The labyrinth has been described as a path of prayer, a walking meditation, a crucible of change and a mirror of the soul. It is an ancient pattern found in many cultures and religious traditions around the world. As far back as 4000 years, labyrinth designs were found on the pottery, tablets and tiles of ancient civilizations.  During the Middle Ages, labyrinths symbolically represented a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and many labyrinths were constructed in the churches and cathedrals of Europe. The French still call the labyrinth walk “The Road to Jerusalem.”

The labyrinth is a winding, circular path, but it is not a maze. It has a defined entrance and a single path that winds into the center. The labyrinth walker proceeds at his or her own preferred pace toward the center. This is the destination, the place of meeting. After a prayerful time, the walker follows the same path outward, and the entrance to the labyrinth becomes the exit. 

Option: Pray the Via Matris (Way of the Mother)

This lovely area is dedicated to Mary, woman of sorrow. The seven scenes portray particular events in the life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph which were extremely painful. As you walk from scene to scene, you are invited to reflect on events in your own life that are related to what you see before you. These scenes help us to know that we are not alone; others have walked the way before us.

The Via Matris is a traditional Servite reflection similar to the Stations of the Cross.

Concluding your retreat

Take the elevator back down to the lower level. Spend a moment inside the Chapel of Mary for a final prayer.

Option as you exit: Walk the Stations of the Cross Path

These are fourteen movements taken from the scripture and popular tradition, depicting various moments prior to Christ’s death on the cross. A circular path beginning near the parking area leads to the Stations of the Cross. Many find comfort, guidance and inspiration when they reflect on these stations. Values such as patience, forgiveness, compassion, perseverance, generosity and unconditional love are portrayed in the Stations of the Cross. 

We hope you enjoyed your retreat at The Grotto. Be sure to stop by The Grotto Gift Shop on your way out.