It’s funny how Our Lady works. For 20+ years I’ve held different jobs that have required me to seek publicity. Whether it was recruiting young adults in Scottsdale, AZ, to come to a weekend retreat, or engaging college kids in works of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during Lent, or putting together travel immersion trips to Africa, it seems like I’ve been working in publicity/marketing/communications for most of my life. This is why I find it so very ironic how the story of this Grotto photo continues to unfold.
I have complete certainty that Our Lady has a message she wishes to communicate. This clarity is not normal for me. It has formed through four different things: 1) prayer, 2) a weird sort of calmness and certainty that won’t leave my heart, 3) conversations with the kid in the photo and with his parents, and 4) the people that come to me about it and the events that continue to unfold without me doing anything to prompt them.
I had no idea when I snapped that photo that she would use my crummy old iPhone to renew people’s faith. The weirdest thing is that I have done very little to promote this image. I’ve never once sat down and tried to figure out how to spread the word. Rather, I almost immediately adopted an attitude I learned from a good Jesuit when he was giving me an Ignatian retreat in the early 1990s: Holy Indifference. When I first posted the photo I said nothing about it because I needed to allow Our Lady to do whatever she wanted without my interference. At the time I half expected it to fizzle out after a day or two. Then it went viral. After six days of silence, I then felt prompted to explain what happened. The remarks and posts I’ve made since then have all naturally welled up inside of me until I knew that I simply couldn’t keep each story to myself any longer. It has felt pretty strange, almost passive rather than active. In other words, from my perspective it feels like this story has totally come to me; I didn’t “go get it.” Even my trips through the pages of the Notre Dame archives have been spontaneous acts that almost felt like an act of obedience. I’ve just tried to say, “yes” and deliver the mail.
I find it remarkable that four months later the story and the image continues to be a major part of my daily life. The correspondence I receive has slowed down, but I’m still getting notes about it every week. Now all of a sudden I’ve been asked by three unrelated entities to please tell the story to their constituents. Though for the past 18 months my voice quality has vacillated between horrible and non-existent, I have this weird feeling that somehow I’ll be able to get through this.
If you are interested in hearing the story told verbally, there are three brief opportunities to do so.
Redeemer Radio, 95.7 FM in South Bend and 106.3 FM in Fort Wayne, has a feature called “Historia Nostra” which is a 1 minute spotlight on historical things that have happened in our diocese. Narrated with the soothing voice of Tom Castaldi, it’s one of my favorite things on Catholic radio. The spot will probably start running in May so tune in and listen.
St. Matthew Cathedral Potluck Dinner. This Wednesday, April 26th, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. in our gym, my own parish community has asked me to tell the story and allow some questions and answers. The organizer, Mary Ann Wilson, has said that anyone is welcome – just be sure to bring something for the potluck.
Notre Dame Day Live Broadcast. This is part of an annual fundraiser which is explained here. If you want to actually “see” what it’s all about, here is last year’s highlight video. Henryka Ternier, the artist who painted the painting that “matches” the image, and I will be interviewed for about five minutes on Monday, April 24, at
1:37 p.m. 12:30 p.m. (Last minute change) You can catch that livestream interview here.
Before I start getting questions or raised eyebrows, I’d like to address the Notre Dame Day appearance right off the bat. I am anticipating that certain people are going to say, “Why would you allow Notre Dame to use this photo for fundraising? That’s a misuse of something sacred.” And/Or “They certainly have enough money already and their administration doesn’t always act very Catholic. Why would you help them?” Here is my answer:
First, considered as a whole, Notre Dame is a very good place full of many wonderful people. I believe that as a university, it is one of the greatest forces for good in our country. I’m continually amazed at the number of wonderful ways that Notre Dame positively contributes to the Church as a whole. You can’t latch on to one or two bad things about the university and then extrapolate that into a condemnation of the whole community. That’s unfair, unkind and it violates logic. The folks who inhabit Notre Dame come from all 50 states. About 80% of them are Catholic. Together they form a sort of microcosm of the Catholic Church in America. Like the Church as a whole, it has it’s share of the good, the bad and the ugly. But let’s not deliberately look past all the good.
Second, Our Lady chose to show her own image by using a snowflake at the Grotto dedicated to her at Notre Dame. SHE chose Notre Dame, not me. The Grotto is not my place, it is owned privately by the Congregation of Holy Cross and it is located on the Notre Dame campus. Sure, it has been an enormously important part of my life, but it has also been an important part of most Notre Dame students’ lives for 120 years. If the fundraising arm of the school wishes to highlight what Our Lady did on their campus, then who am I to deny them?! I’m thrilled that they love Our Lady and want her to be a part of their narrative. We should all be happy for that, not indignant.
Please pray for me as I do these things and as I continue to correspond with friends and strangers about this photo. Come, Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Remarkable Photo From the Grotto at Notre Dame: posted here.