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I was in Madrid, Spain, this summer for three weeks, and while walking the streets of that magical city I came across a sign at a Beauty Shop that read: “Peluquería, Estilisimo, Belleza, Espacio de Relax.”

We’re all looking for a space to relax, and San Antonio, Texas, has an Espacio de Relax that won’t cost you a penny to visit: Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto of the Southwest.

I discovered the grotto back in the mid-’80s while on a retreat at the Oblate Renewal Center. I’ve always had an interest in Our Lady of Lourdes because my mother, who’s also named Denise, said that she almost named me Bernadette for the 14-year-old girl who was visited by Mary, the mother of Jesus, 18 times. (Pop culture sidebar: American singer/actress/author/entrepreneur Madonna named her daughter Lourdes.)

San Antonio’s Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto is the perfect space to take a deep breath away from life’s hustle and bustle. Plus, it’s a two-for-one grotto. In addition to the Lourdes grotto, an exact replica of the shrine in France, you may also visit the Our Lady of Guadalupe Tepeyac de San Antonio place of prayer and devotion located on top of the Lourdes grotto.

Masses at the grotto are Saturdays at 6 p.m.; Sundays at 9 a.m. in English and 11:30 a.m. in Spanish; Mondays through Saturdays at 7 a.m. in English; Mondays through Fridays at 12 noon in Spanish; and a Charismatic Mass at 7 p.m. on Thursdays. The rosary is said at 7:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The lovely Oblate grounds are filled with walking paths, shade trees and benches. You may also visit the outdoor Stations of the Cross while there. Here is a Prayer for Healing found in the grotto’s brochure:

“Our Lady of Lourdes, I entrust myself to your loving care. You know my afflictions and tribulations. Intercede for me, before your Son, Jesus, so I may receive healing of mind and body and that my loved ones may also know God’s healing in their life. O Loving Mother, help us share the immense joy of the pilgrims of Lourdes who have experienced healing when they placed their trust in your kindness and compassion.”

For those interested in spiritual renewal, Bridges to Contemplative Living and Reflections on Contemplative Living, a small group experience based on the works of Thomas Merton, will be offered on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons from September 4 and 5 to October 23 and 24, 2013, as well as January 8 and 9 through February 26 and 27, 2014.  A Silent Guided Retreat, Exploring our deepest self in connection with the Divine Presence, will also be offered from September 23 through September 25, 2013. Call (210) 341-1366, extension 212, for more information on both.

The Oblate Renewal Center also offers spiritual direction for those feeling distant from God, facing an important decision, serving in a ministry, or desiring a deeper relationship with God. To make an appointment for a session that typically lasts from 45 minutes to one hour, call (210) 349-4173. The center does not charge for spiritual direction, but donations are appreciated.

A large gift shop, filled with reasonably priced books, holy medals (50 cents each!), holy cards and rosaries, is located near the grotto and is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The entrance to the grotto is located at 5712 Blanco Road, between Oblate Drive and Parade Drive, across from the Korean United Methodist Church. Parking is free. For more information, call (210) 342-9864.

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