‘Rend Your Hearts’ — A Call to Reparation for the Sin of Racism

Follow and join the Rend Your Hearts campaign by looking up #rendyourhearts on social media.

Young Catholics kneel Tuesday at a prayer vigil for George Floyd outside the San Bartolomeo church on Isola Tiberina island in Rome.
Young Catholics kneel Tuesday at a prayer vigil for George Floyd outside the San Bartolomeo church on Isola Tiberina island in Rome. (photo: Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)

After the outpouring of sorrow over the brutal killing of George Floyd, I saw these words on my computer screen:

We are Catholics, and Catholics of Color, who are exhausted by the continued systemic, institutional, and implicit racism in the United States and at times in our Catholic Church and the effects on the targets of it.

We are broken-hearted for our Black brothers and sisters who for years have been ignored, dismissed, and marginalized by our Country.

We pray for justice for the victims of racism in all its forms, but especially, lethal, and their families and communities. We stand in solidarity with them as Catholic Christians and as Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

We believe in the Catholic Church, founded by Christ, and sustained by the Eucharist.

We are one body in Christ and therefore we have a responsibility to fight against the demonic force of racism.

As such, we invite you to join us in observing a nineteen-day period of prayer and fasting as an act of reparation to God for the sin of racism in all of its forms.

From the Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church, on June 1 through June 19, Juneteenth Day and the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we will pray the Prayer to St. Michael for his protection from spiritual attack, and/ or join our Lady of Sorrows in praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, and will make daily sacrifices appropriate to our own circumstances for this intention.

These words were composed by two Catholics, Karianna Frey and Leticia Ochoa Adams. They named their prayer campaign Rend Your Hearts (#rendyourhearts), referencing Joel 2:12: “‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’” They ask us Catholics to consider joining them in these acts of reparation.

Frey grew up Baptist and converted to Catholicism in 2001. In addition to being a wife and raising her four children, she is a speaker and writer.

Ochoa Adams, also a writer and speaker, and her husband with their seven children (her four and his three) converted to Catholicism in 2010. She is most recently known for her speaking about her son’s suicide at age 19 is now taking on the issue of racism in our country.

I had the opportunity to conduct an interview with both women and want to share their words on how we can do this.

One of the things we discussed was how fighting racism is part of being pro-life. If we truly believe in the value of each individual human person, then we should not tolerate racial injustice of any kind in our hearts nor in others. Frey explained:

[Like] abortion, racism is a sin against a human being and human dignity and since we are ALL made in the image and likeness of God. It's a pretty grave sin. Just like abortion removes the right to life from a human, racism removes the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness by throwing barriers up to progress. It’s really hard to pull yourself up by the bootstraps if someone has taken your boot-making material. Many people view racism through the lens of Jim Crow laws in the South and think that since we no longer have ‘colored’ and ‘white’ drinking fountains, we are post-racial, but racism goes so much more deeply than that. Right now, we are fighting against systemic and institutional racism and that racism is much harder to root out and fight against because it is more deeply hidden and ingrained in our culture.

Ochoa Adams added:

The biggest thing I feel people who are realizing the importance of fighting racism can do is look into their own lives and hearts and speak openly on their biases and what actions they are taking to change them. We should always remember that we are against abortion because we are FOR the dignity of human beings made in the image of God. That’s also why we have to root our racism and biases from our hearts.

When asked how we as pro-life Catholics can work to end racism in our nation and in the world, Frey responded:

We are all called to do something, and spending time in prayer will help you to hear what God wills for you. Some will be called to protest. Some will be called to organize. Some will be called to speak out. Some will be called to creating beautiful pieces of art and song. Some will be called to listen. Some will be called to love their families and teach their kids differently than how they were taught about race relations. We are the Body of Christ and as the Body, we have many parts and roles to play. Listen for your calling.

One of the things we can do is join into the prayer campaign, #rendyourhearts, between now and June 19. The idea for it began with Frey:

I felt a stirring in my heart that the cause of all of this violence and anguish and destruction could only be of the devil and my heart lead me to reach out to Leticia. … We wanted to focus on St. Michael as a powerful intercessor as well as Our Lady of Sorrows as her heart knows the pain that we are feeling. The timing of everything is nothing but Providence. June 1 is the Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church, and we know that as our Mother, she weeps for the pain of all of her children. June 19 this year is especially moving because not only is it the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus … but it is also Juneteenth Day, a day of freedom and remembrance, especially in the black community. On June 19, in 1865, enslaved black Americans were finally notified of their freedom by Union troops in Galveston Bay, Texas — two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. Known as Juneteenth, this day is widely celebrated as the end of chattel slavery in the U.S. Texas was the most remote of the slave states, and the Emancipation Proclamation of Jan. 1, 1863, was not enforced there until after the Confederacy collapsed. Add Juneteenth to the Feast of the Sacred Heart and you have a pretty powerful day to end a prayer and fasting campaign on!

Follow and join the Rend Your Hearts campaign by looking up #rendyourhearts on social media.