Wednesday of Holy Week | The Spirit of Justice
BY CHLOE BECKER | April 8, 2020
Wednesday of Holy Week
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.
Mural looks good. Fine imagination. Nice reflection. Thank you Chloe. Injustice is a deadly virus. Deafening silence is not always golden. Those blessed with a voice need to make use of that precious gift. Activating voice in the voiceless is a meaningful ministry.
Chloe- I really love the mural and appreciate your perspective on working to heal racism through your work. I would encourage you, though, to consider other phrases in place of the following: “racism—an inequity that I contribute to every moment of my existence as a white person”.
I understand the sentiment and, in a very literal way, it is true- racism exists in part because of the existence of different races. But my worry is that it doesn’t speak to solutions, other than discontinuing your (our- as a fellow white person) existence. I think finding a way to mention the systemic inequities that exist because of the history of our nation and our world (education, criminal justice, and on and on within the US) and that persist today, and then talking about work you or others are doing to address these things would spur your audiences to action, or at least education- something closer to “racism- an inequity deeply embedded within the fabric of our country and our world that, to address, requires systemic changes to the way we function as a society”.
I only raise this because I hope you do continue to have a public perch from which to say these things and hope that you can use this to inspire action on behalf of others!
Chloe, I commend you for the spirit you express in your message today. It tells me you are driven to do what is right in the eyes of God. However, and right to the point, your words in the second sentence “an inequity that I contribute to every moment of my existence as a white person” seems actually without that spirit because you do not seem to value the life that God gave you as such a “white person.” You, I, all others are made in the “image and likeness of God.” We are what we are and for God’s good purpose. I do not contribute to racism because I am white. The balance to do God’s will is to love with what He has equipped us with and that includes, with thanksgiving, the color of one’s skin. The will to do good and to fight oppression comes from the heart-not the color of the skin. We put our trust in the mercy of Our Lord that He will put us where He wants us to do His will and that He will decide what barriers to overcome regardless of exterior differences.
I am so grateful you shared your mural with us! You are an insightful young lady. Your mural made a huge impression on me. And your words are filled with a maturity that speaks of love. You are the kind of woman the world needs. May God continue to good work which he has done in you.
What an inspiring young lady so infused with the Holy Spirit. This has been a ray of light and hope at a rather bleak time. But an inspiration of joy during this holy week.
Is there a place to purchase a picture of this mural? I love it so much.
This is beautifully moving, Chloe. Thank you for your passion, commitment and leadership. When I clicked on your name and read your bio, I was so pleased. I grew up on the east side of Cleveland, and attended Beaumont. The world and the Church need young people like you! Congratulations on the recognition your work and painting have received.
Chloe, Thank you. I pray that you continue to bless others the way you blessed me in writing today’s reading. Your doing God’s work and I can only imagine the smile you brought to his face. Blessings