Lourdes, France in Texas: the Hostyn Grotto

Grotto in Hostyn, Texas, modeled after Lourdes (Scarborough photo)It finally rained a few days ago here in Central Texas, where we’ve been suffering from drought conditions.

My family and I stood out on the front porch just to smell the rain, feel it splash up to wet our toes and hear it pound on the roof.

That night, we felt an affinity for some 20th century Texans who lived nearby; southeast of Austin in the teensy farm village of Hostyn, one of the oldest Czech communities in the state.

They suffered an even more severe drought in 1924-1925 that devastated their livelihood, the cotton crop.

In appreciation for the end of dry conditions in 1925, the Czechs of the Holy Rosary Catholic church in Hostyn built a small replica of the famous Catholic landmark, the grotto at Lourdes, France.

During a road trip to Houston, we detoured to take a look at their tribute.

Hostyn grotto, 1925 (Scarborough photo)

It’s a little disconcerting to find an elaborate stone grotto with plaster figures and plastic flowers sitting out in the middle of nowhere on a hot Texas day, but I admired the vision and persistence of believers who were determined to offer thanks for rain the best way they knew how.

Over the years, church members also donated money to build an elaborate sculptured “Stations of the Cross” series all the way around the church building.

The nearby cemetery was full of gravestones with Czech names, but the most poignant sight was two Civil War cannons, with plaques.

One was for Joseph Lidiak, a father, who fought for the Confederacy.

The other was for John Lidiak, his son, who fought for the Union.

After the war, they returned to the village and worked the family farm together. Today they are buried side-by-side on the windy bluffs of Hostyn.

Update:  The August 29, 2008 issue of “The Austin Chronicle” has an article about the Hostyn Grotto in its Day Trips section.

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