St. John’s University, where I work, planned a prayer service around the theme of “Unity and Hope” in order to address the issue of racism that has dominated our country’s thinking in the past weeks (”A Call for Unity and Hope”). This service included several members of the University community. I received the call to be the minister who opened and closed the effort. Doing so gave me the opportunity to think and pray in a more systematic way upon this evil. I would like to share with you the short closing prayer that I offered:
We began this prayer service with the admission that racism is a sin—something that springs from and harms our very souls, something that hurts both the sinner and the one sinned against. Within the Catholic Christian community, an important way of dealing with sin is called “reconciliation.” This sacrament holds out four steps: admit that one has done wrong, seek forgiveness, accept a healing practice, and resolve to avoid this sin in the future. Building on the wisdom of that dynamic, let us pray:
Gracious and holy, loving and always compassionate God, we thank you for your goodness and for how you summon your children to draw close to one another as to you. We need to recognize most humbly and profoundly the sin of systemic racism that exists in our society and in the hearts of so many of us. We seek your mercy even as we beg forgiveness from our brothers and sisters whom we have harmed by our lack of concern and even (sometimes) our aggressive bad will. Help us to change our ways of thinking and acting. Guide us in establishing rules and practices that begin to restore wholeness in the midst of all the damage that we have done. Heal the wounds that separate us and bring particular healing to those who have suffered harm for so long and in so many ways. Grant us the grace to change our habits, to recognize privilege for what it is, and to make real amends.
We come before you with story and reflection and prayer. We ask that each of us, as well as our St. John’s University, may become forces of change in a world that really needs it. Fill us with the wisdom of your Spirit and the witness of Jesus who is Lord forever and ever. AMEN