Johnson told CNA that in addition to talking, writing, and preaching about these topics for years, he has been constantly praying and fasting for an end to racism.
A few weeks before the Minneapolis officers killed George Floyd, Father Johnson had been inviting listeners of his podcast to pray a rosary for racial reconciliation.
“Finally now, this is the very first time in my life...that a number of Catholics have come together and decided, "We're going to acknowledge that there's a problem and we're going to acknowledge that God is inviting us to be part of the solution,” Johnson said.
“If the disciples of Jesus Christ could come together, then we could be used by God to combat this evil that has just brought about so much damage to the body of Christ, and to men and women made in the image of God in the United States of America, for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years.”
Any effort to combat racism must start in the heart, with prayer, he said.
“Through our prayers— our intentional prayers— through our fasting, through our listening and learning things that we didn't know, and through collaborating with each other, to work together, to bring down and to reform and transform these systems that continue to perpetuate division in the body of Christ."
Johnson said his encouragement toward prayer has garnered positive feedback from people of faith, especially white people, he said, with many realizing “that they could do something— that even though they might not personally have ever said the n-word, or they might not participate in a practice or policy that accommodates white people and alienates black people or brown people, even though they don't participate in that, that they're still responsible to pray against racism.”
Johnson stressed the power of penance and fasting as a way to heal the Body of Christ. Throughout the recent revelations of clerical sexual abuse in the US, Johnson says he has been taking on fasts and sacrifices for the healing of those affected.
He also recommended following black Catholic leaders online, such as Sister Josephine Garrett and Deacon Larry Oney, and also encouraged Catholics to consider making pilgrimages to places like the Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.
Above all, prayer is the key, he reiterated.
“I believe that the Lord has created me for this time, for a time such as this,” Johnson said.
(Story continues below)
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“I'm so excited to finally have allies and other disciples of Jesus Christ walking with me to fight this battle, to bring about healing in the body of Christ and restoration, renewal and racial reconciliation in our country.”
“This is one that we cannot ignore”
Father James Boddie, pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church in Jacksonville, Florida, has been a priest for 42 years.
Christ the King is a very diverse community. In addition to many African Americans— like Father Boddie— there are large numbers of Vietnamese people, Hispanics, families from Haiti, from Africa, and many white parishioners as well.
Like Father Johnson, Father Boddie’s first reaction upon seeing the video of George Floyd’s death was horror, and an immediate desire to pray.
“I went immediately into prayer for Mr. George Floyd, for his family and for the police department,” Father Boddie told CNA.