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So We Don't Forget: the Grotto at Notre Dame This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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It was hidden until we walked down the steps, silently descending from whispers to silence, as the 8:44 darkness dissolved into the speckled, sparkling lights of a hundred candles tucked into the tranquil depths of the Grotto. We walked silently, feeling sacrilegious in our tight jeans and fancy shirts and earrings, our hearts beating like jump ropes on pavement as we clutched our white and unborn candles.


We formed a line, zigzagging through the gates and handing each other our burnt wood matchsticks, not meeting the glimmering reflection in each others’ eyes. The flames danced and bucked like a hundred rodeos, and dove from our matches to our candles, and leapt into our eyes, leaving a hundred black afterimages as we blinked into the light.


We filled the prayer row, knees pressed into the worn cushion, heads bowed and hands folded, and chests filling slowly with the silently burning air. We stood around, shivering against the cold South Bend night, forgetting our tired arms and legs, forgetting our tired brains and minds, seeing only the skipping and flickering candles, the Picasso-esque patterns they made, like a hundred Christmas lights flashing on and off. We kneeled on the ground, steaming tears filling our eyes, and silence encircled us on a panther’s padded paws, purring softly. We broke our gaze from the Grotto and looked out to the murky depths of the lake, the vast sky reflected in its shimmering surface, the fog-covered moon peering down, the wind keening softly across the water’s ripples.


One by one, we nodded our heads, drew our hands to our foreheads, kissed our knuckles to the flames, or simply stood up and walked away. One by one, we walked away, and we did not look back, and we did not speak. Even our footsteps were reverent and silent as they faded away.


And then there was you, and then there was me, and it was you and I that stayed, in the breathless softness of the flames and the water and the sky and the night.




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