In Search of Prophets

By MATT HARPER

Prophets are not just people who did good things or who modeled a way of being kind or compassionate. They are people who committed their lives to embodying the vision of God through their values, words, and actions.

From the moment the sacred chrism of baptism kisses our foreheads, Catholics are called to a powerful witness: priest, prophet, and king. This anointing oil welcomes us into the Mystical Body of Christ, but comes with a sacred responsibility.

Despite the unconscionably gendered nature of our Church and the biological hangup so prevalent in our spaces, there is no gendered or biological predisposition towards propheticism. It is not a unique vocation only some are called to. It is a promise we make, a northern star we orient ourselves by, a grace that comes not simply from the Spirit, but from intention, commitment, and practice. To refuse it is to fall short of our holy, ancestral order; to deny it is to doubt the mandate of our Creator.

Prophets are not just people who did good things or who modeled a way of being kind or compassionate. They are people who committed their lives to embodying the vision of God through their values, words, and actions.

From whatever position or social locations we occupy, we are called to be people who recognize the presence of injustice, yes, but more importantly, we are called to be a people so discontented with the current social order that we are compelled to action. We are called to labor unrelentingly to excavate the roots of all injustice, to refuse to tolerate the deception and violence of the world around us, to make it our work both to speak discomforting truths, and to demand a societal conversion. We are called to be holy fools who dream of the greatness we are capable of; to enflesh God’s hopes for our world and for our very lives.

The current state of the world makes it clear that we are not doing enough to honor our baptismal call.

The Catholic Worker movement has produced and celebrated a wide range of prophets and fools over the years. I have long been inspired by the story of a wall Dorothy Day adorned with prophets from a variety of faith traditions (and none) at Maryhouse. From the national to the local level, many names have become common sources of inspiration, reminders of what we are capable of. We imagine you could name a few…

However, this list must not stay static. To seek constant inspiration, to be shaped daily by the insights of others is to open ourselves to the possibility of our own transformation, our own growth, our own in- carnation. Who might be included in your compendium of prophets? Who would adorn your frieze? Regardless of whether we know their names or whether they know the impact they have had on us, let us name those who have inspired and moved us, not to fall into the trappings of idolatry, but because calling things by their rightful name affirms their power and place.

But more than simply recognizing these individuals and communities, we want to learn from them and examine our own practices in light of theirs. We want them to inspire us to become new in such a way that not only impacts how we live our individual lives but also how we join in the needed work to build a new world in the shell of the old. By centering the wisdom, guidance, creativity, and vision of our modern-day prophets, we hope to become purified, like gold tested in fire, and grow our collective capacity to struggle for the world where the dignity of all people is reflected in our structures, values… everywhere. How can we be people our future descendants will look upon with gratitude and for inspiration?

Though this issue hardly honored our hope to name our own panoply of prophets, we offer a few and hope you will help us finish the endeavor. Whose prophetic truths inspire you? How have you sought to model even a small piece of your life after theirs? What can you do to take one more step into the sacred responsibility to speak hard truths; to confront structures of evil that make it harder for people to be good, to survive, to become that which God created them to be? May this be our year of record-breaking prophets and prophetic actions.

Matt Harper is a Los Angeles Catholic Worker community member and co-editor of the Agitator.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.lacatholicworker.org/wp/2022/06/01/in-search-of-prophets/

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