I think I’ve received around 50 or 60 inquiries about the identity of the student praying in this photo. My thinking was that we did not need to find him because if it was meant to be he would find us. Well today it happened. He was traveling somewhere with some time on his hands and saw the photo on his phone because it has gone viral. Besides the thousands of shares on social media, the blog post from four days ago alone has well over 120,000 hits. It’s been pretty hard to miss if you’re even remotely connected to University of Notre Dame. Still, this student apparently had not seen it before today, or if he had seen it, he hadn’t really looked at it or given it much thought.
Today he saw it and it struck him that he was the student in the photo. He then talked to his parents. They both had already seen it and were impressed with it. Each had viewed it more than once during the past ten days. When he told them he thought it was he, one of them reached out to me to obtain the original so they could blow it up and make sure. Everyone agrees. The student in the photo is clearly their son.
As you can imagine this realization led them to become a little emotional. I have not talked to the student directly, but I suspect that someday I will have the opportunity to do so. I shared with his parents some of the overwhelming amount of correspondence I have been receiving. The vast majority of these communications tell me how deeply touched the writer is. Even as I type this, my inbox is pinging with messages from people who say they’ve been reduced to tears. Together, his parents and I tried to get our minds around the fact that had this young man not knelt down in prayer, I would not have had any reason to take the photo. Somehow, his prayer is directly and inextricably tied to the spiritual awakening being experienced all around the world.
For now, and perhaps forever, his parents have asked me to keep his identity confidential. He does not generally enjoy the spotlight, but at this point they haven’t even had a chance to spend time with him to talk about it. So I will not be able to identify him today. If he never wants to be identified, I will certainly respect that desire. I can say this, however: were I choose any young person to have been the student in this photo – I could not have come up with a better person to be the one. The context and backstory makes my heart sing. It is truly beautiful, but just too private at the moment to share. Feel free to leave him a message in the comments section below.
[Update from 1-23-2017: I recently met with this student and am happy to report that this photo has been very meaningful to him. He is pleased that it has touched so many people.]
I told his parents that should he ever wish to say anything in the future, I would be happy to pass along his thoughts – either keeping him anonymous or letting him step forward. That’s up to him. For now, I think his whole family is still trying to wrap their minds around this.
Grotto Photo Part 3: February 2017 Brings an Unexpected Twist
Prepare for Christmas, folks. The Christ child is on His way!
Will you let Him into your heart?
May 2, 2020 at 9:16 am
He hasn’t said.
April 23, 2020 at 4:09 pm
Just Curious What The Young Man was Praying About…
December 16, 2018 at 12:37 pm
I have spent many hours at the Grotto, especially when I was a struggling student. Since then I have always made it a point tostop by and light a candle when i am nearby. I believe that this photo should be a point of making the Grotto a recognized HOLY SITE. Unlike Lourdes or Guadalupe WE HAVE THE PICTURE TO PROVE SHE WAS THERE AT THIS TIME AT THE HOLY PLACE.
Tom Longeway class of 1963
January 1, 2017 at 3:35 pm
This vision from Mary is more awesome than it seems at first. Many, many details were aligned to converge on this moment so that great numbers of us could more fully share in the glory and true joy of Christmas. It is no coincidence that I, among others, found this wonderous sign and reward of our faith. 15 years ago a fellow CCD teacher shared with me a photograph of the sky above the apparition site in Medjugorje. The photo was taken by a family friend on pilgrimage there and shows a vision of the Madonna and Child. To this day, the photo and the dried flowers within the frame have not faded. The common message here is prayer. The importance of prayer cannot be understated. We all must pray for ourselves, each other, the world and those who have gone before us.
Prayer is critically important for ALL and our future. Christmas blessings and Happy New Year.
December 28, 2016 at 2:55 pm
My favorite place. Such a spiritual connection at Our Lady’s grotto. Rosary said there every day rain or shine at 6:45p.m. Miracles happen to those who believe and seek Our Lady’s intercession.
December 25, 2016 at 7:13 am
Someone else noted that the image appears to be of Mary holding an infant. That fits Christmas pretty well. If the kid’s prayer has anything to do with Christmas, then I’ll probably be a believer. I had an unusual prayer answered once after praying at the Grotto.
December 23, 2016 at 10:50 pm
“Let us accustom ourselves to noting that the actions that seem the most ordinary are secretly directed by the order of God and serve His designs without our noticing it, in such a way that nothing comes to pass by mere coincidence.” Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627-1704) from “Meditations for Advent”
December 23, 2016 at 5:57 pm
As I read the post, a sob rose deep inside of me and I started crying. I am a believer that nothing happens by coincidence. Everything happens when God deems that it should. What a lovely lovely picture. We are not alone. Thank you and God bless the young man and his loved ones and everyone who reads this and sees the photo!
December 23, 2016 at 12:44 pm
Blessings of this Holy Season. I pray daily to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. I Pray you received the answer to your prayer. This photo was very moving Spiritually for me. ❤
December 23, 2016 at 11:23 am
I hear you, Richard. When the snow is on the ground and nobody is around, it’s remarkable how quiet it can get. 🙂
December 23, 2016 at 11:15 am
My fondest memory of the Grotto was freshman year, December 1958, it had snowed still coming down lightly. I had the place to myself, not a footprint. The scene was ethereal.
December 23, 2016 at 7:45 am
I love this photo. I have a devotion to our Lady, particularly Our Lady of Lourdes. This was my childhood parish, grade school, and high school in Cleveland, Ohio. I met my husband there in 1966 and to this day maintain childhood and high school friendships. The school is long closed, the neighborhood transitioned, but the church remains .. Stately and as beautiful as always. I often find myself longing to return there. This photograph has given joy and hope in a Christmas that finds us grieving the loss of my sister-in-law just 8 days ago, friends who are dealing with a tragic loss, and the anniversary in December of the passing of my own dear Mom. I learned my devotion to our Lady from her. The rosary was her refuge and she prayed daily. She shared with me several instances when our Lady intervened for her to answer her prayers. Pray to our Blessed Mother. She does hear and answer those who are faithful to her. God bless you, the young man in the photo, and all reading this with Christmas peace.
December 23, 2016 at 1:48 am
I am in complete awe. The appearance of Our Blessed Mother in your photo is a testament of your profound faith in Her. I believe that she appeared so that you could show this young man that she was truly hearing his prayers and that he is never alone. In doing so, she is also showing all of us that she is with us as well. I have never been so moved. The grotto is my favorite place in this city, and this only reaffirms my love for the feeling I get there. Thank you for sharing your miracle. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
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