Class of 2020, congratulations! And as Father Jenkins said, Spring break is finally over! After two years, hundreds of COVID tests, and one too many “Kathy, your mic is on mute'' later and we are finally back home. What a joy it is to be here together without masks or 6 feet of distance or a computer screen, between us. These two years of distance taught us the importance of the seemingly mundane Notre Dame moments that brought us closer together – uber rides to Olfs, the yearly dorm room draft picks, the seemingly endless gameday Saturdays in the parking lot, the dreaded 9 a.m. NOVO class registration time, and of course, the Thursday afternoon southwest salad line in the dining hall.
And so, my job today is two-fold: to join us together in prayer and to introduce our Valedictorian, Brady Stiller.
I would ask you all now to stand as we begin the prayer.
As is tradition, let us begin with a prayer.
We pray with deep recognition of the myriad faith and spiritual traditions that are represented here today and we join together as this diverse community of faiths.
Allow us to begin first with gratitude. We give gratitude, Oh Lord, to our parents, guardians, and friends who made today possible. We are all beloved because we are here today; our existence is an example of the love of many people and their purposeful investment in our wellbeing. To the University of Notre Dame, her faculty, staff, and students – thank you for becoming a home, a place to be challenged, and a place to grow into becoming a force for good in the world.
Lord, help us to realize that our lives are not our own - that, as Pope Francis said, "We need to develop the awareness that nowadays we are either all saved together or no one is saved.". That a call to solidarity with the poor is a call that requires a courageous answer of responsibility to leave this world a more hospitable and welcoming place than it was when we arrived. As we learned here at Notre Dame, give us the courage, Lord, to boldly use our gifts and talents in service of others, and to not be afraid to embrace a vocation of peace.
In this time of war we pray that we will learn to disarm our hearts from the rhetoric of violence and hatred. Let the Gospel serve as an example that there is no victory that will be won through violence but rather only through radical compassion for the weak and vulnerable and for the fortitude to embrace complexity and nuance with grace, patience and dialogue.
We pray for an end to violence everywhere in the world - not only in Ukraine but in South Sudan, Afghanistan, Mozambique, and in our own communities here in the United States. In a particularly somber way, we pray for the men, women and young children who are the innocent victims of the senseless shootings in New York and Texas. May we be the generation that says “no more” to violence of any kind and that works to build a beloved community free from violence.
Help us to choose each day to be Good Samaritans – rather than turning away from the poor choosing to accompany in friendship the elderly, refugees, homeless, those with disabilities, and those who have been abandoned. Guide us to build a culture of encounter which is passionate about building bridges instead of walls, eating with the poor instead of at the table of the wealthy, and arming ourselves with words of peace instead of weapons of destruction.
We pray today in a special way for our dear classmate, Annrose Jerry, that we may always carry her spirit of deep faith, love for others, and joy for the world with us.
Finally, oh Lord, please accompany us in our lifelong journey of striving to be people of mercy, joy, love, and compassion who unrelentlessly seek to create a world where no one is forgotten.
In your name, we pray. Amen.