The Grotto on University of Notre Dame's campus holds a special place in my heart. Being from South Bend and the son of two Notre Dame Law School grads, I have spent many a moment in prayer at this sacred place. The unceasingly gentle glow of candlelight always calms me, and the peaceful sounds of the surrounding nature help me center my prayers. Whether rejoicing at some good fortune or lamenting a recent failure, my wandering feet always lead me to the Grotto where I can put my heart before the Virgin Mary and ask her intercession. The beautiful imagery of taking one's concerns, placing them at the foot of the Holy Mother, and parting with trust in God is something that never fails to get to me. Each time I light a candle and say a prayer, I ask that God will allow me to let go of my worries. I implore His help in strengthening me to remain humble and grateful in the face of good fortune. I pray for understanding during difficult times. I sit in silence, listening to what He may say, and I wait until I feel prepared to return to the world. Regardless of my state, I always leave the Grotto changed for the better.
On a historical level, the original grotto in Lourdes (on which the one at Notre Dame is based) was where young Bernadette Soubirous first saw Our Lady of Lourdes. In a moment just right, when Bernadette paused to catch her breath, isolated from her siblings, Mary came, and told Bernadette of God's presence in that place. After these apparitions, Bernadette left with a new missionone directly from our Heavenly Mother. Just like at Lourdes, the Grotto at Notre Dame allows us to heed the voices of those in Heaven. To do this, what we must do is humble ourselves to be like a lowly child. We must retreat from the bustling world around us. We must open ourselves up to accept God's grace. In short, we must seize the moment.
Liam Maher is a Freshman at the Old College Undergraduate Seminary on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. He and his fellow Old Collegians regularly share their thoughts and experiences through the Spes Unica Blog. Liam is a South Bend, Indiana native, and a graduate of both St. Joseph Grade School and St. Joseph High School.