A Million Tiny Rocks

I am not much of a hobbyist. I play cards on occasion and used to collect both baseball cards and song lyrics, but I said “used to.” As I get older, I find it difficult to commit to a regular, scheduled hobby, and focusing on one collection seems boring. Heck, I even have a hard time keeping my mind on one television show for too long. But, as is often the case, the skill I lack and wish for is the one I often most admire in others.

In visiting the Grotto of the Redemption, we glimpsed into the mind of a man truly committed to his faith, and were lucky enough to tour the monument to his one and only love.

Paul Dobberstein was born in Germany in 1872. After immigrating to America at 20, he enrolled in a seminary near Milwaukee to finally pursue his dream of priesthood. Legend has it that, as a young seminary student, he became critically ill with “double pneumonia.” As he fought for his life, he prayed to his Blessed Virgin Mary to intercede for him for the grace of health. He promised to build a shrine in her honor of he pulled through.

He did pull through and over the next 10 years stockpiled rocks from all over the United States – rare rocks, common stones and even massive boulders. Then in 1912, and for the next 100 years, he and his successors built the shrine we see today, by hand, with no assistance and perhaps most mystically, without any written plans.

The Grotto is actually made up of nine grottos (or caves), each which beautifully illustrate key moments in the life of Jesus Christ. Believer or not, it’s hard to argue with the folk art quality of this massive monument to Dobberstein’s promise. Each year tens of thousands of Christians and non-Christians make the pilgrimage to the Grotto to see, touch and explore the nooks and crannies built by a man so consumed with his promise, and raw talent, that he had to share with the masses.

Passion and obsession differ only in the tone set by the writer. One actively implies love, while the other encourages the reader to infer illness. I will avoid either term and instead show you a few photos and encourage you to put this on your bucket list, It’s well worth it. For more info go here.