Grotto: You write, he lights

Author: Emily Palladino '05


No matter what time of year, even when the campus is deserted, scores of candles can be seen blazing in the Grotto.

It’s no miracle, just the magic of mail-order and the devotion of an 86-year-old Holy Cross brother.

When people write to the University asking that a candle be lit at the Grotto for some special intention, Brother James Lakofka, CSC, graciously fulfills the requests. They total roughly 10,500 annually, he says.

Lakofka has handled the candle-lighting requests since 1977.

"People who have an illness in the family or a son here at school will write to me and ask to have the candles burning.

"It’s rather popular. I think people like it because it lets them feel as though they’re . . . here in a sense."

Lakofka also manages distribution of water from the original Grotto, in Lourdes, France. He receives a supply from Lourders and repackages the water—believed by some to have healing powers—into 1-ounce bottles that he ships all over the country to people who request it.

The water comes from a spring at the Lourdes Grotto, where Mary is said to have appeared to Saint Bernadette in 1858. The bottles come with a set of prayers to be said when using the water for healing or while suffering anxiety or pain. There is also a novena to invoke the blessing of Our Lady of Lourdes.