Tribute to Daniel Berrigan

My eyes are flowers for your tomb. T. Merton

My eyes are flowers for your tomb. T. Merton

Daniel Berrigan, priest, poet, protestor, died yesterday at the age of 94. Along with his brother, Phillip, and his sister-in-law, Liz McAllister, Daniel was a stalwart leader in the American peace movement. Liz and his protégé, John Dear, will continue to be prophets of peace and justice.

We had the privilege of attending a retreat led by Dan and Liz in 2007. A portion of Dan’s reflection on the first Servant Song in Isaiah is copied below. A previous retreat with John Dear had opened my heart to the peace and justice message in the Gospels. Dan’s and Liz’s reflections on Isaiah and the servant songs further opened my heart. Most of all, I came away from the retreat knowing that Dan was such a peaceful and gentle man.

Thomas Merton is my anam cara. He was the voice of the American peace movement in the Vietnam era. Within the walls of the Monastery of Our Lady of Gethsemani, Merton spoke for justice in the face of war, violence, and racism. So much so that his Cistercian superiors once silenced his prophetic voice. One of my favorite photographs of Merton is one where he is gathered with Dan and Phil on the monastery grounds to discuss the peace movement.

At one point I was inclined to nominate Dan for the Presidential Medal for Freedom, our nation’s highest award for civilians. I contacted Liz and she said you has better check with Dan. I did. Dan replied and thanked me but said that, if he were selected, he would have to be “on stage with war criminals,” namely government officials waging war.

Dan we will miss you. You were a gentle giant among us. Your legacy will live on in our hearts and actions. I think the recent Vatican conference on peace is the result of the persistent efforts of Dan and many others to open our eyes to Gospel values. Reports indicate that the church maybe abandoning the just war theory, a theory it never followed in practice.

I will now let Dan speak for himself. As he reflects on Isaiah 42. This portion of his retreat talks is vintage Daniel Berrigan.

Let the servant be born, summoned. Let him stand there, speak the truth, face the murderous music.

Thus our text is like a holy manual of instruction on the vocation of the servant, upon whom the spirit of God dwells. ‘Justice. To the nations.’ Announce, so live in hope, “don’t get tired!” (Phil)

Meantime – live in the meantime. So that, here and now, and despite all, in face of opposition and terror, there exists a trace, a hint, a foreshadowing, of that most unlikely, defamed, dreaded realm – justice; the justice of God.

And simultaneously (and justly), – the abolition of the sword. An end to war. And end to playing God, the prevailing crime of the powers. That human institutions would claim life and death power over the living. And in the name of that power, wield the sword, from Babylon to here and now.

No more war, no more incursions, no more invasions. No more armed forces on the prowl, on the ready, on the trigger. No more nukes. No more “nuclear capable” bombers over Iraq, Afghanistan. No more horrible weapons research, and the savage experimentation on flesh and bone of the living. No second Iraqi war. No second Vietnam War.

Which is to say quite simply, no more injustice. Domestically, no more ‘justice system’, mocking true justice, delaying the realm of justice, masking the totalized, imbedded injustice. No more war, nor power to wage war; and all that follows.

erything starts there. The end of warmaking would signal at once the ‘spirit of God’ dwelling in the nations, and the coming of the Realm. No more death. Nor more nukes. Nor more abortion. No more capital punishment. No more Euthanasia. And then the other ‘abolitions’, of no less import. No more hunger and homelessness, rich and poor, expendable and high and mighty.

‘My spirit upon that one’ is thus to be understood as the spirit of life, justice, peacemaking. Practical and to the point; piercing the cover of crime in high places, the denial and caricature and scorn offered to the spirit. Injustice, the hallmark of the nations, the coin of the realm, the flag, the motto, the myth.

hus the justice of God is in a most radical sense, an import to ‘the nations’. And yet, justice is the vocation of the nations. In spite of all, in spite of themselves. They know nothing of it, it withers in their soil. (Should it appear there, in the person of the servant or a community, these must be cut down.

‘The works of the hands’ are entirely other; commonly, idolatrous forms of injustice.

