Even though I’d volunteered to deliver the prayer at my recent MFA graduation from Seton Hill, I was a little nervous about how my version of a prayer would be received. Seton Hill is a Catholic university, and I am not Catholic—or even Christian. Instead, my faith tradition is Unitarian-Universalist. Believe it or not, the UU umbrella is wide and there are UU Christians, but they’re in the minority. We UU’s tend to be big on things like intellectual inquiry, finding our own spiritual path, and social and environmental justice and equality. As a group, we’re less big on prayer. In fact, so many of us are wounded from the traditions we’ve come out that the idea of praying is enough to give us indigestion.
But I do pray. There is so much to pray for and about, and I do believe in the transcendent wonder and mystery of our universe and above all, in the power of love and life that lives within us and between us.
Surprisingly, instead of turning off folks at commencement with my prayer, several people said they really appreciated how “inclusive” it was. I was reminded how desperately we all want to be part of a community that doesn’t break down into “them” versus “us,” and why the politics of division is what gives me indigestion.
So, for what it’s worth, here’s my graduation prayer:
Spirit of Love and Life,
Today our hearts are filled with gratitude for the abundance of blessings that have been bestowed upon us. We are grateful for the opportunities to immerse ourselves in creative work at Seton Hill and to have been guided by amazing writers, mentors, and teachers. They have been unstinting in their efforts to help us—well, push us—to grow as writers. We’re thankful as well for the friendships we’ve formed and the laughter and tears we’ve shared. Most of all, we feel incredibly blessed for the love, support, and encouragement from friends and family on this journey. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, so too does it take a community to nurture a writer.
As we move on with our lives, we pray that we will have the courage and perseverance to write the best books that we possibly can—to hold on to our sense of wonder, and to approach our work with honesty and integrity.
In a troubled world beset by division, fear, and prejudice, we pray that our works not only bring pleasure to readers, but shine a light of compassion, respect, and understanding for those different from ourselves.
We also pray that we will never forget that the greatest gift we can give in this life is our love and caring for one another.