The Rev. Joshua Johnson is the youngest priest in the Diocese of Baton Rouge, but that’s not the only thing that sets him apart from his peers. He also has rapping and rhyming skills that he uses to minister to youths — an ability that he believes is beneficial to reaching today’s youth.
Johnson, 27, who works at Christ the King Catholic Church at Louisiana State University, didn’t really dream of being a priest. In fact, he told the Advocate that he didn’t like the Catholic Church during his younger years and that he initially avoided his call to the priesthood.
“I was raised Catholic, but I just never liked the Catholic Church growing up. I thought it was boring, and I didn’t understand it,” he told the outlet, describing his biggest issue with the theology: the Eucharist. ”I never believed that it was the body and blood of Jesus Christ that the Catholic Church teaches.”
But then something changed.
Johnson recalled being at a retreat the summer before his senior year of high school, where his views on both the Catholic Church and, more specifically, the Eucharist, were forever changed.
“That night in adoration, when the bishop exposed Jesus Christ with the Eucharist, all I could say was it was God’s grace that overcame me,” he told the Advocate. “And looking at the Eucharistic prayer, I knew it was God, that it was Jesus Christ. It was as if I fell in love in an instant. I started crying. I was on my knees worshipping God.”
He said that God told him, “I love you” — a message that he still carries with him today. But he also felt as though he was being compelled to enter the priesthood, a calling he initially ignored. Opting to instead attend college, he now admits that he was “trying to run away from it.”
But he eventually did enter seminary — and the rest is history.
Johnson told the Advocate in detail about his rapping skills, which he uses in his ministry. While he grew up performing for fun, he said he soon found himself using the skill — which doesn’t come without its critics — professionally at conferences and festivals.
“Some people don’t like it and they’ve expressed that to me, but I’m pretty sure all the apostles didn’t appreciate all the other apostles’ gifts,” he said. “I know I got to keep my eyes fixed on God and what God has called me to do. As long as he tells me what he wants me to do as far as sanctification of the people that I’m ministering to, I’m going to do it.”
Johnson said that he’s seen first-hand the impact that his rap has on kids and that he believes that the genre isn’t evil on its own. Considering its cultural role, he believes that it’s essential for faith leaders like him to find relevant ways to connect; rap, he says, is just one of those avenues.