Therefore bring justice, bear the burden, import it. A lonely vocation. A lonely spirit, this spirit of God, most often wandering in desert places, far from the ‘centers’ of power and recognition. A spirit often defamed, derided, dealt with in utmost harshness. As it was in the beginning, in the ‘case’ of Isaiah, slain by one of his own, and later, in the justice systems that seized on servant Jesus.


Christ our PEACE

Twin Brothers in Nicaragua

Twin Brothers in Nicaragua

When I was reading the scriptures in preparation for Eucharist, this passage from Micah jumped out at me:

He shall take his place as shepherd
by the strength of the Lord,
by the majestic name of the Lord, his God;
And they shall dwell securely, for now his greatness
shall reach to the ends of the earth:
he shall be peace. (Micah 5:4)

Eight centuries before the birth of Jesus the Christ, Micah proclaimed peace. The Hebrew word shalom has a richness of meaning that is hard to capture in English—health, wholeness, well-being, Micah is promising us total peace when the Christ reigns. Continue reading

Mockingjay and Advent

Palace at Knossos, Crete Lair of the Minotaur c. J.P. Mahon

Palace at Knossos, Crete
Lair of the Minotaur

Because it had been raining for four consecutive days, we decided to go to the theater and see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 2. More about that in just a bit.

Ours seem like apocalyptic times—Paris, Mali, San Bernardino, more bombings in Syria by more nations and all that is part and parcel of perpetual war. Prior to going, I had read a blurb on the internet. Donald Sutherland, the notorious President Snow, said that the movie was about war and how we are manipulated into war. We know that perpetual war is a reality for us. It is good for the economy—for a few fat cats without consciences who reap the benefits of war. We know that our leaders, in the pockets of the benefactors of war, play the old Roman game of bread and games. We cheer on the men and women who have been duped into the war game at golf tournaments, baseball games, football games and at airport welcomes. We and they are led to believe that they are fighting for our freedom. Then, in turn we are asked to give up our freedoms in exchange for security. Actually our freedom to manipulate other nations and their national resources is the root cause of war. The Middle East is all about oil and securing and controlling the rights to that oil. Continue reading

Reflection First Sunday Advent

winterplatAdvent has arrived. A new church liturgical year begins. We are on the threshold of a Year of Mercy as proclaimed by Pope Francis.

Advent, like the seasons of the natural year, has its own texture. It takes its texture from the season of winter. In the darkness of dreary wintry days, the sun shines fewer hours and does not provide enough heat to ward off wintry chills.

Winter represents a season when we, like many folk s/heroes, plunge into the dark abyss sometimes called hades or hell. Odysseus had to go into the nether world on his return home. Enter the myth of Persephone. Persephone, the daughter of Demeter and Zeus is abducted by Hades, god of the Underworld. She then reigns as the Queen of the Underworld. Hermes rescues her but she must return each year to Hades: Continue reading

Matthew Fox Confessions

Matthew Fox has edited and updated his Confessions ( I appreciate the new book because it brings a lot of things together. Matt reflects his beliefs in original blessing and mysticism.
I have read this and all of Matt’s books over time. I have attended seminars and sessions with Matt where I danced even when I did not want to dance. He introduced me to the concept of original blessings which has prepared me so well for understanding the new cosmology which sees no fall from original grace in the evolutionary cycle. Two years ago Matt was the lead presenter at The Gladdening Light Conference in Winter Park, FL. The final session was the cosmic mass and we did a circle dance at the end. It was a powerful experience. Matt has used the cosmic dance as a vehicle for renewing the liturgy for younger people.
The other important part of confessions Matt dealing with the church. He delineates his struggles which finally led him to becoming a persona non grata in the Roman Church. He became a priest in the Episcopal tradition. I too left the Catholic Church. Having been deeply involved in church renewal efforts, I had an epiphany of sorts. I one day realized that the church was not going to change in my lifetime. There would still be homophobia, patriarchy which denies priesthood to women, and decrees such as the New Missal handed down from on high.
In conclusion, Matt has been one of my mentors along with Thomas Merton, John Dear, and Daniel Berrigan. Matt, keep on keeping on.

