Annual novena at Grasshopper Chapel marks 25 years


Gatherings in which people come together from many parishes and communities to worship as one refresh the soul


Q. I read in The Visitor that there is a weekly Mass at the “Grasshopper Chapel” during the summer months. Can you tell me more about this?

A. Just east of Cold Spring, on a hilltop above State Hwy. 23, is a small chapel dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

17AchapelIt was built in 1951 to replace the former chapel on this site that was built in 1877 in thanksgiving for Mary’s powerful intercession with God that averted a plague of Rocky Mountain grasshoppers; the original chapel was destroyed by a tornado June 28, 1894.

The novena of Masses offered there during May and June lets this beautiful shrine be used for a spiritual experience and not just a historical site for tourists.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of these novena Masses.

The novena began with the initiative of Nancy Wenner of Cold Spring and Bishop George Speltz of the St. Cloud Diocese. The original intention was to ask the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession for good crops and protection from storms, concerns that were important to the farmers and townspeople from the surrounding region that gathered there.

Thursday evening event

The novena Masses are held in May and June on nine consecutive Thursdays, but sometimes they need to begin on the last Thursday in April.

The rosary is prayed at 7 p.m. and the Eucharist follows at 7:30 p.m. The novena concludes with a Mass of thanksgiving on a Thursday evening in July. When the weather is inclement, the rosary and Mass are moved to St. Boniface Church on Main Street in Cold Spring.

A generous group of volunteers makes sure that everything is in order, from preparing the chapel grounds to arranging the items for Mass and helping park vehicles.

As a celebrant for these Masses, I have enjoyed looking out at the diverse assembly of 125 to 250 worshippers gathered around me: children, teenagers and adults, the young and the old and the in-between; lay persons, religious women and men, and clergy; long-time residents of local parishes and newly-arrived immigrants.

It is good to have a priest celebrant, liturgical ministers and musicians from a different local parish each week putting their gifts at the service of the worshippers who assemble there.

What draws all of them to make this pilgrimage to an “upper room” without walls is a love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the rosary and for our meeting Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Such gatherings in which people come together from many parishes and communities to worship as one refresh the soul.

A bow to Mary

As a celebrant, I have welcomed the opportunity to use some of the beautiful Mass prayers from “The Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” especially those that are fitting for Easter time.

In his apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis wrote about the power of Marian shrines to express and deepen our devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, our true Mother, who “walks at our side . . . shares our struggles and . . . constantly surrounds us with God’s love” (no. 286). Certainly this is true for those who participate in the novena at the Assumption Chapel, commonly referred to as the Grasshopper Chapel.

Ann Salzer, the present coordinator for the novena since 2008, observes that it is “an opportunity for those not able to attend daily Mass because of work, to come and enjoy Our Lord in Mass.

“It’s a way to experience Our Lord in the outdoor surroundings he has given us and an opportunity for a family to come together in a less restrictive environment for Mass. It is a way to honor Our Blessed Mother for the part she has taken in bringing our salvation to us.”

These are all excellent reasons for participating in the novena of Masses on Thursdays at the Grasshopper Chapel.

To get there, take Hwy. 23 to the east end of Cold Spring and turn onto 3rd Ave. SE at the traffic light, then turn left (south) onto Chapel Street and finally make a right turn onto Pilgrimage Rd. and take it up to the chapel. Bring a chair or blanket to sit on. Bring a heart full of petition and thanksgiving, and offer your prayer and praise to God with your fellow worshippers in this holy place.