NOTE: If you haven’t heard about what happened last December with a snowflake falling as someone took photo at the Grotto at Notre Dame,  definitely read this post first. You’ll probably also want to read this one too. The words above are from the Grotto’s 1896 dedication stone.

Apparently, there is a way for non-friends to send you a message on Facebook. The tricky thing is that it goes into a different and obscure message box. I discovered this today and found a whole bunch of messages dating all the way back to early January. These people were all writing to me about the Grotto photo. One of these messages came from Dana Babcock, the mother of two current Notre Dame students from Massachusetts. She actually sent two notes, but for ease of reading, I have combined them here:

I don’t know if you got the attached text with this photo, but I am a Notre Dame mom (of two students) and when I was there Monday, I took this photo at the grotto. I had just spent Sunday and Monday with my kids (a freshman and a senior) and as I was waiting for the bus to O’Hare early Tuesday morning (by the bookstore), I looked over to the golden dome and asked Mary–mother to mother–to please watch over my kids. When I got back to Massachusetts yesterday, my mother handed me a printout of your facebook post about the photo you took at the grotto in December. She received the article from a friend at Church. It was extremely consoling. It dawned on me that your photo is of Our Lady in snow…   Thank you for publishing your photo and sharing it with the world–it has brought much consolation to me, as an ND mom. Thank you. Dana Babcock, Massachusetts  [printed with permission]

Absolution under Fire. – Paul Wood, 1891. This painting depicts Fr. William Corby, CSC, the man who built the Grotto, long before he became president of Notre Dame.

Few people know that it was not Fr. Sorin who built the current Grotto, but rather Fr. William Corby, CSC, the famous civil war chaplain. Fr. Corby is known for giving the Union troops a general absolution of their sins as part of the Sacrament of Confession while the Battle of Gettysburg began. After returning home from the war, Fr. Corby became President of Notre Dame and eventually spearheaded the effort to build a grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. This was accomplished in the summer of 1896. Now visited by hundreds of thousands of people every year, the Grotto built by Fr. Corby is the one we enjoy today.

Construction took about three months and it is written that Fr. Corby planned the dedication for August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. But for some undocumented reason not known by historians, he moved up the dedication date to August 5th. Now here is where it gets really cool. Guess what Catholic feast day is celebrated on August 5th?  Let’s go back to Dana Babcock’s message to me, the part where the ellipse appears in the quote above. She finishes that sentence with this observation: “…as the plaque in my picture reveals, the Grotto was dedicated on the Feast of Our Lady of Snow! I think there might be a connection!” So the Blessed Mother actually used a snowflake to reveal her presence in 2016 at a place dedicated to her on the Feast of Our Lady of Snow, 1896. Pretty cool.

Amazing as this is, Our Lady still had one more surprise in store. This whole snowflake photo event has taken over my nights and spare time as I correspond with people and learn more about all aspects of the Grotto. One place it has led me is to the university archives. In browsing these archives recently, I learned about the farmer who helped Fr. Corby build the Grotto by providing the boulders from his land. Peter Kintz owned some property about a mile north of campus where he had milk cows and farmland. Today, the original farmhouse still exists on Juniper Road, but the farm mostly has been sold off and turned into a subdivision. Recently, I had coffee with the student who knelt in the snow and prompted me to take the Grotto photo. I have also spoken a few times with his parents. Would you believe his family lives in the heart of the subdivision created on Peter Kintz’s farm! I guess one could say that the rocks on their property are “rock siblings” to those at the Grotto. Strange indeed.

The 1850 Farmhouse on Juniper Road once owned by Peter Kintz.

It is now estimated that over 1 million people from 170 countries have seen and been touched by this image created by a falling snowflake. I’ve received so many notes from people across the country telling me how much the photo has encouraged their faith that I can no longer keep count. Knowing this, those final words on the dedication stone become even more remarkable. Could it be that a full 120 years ago, Divine Providence planned on touching so many people’s hearts in our current day and age?


Our Lady of Snow



You couldn’t make this stuff up.

It’s just too incredible.

Grotto Photo Part 4: Another Huge Surprise