The Cosmic Christ Rules

Light in Darkness--Moonrise c. J. Patrick Mahon, 2015

Light in Darkness–Moonrise
c. J. Patrick Mahon, 2015

The liturgical calendar is bringing us to the end of one season and is preparing us for the next season—Advent. Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King which is a rather modern feast (Pius XI in 1925) designed to combat atheistic materialism.

We are not much into kings these days; however, there is a deeper significance to the symbolism of Christ the King. Christ the King armors us with hope for the dark days of Advent-Winter. Continue reading

The Rainbow

RainbowNovember 18 ushered in a very stormy day with high winds, tornados, and torrential rains. We were spared the harshest effects of this weather in Young Harris; however, it was a stormy, dreary day with occasional visits from the sun. I was headed east out of downtown Young Harris when I spotted the largest, most pronounced rainbow I have ever seen. All the colors of the spectrum surrounded by dark black storm clouds. Being a photographer, I said, “I wish I could get a picture of that.” I had forgotten that the camera that you have with you is the best camera. I then pulled off the road to a safe place and took photographs of the rainbow with my IPhone 6s. Later in the day I edited the photo and posted it on Facebook. Continue reading

Hope amid Darkness


STS_119 Launch March 15

STS_119 Launch March 15

As we approach Advent where we delve deep into darkness. The liturgical calendar focuses our attention on the end times. The horrific attack on humanity in Paris last week immerses us in evil, darkness that abounds. We sense that we are living in “end times.”

How we react to end times and dark evil is up to us. The Bible tells us that we have choices–life and death–and enjoins us to choose life. Continue reading

Merton New Seeds of Contemplation

BB1Merton’s Chapter 10, “A Body of Broken Bones,” in New Seeds of Contemplation is very poignant. Here are a few excerpts:

As long as we are not purified by the love of God and transformed into Him in the union of pure sanctity, we will remain apart from one another, opposed to one another, and union among us will be a precarious and painful thing, full of labor and sorrow and without lasting cohesion.
All over the face of the earth the avarice and lust of men breed unceasing divisions among them, and the wounds that tear men from union with one another widen and open out into huge wars. Murder, massacres, revolution, hatred, the slaughter and torture of the bodies and souls of men, the destruction of cities by fire, the starvation of millions, the annihilation of populations and finally the cosmic inhumanity of atomic war: Christ is massacred in His members, torn limb from limb; God is murdered in men.

As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a Body of broken bones. Even saints cannot live with saints on this earth without some anguish, without some pain at the differences that come between them. There are two things which men can do about the pain of disunion with other men. They can love or they can hate.

The root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved. The faith that one is loved by God. That faith that one is loved by God although unworthy—or, rather, irrespective of one’s worth! In the true Christian vision of God’s love, the idea of worthiness loses its significance. Revelation of the mercy of God* makes the whole problem of worthiness something almost laughable: the discovery that worthiness is of no special consequence (since no one could ever, by himself, be strictly worthy to be loved with such a love) is a true liberation of the spirit . And until this discovery is made, until this liberation has been brought about by the divine mercy, man is imprisoned in hate.
IF you want to know what is meant by “God’s will” in man’s life, this is one way to get a good idea of it. “God’s will” is certainly found in anything that is required of us in order that we may be united with one another in love.
For Christianity is not merely a doctrine or a system of beliefs, it is Christ living in us and uniting men to one another in His own Life and unity. “I in them, and Thou, Father , in Me, that they may be made perfect in One…. And the glory which Thou hast given me I have given them, that they may be One as we also are One.” In hoc cognoscent omnes quia mei estis discipuli, si dilectionem habueritis ad invicem. “In this shall all men know that you are my disciples— if you have love one for another.”

  • In the bible, hesed refers to the loving action of God in us as God brings us to new life. Hesed has been translated as mercy, loving kindness and steady love. I like to think of hesed as a verb—God heseds us into life. I believe Merton’s concept of mercy, about which he often writes, captures the full meaning of God’s action in us.