Notre Dame is a community of faith. You have lived it for four years. You will be sustained by it for the rest of your lives.
The Notre Dame family or the spirit of Notre Dame, whatever you want to call it, is the community of faith that unites us far beyond our days as students. Just as the words "I understand" are powerful when spoken truthfully, so too are the words, "I will pray for you."
The power of prayer is just that: powerful. It is why we flock to the Grotto and why on any given day, particularly during exam week, light from hundreds of candles burn for our prayers. Because we believe in that power.
About five years ago, I met a woman who had just moved to our town and was a new parent at my children's school. I was wearing a Notre Dame Swimming shirt, because as an alum, you spend even more money at the bookstore.
But she noticed my shirt and asked me, "Did you go to Notre Dame?"
I said, I did.
She asked, "Were you on the swim team?"
I said, I was.
She said, "Were you in the bus accident?"
At this point I just nodded yes to her, and she asked me, "What ever happened to that girl who was paralyzed?"
And I quietly responded, "That was me."
Then this woman, who I just met for the first time, over 15 years after our swim team bus accident, said to me, "I prayed for you."
That is the power of faith. That is the power of prayer. Believe in it and trust in it and nurture it.
It is important to nurture all relationships, because along with our faith, they are the most important aspects of our lives. At times our family relationships and friendships - and even our faith - may falter. But when one is weakened, the other two will sustain you. Family, Faith and Friendship; those are your guiding forces.
But I am not unrealistic. As you graduate and begin your careers, there will be bills to pay, rent and mortgages to figure out, and life expenses that increase when you are no longer a student.
Your job, whether you work inside or outside the home, will consume great amounts of your time, dedication and energy.
My advice to you is this: Love what you do.
Believe in a cause and make it your passion.
Find your passion, and make it your career. In doing so, you will make a difference because life is too short to do otherwise.
What though the odds be great or small, I am - we are all - so excited for you! You leave here today as a proud graduate. You will return in 5, 10, 20 years even more proud to have graduated from Notre Dame.
I know you will make Our Lady on the Dome proud. I have no doubt the class of 2012 will change lives.
You have the tools - the academic, social, emotional and spiritual tools - to commence your life as an alumnus.
Congratulations! Today, we celebrate you and all you have accomplished. But we also celebrate all you have ahead of you: a life filled with faith, friendships and family; a life of gratitude and of making a difference.
As you leave here today, may the odds be ever in your favor. God Bless and Go Irish!