Dan Berrigan, S.J. dead at the age of 94 – died Saturday, April 30, 2016. Who was he? Priest, prophet, poet, teacher, author, protestor, mentor . . . Many words have already been written about him; many more will come. For those of you not so familiar with his journey of justice I offer the following youtube (about 8 minutes) www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODE99vSoDsc
In addition, I wish to share two of the experiences I had with him. In the summer of 1974, I was doing research for my master’s thesis (Prophecy of Martin L. King, Jr.) at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. You may recall it was ‘Watergate’ summer. The Library is right across the street from the Capitol. I frequently took my brown bag lunch to sit on the Capitol lawn and watch the Who’s Who passersby – either those testifying before the Ervin committee, journalists or one of the committee members like Sam Ervin. One day there was a crowd in front of the Capital steps. I walked up to see what was happening – Dan Berrigan, among others, was inside a tiger cage being carried around illustrating the treatment given to U.S. POW’s, a violation of human rights, used by the South Vietnamese. We distributed informational brochures and flyers while Berrigan spoke against the atrocity of war. (www.historiansagainstwar.org/resources/torture/luce.html)
In 1979 I spent part of the summer in Malawi, Africa with other Sisters of Charity. It was a monumental time for me. So, upon returning home to the states I felt like I wanted to choose an exceptional retreat experience. A friend of mine told me about Dan Berrigan offering a retreat in Concordia, Kansas. I signed up immediately! When I had my first conference my introductory comment was to say: “I really came to Kansas to ask you a question. What keeps you going?” Dan looked over his glasses, looking at me intently and replied: “The same thing that keeps everyone going.” I waited. . . Then raised another question – “Could you elaborate a bit?!?” He calmly responded – “My faith relationship with Jesus and my good friends.” Following a moving conversation I concluded by remarking “I can go home now.” Needless to say, I stayed!
I conclude with memorable words of Fr. Dan Berrigan which I frequently call to mind. I believe they can apply to all faith filled persons:
“I would like to be a middle of the road Jesuit but the times do not allow for it.”