I think I’ve received around 50 or 60 inquiries about the identity of the student praying in this photo. My thinking was that we did not need to find him because he would find us. Well today it happened. He was traveling somewhere with some time on his hands and saw the photo on his phone because it has gone viral. Besides the thousands of shares on social media, the blog post from four days ago alone has well over 120,000 hits. It’s been pretty hard to miss if you’re even remotely connected to University of Notre Dame. Still, this student apparently had not seen it before today, or if he had seen it, he hadn’t really looked at it or given it much thought.
Today he saw it and it struck him that he was the student in the photo. He then talked to his parents who both had already seen the photo multiple times. They both had been impressed with it and each had viewed it multiple times during the past ten days. When he told them he thought it was he, one of them reached out to me to obtain the original so they could blow it up and make sure. Everyone agrees. The student in the photo is clearly their son.
As you can imagine this realization led them to become a little emotional. I have not talked to the student directly, but I suspect that someday I will have the opportunity to do so. I shared with his parents some of the overwhelming amount of correspondence I have been receiving. The vast majority of these communications tell me how deeply touched the writer is. Even as I type this, my inbox is pinging with messages from people who say they’ve been reduced to tears. Together, his parents and I tried to get our minds around the fact that had this young man not knelt down in prayer, I would not have had any reason to take the photo. Somehow, his prayer is directly and inextricably tied to the spiritual awakening being experienced all around the world.
For now, and perhaps forever, his parents have asked me to keep his identity confidential. He does not generally enjoy the spotlight, but at this point they haven’t even had a chance to spend time with him to talk about it. So I will not be able to identify him today. If he never wants to be identified, I will certainly respect that desire. I can say this, however: were I choose any young person to have been the student in this photo – I could not have come up with a better person to be the one. The context and backstory makes my heart sing. It is truly beautiful, but just too private at the moment to share. Feel free to leave him a message in the comments section below.
[Update from 1-23-2017: I recently met with this student and am happy to report that this photo has been very meaningful to him. He is pleased that it has touched so many people.]
I told his parents that should he ever wish to say anything in the future, I would be happy to pass along his thoughts – either keeping him anonymous or letting him step forward. That’s up to him. For now, I think his whole family is still trying to wrap their minds around this.
Prepare for Christmas, folks. The Christ child is on His way!
Will you let Him into your heart?