HAPPY PENTECOST! Today we celebrate receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit who first came upon us when we were baptized. The Spirit continues to be poured upon us. Think of this gift not as a sporadic event that happens only at specific moments, but as a continual action such as breathing. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit include: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel (right judgment), Fortitude (courage), Knowledge, Piety (reverence) and Wonder and Awe (Fear of the Lord.) Which of these seem to come natural to you? Which one do you need to be more open to? Pray about this during the week.
On Saturday, April 30th, the Jesuit priest, poet, peace activist, professor, writer, hospice chaplain, and Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, entered eternal life. He is often remembered for civil disobedience during the Vietnam War era especially taking Selective Service records from the Catonsville, Maryland, draft office and burning them. When criticized for his actions even by other peace activists, Berrigan wrote, “Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children. How many must die before our voices are heard, how many must be tortured, dislocated, starved, maddened? When, at what point, will you say no to this war?”
Berrigan is credited for giving the shortest commencement address on record. His one sentence address to the graduating class of Xavier High School in New York: “Know where you stand and stand there.” When a student asked if faith was primarily located in the heart or the mind, Berrigan colorfully replied, “Faith is neither primarily in one’s head nor in one’s heart. Faith is primarily in one’s posterior.” Here is more from Fr. Berrigan.
“For my part, I believe that the vain, glorious and the violent will not inherit the earth. . . . In pursuance of that faith my friends and I take the hands of the dying in our hands. And some of us travel to the Pentagon, and others live in the Bowery and serve there, and others speak unpopularly and plainly of the fate of the unborn and of convicted criminals. It is all one.”
“Certainly the trouble is not that we do not want peace. We have seen enough war, we are sick of it, unto death. The war has come home like a stalking corpse, tailing its blood, its tears, its losses, its despairs — seeking like an American ghost the soul of America. We want the peace; but most of us do not want to pay the price of peace. We still dream of a peace that has no cost attached. We want peace, but we live content with poverty and injustice and racism, with the murder of prisoners and students, the despair of the poor to whom justice is endlessly denied. We long for peace, but we wish also to keep undisturbed a social fabric of privilege and power that controls the economic misery of two thirds of the world’s people. There is no peace because there are no peacemakers. There are no makers of peace because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war. Because we want the peace with half a heart and will, the war continues, because the waging of war, by its nature, is total – but the waging of peace, by our own cowardice, is partial.”
“Smart bombs, depleted uranium, land mines, rockets and tanks, rather than protect ‘widows and orphans and strangers at the gate’, are designed precisely to create ‘widows and orphans’, to transform strangers into enemies and enemies into corpses.”
“Success is such a weasel word anyway, it’s such a horribly American word, and it’s such a vamp and, I think it’s a death trap.”
“From a religious point of view, nonviolence is not primarily a tactic. It is a way of living and being and expressing the truth of your soul in the world. Tactics come and go. Tactics now work and now do not work. One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible.”
Berrigan wrote over 50 books, some in a style I can only describe as contemporary apocalyptic. For those interested in an accessible collection of his work, I suggest, Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings. My favorite of his works is entitled, Uncommon Prayer: A Book of Psalms. The first entry, based on Psalm 4, is worth the price of the book!
When asked if he would ever stop writing or protesting, Berrigan quipped, “The day after I’m embalmed. That’s when I’ll give up.” Well done, good and faithful servant. May you rest in PEACE.
Fr. Randy Phillips