ON THE BANKS OF THE PERMANENTE
by Walter Harrington, R'51
During the quiet evenings of 1945, and probably for many years before that, the rotting and leaning supports of a bridge (now no longer existing except in the history of St. Joseph's) strained under the weight of students from above. Some were throwing rocks into the water below others were discussing the day's Latin exam; all were looking down a creek formed many centuries before and in the early history of California named Permanente, or "ever–flowing," by the Spaniards. In a slow but ceaseless manner it passed under the well–warped bridge and wound its way through what seemed a wasteland, densely clotted with every conceivable shrub and bush. There were trees also, but almost indistinguishable in the mass of climbing and entangled vines.
From overhead could be heard high–pitched voice that echoed against the concrete wall of the nearby handball court: "Heh, what are all those mounds over there on the other side of the creek?" "Those are Indian Burial mounds" was the quick response of a helpful second–high man. The next afternoon found three or four curious sixth–latiners sprawling through the vines and bushes across the creek to the several mounds rising up behind the far handball court. The following day the helpful Rhet infirmarian informed these poison oak stricken sixth–latiners, or what' some called Edna's Calamine Trio, that what they had examined were not Indian burial mounds but rather the remains of the "old swimming hole" built by the seminarians of the thirties.
With the building of the new swimming pool in 1938, this area returned to its jungle history. I few thought it worth anything, and extremely few ever passed through it. However, three fellows saw the possibilities of these rolling mounds and winding creek, natural wilderness and contours etched on the face of this land many centuries before. It was these three, Thomas Wright '56, Jerry Thomas '56, and John Santos, who in corroboration with Father Charles Dillon, conceived the idea of a grotto to our Blessed Mother.
In the years of 1946 and 1947 this idea was approved by Father Francis Rock, and painstaking efforts of clearing about a third of the present grotto area of vines and ivy were begun, with the help of many present Patrician theologians. After a year and a half of faithful work, Thomas Wright foresaw the need of stairs to the Grotto floor twenty feet below, and asked the writer to build them, a request implying much more than Tom was willing to admit at the time. But the continued work to which this request led will never be regretted. These steps were completed in June 1948. With the exception of further clearing, the following year saw very little actual progress.
The year 1949–1950 witnessed much activity and many changes. In September of 1949, the plans For the Grotto proper were agreed upon, and by the following May the concrete work on the Grotto, a rustic bridge, an aviary, and many paths were completed. The succeeding year brought about the completion of the Grotto itself, a map of the entire area, another bridge, a waterfa1l, a complete electric and watering system, more paths and a new flight of stairs as well as a great amount of planting.
Let us close this scrapbook of history and look at the living present – the year is 1952 – as Parmenides would have us believe of all, there are still some things unchanged at the College: there are still sixth–latiners with two fears, Latin and second high. But according to the Heraclitan axiom, things have changed – "As this round world around does spin, around also do world events and world figures;" and even at a college nestled in the hills that hem in Santa Clara Valley, this perpetual flux is exhibited. New classes and new professors have supplanted their predecessors. Newer athletes are found in a newer system of four teams. Even the "old swimming hole" of the thirties has bowed under the law of Heraclitus: from "swimming hole" to impassable creek land to a Grotto.
For six years a series of newcomers with the same problems, troubles, and joys, characterizing generations of seminarians, have evoked "change" in the impassable creek land and "Indian burial mounds of old." Through them form has molded "prime matter!"
From the small, accompanying map we can lean back at our desks and examine the form of this area, no less than 70,000 sq. feet. Although ideal interpretations are apt to be rebuffed somehow we feel that Nature herself in the winding curves of this creek has designated this portion of the earth for Mary. Others might fancy that some giant etched the letter M on the face of the earth – in either case there is an M, and we like to think of the rippling waters that flow through it as Nature's litany to Mary. Assured that such a map, although complete and accurate, is but a fleeting shadow, an image in black and white – lifeless – at the new strong– timbered campus bridge, we begin our stroll through the living and colorful reality. As we walk along the curving and down–sloping path past the redwood aviary, the high pitched twittering and the bright blue and yellow color of parakeets and canaries add life to our very steps. Soon we pass through a short tunnel of arching tree branches that is the keyhole to the Grotto proper and along a gravel path, till we find ourselves before the face of Our Lady. Her white marble statue standing in a niche of the bluish–grey walls, faces the open area across the creek, but her eyes are on us below her. Her face is that of a mother, who has undergone both joy and suffering and in her hands is the Rosary with which she asks us to pray. Here among the gentle rustling of the leaves and the rippling of the nearby waters we may talk to our Mother. Below her and protected by the overhanging cave is a wrought iron altar – a symbol of the role of Her Son, the Eternal Priest. What this stone cave may lack in size and magnificence is requited by nature itself that encloses Our Lady's shrine in a protecting vault of overhanging trees.
We retrace a few steps and cross the slender and apparently age–old rustic bridge. As we pause and look down, the constantly moving waters are but symbol of life with all its joys and tribulations, with its successes and failures. Over on the other side of the creek, we have a complete view of the Grotto Cave. Moving along the creek bank, we find ourselves facing St, Joseph's own "Cataract of Lodorc," a waterfall made possible by water released from the pool.
Although we may continue for some distance along the creek and across another rustic bridge and up a flight of stairs to the junction of the Service Road, this area is not yet complete. Here our tour of the area ends. In the next six years, Heraclitus' axiom, paradoxically unchanged itself, will continue to change the remaining "prime matter" of this creek land into its ultimate form.
(From "The Patrician," Spring 1952)