Last year I painted a mural in my high school for a semester-long project in my theology class; we each chose an injustice and attempted to ease its divisive effects in the world. I chose racism—an inequity that I contribute to every moment of my existence as a white person—and focused on how I could increase the Church’s voice against the injustice that She contributes to and still remains too quiet about. I painted five Black saints and Catholic leaders—Venerable Fr. Augustus Tolton, Servant of God Sr. Thea Bowman, St. Augustine, St. Monica, and St. Benedict the African. The mural has since circulated to be seen by eyes I’ll never meet—an invitation to build on that justice work by moving from using a paintbrush to challenging others with my words. This culminated this past November when I had the privilege of speaking at the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice before 2,000 people. Speaking in front of that crowd was a pentecostal moment for me, feeling the Holy Spirit in a uniquely profound way—an encounter that ignited a fascination with identifying the Spirit at work in my efforts for justice.
In the first reading today, Isaiah proclaims, “The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, That I might know how to speak to the weary” (Isaiah 50:4). God is the Mother who bears us the tongue to speak, and the Spirit is the passion that moves our tongues to sacredly utter words of justice. In fact, the Holy Spirit sits at the forefront of all that we create—the richness of our voice as we speak, the fluidity of our writing, and the soul in the strokes of a paintbrush. Sometimes the Spirit makes itself known, like the serene attentiveness to the moment I felt as I spoke at the Teach-In, or can go unnoticed—its spurring presence existing silently in our every thought and movement and breath.
I find it enlivening to remember that the Spirit energizes the justice work we do in a special way—work that can leave us anxious, weary, and desperate for answers. To those who feel deflated, or to those who fear taking the first leap, take refuge in praying, shouting, whispering words that were once kindled by the Spirit: Lord, in your great love, answer me (Psalm 69).
Chloe Becker is an artist committed to creating Catholic art for racial justice. She graduated from Magnificat High School in 2020, is currently taking a gap year, and will be attending Harvard University in the fall of 2021. She is spending her time this year in Cleveland, Ohio as an intern at ISN and doing lots of painting. In 2019, she painted a mural at her high school to strengthen the Catholic Church’s voice against racism, which gained attention over social media and was published in an article in America Magazine. She spoke at the 2019 Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, and has had her writing published by ISN.