There are times we wonder whether God — or the universe or fate or some other force — is at play in our lives. Whether our futures are being laid out before us, whether we know it or not. On the eve of my college graduation, I was praying that God had some plan laid out for me, because I certainly didn’t. My degree was in film and I had zero job prospects. I was afraid of entering the industry. I was afraid of failing out of it. I was afraid of even trying!
So I was making one last trip and one last ditch effort at the Grotto at Notre Dame. It’s a beautiful place, and incredibly important to me. I first visited it as a high school student at summer camp at the university. I was lost on campus and stumbled upon the stones and candles near St. Mary’s Lake. I was 17, full of teenage stress and worry, and the quietness of the place struck a chord. A small light suddenly flashed by me. Then another and another. Fireflies! We don’t have them back home in Idaho, and seeing these little fluttering lights for the first time felt like magic.
That first night by the Grotto stirred something in me. This was a place where God was close. I never wanted to leave.
Throughout college I would make nighttime pilgrimages to the Grotto and always felt the magic and wonder of the place — regardless of whether it was firefly season. So as I knelt at the Grotto for what would be my final visit, a blank slate of a future before me, I felt gutted. More than entering the unknown, I was leaving this place where I knew God was close by.
The night had a nip to it, and I shivered my prayer to God: “Let me come back here. Don’t let this be the last time.” I looked up, and despite it being a month too early for them, a lone firefly flashed in flight around the statue of Mary’s head.
I took it as a sign. Maybe God was watching. I mean, I was desperate for anything at that point. At the very least, it was a perfectly poetic close to my time at Notre Dame. I left, unsure about everything but stirred at that final firefly’s flight. What happened next? Many things. But it’s 12 years later, and I now serve as director of Grotto Network — a site named for that magical place where I felt God in the flickers and fireflies. Maybe God had a plan.
This month is a big one for Grotto. A new website. A new logo. New branding. A new giveaway. A new podcast. Lots of big things! So what better topic to tackle than the biggest of them all? God. The Divine. The Alpha and Omega. The big, the small, the myriad ways we encounter this force in our lives and the heartbreak and mystery of it all.