In Memory of Daniel Berrigan

Daniel Berrigan peace

My mother use to tell me that when it rained it meant great changes were taking place in the universe. She was usually referring to major storms, with rolling, earth-shaking thunder, fire and brimstone lightning, and enough water falling from the sky to send a person looking for Noah’s Ark building instructions. It was from her that I learned to love major storms. I would watch the exploding sky, anxiously expecting that at any moment from the biggest darkest clouds the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—Famine, War,Pestilence, and Death—would come galloping toward me, advancing with sabers drawn, hell-bent for bringing doom on our little home. Somehow we always managed to ride out these great storms without harm to home or person, and even today I love watching the dark clouds roll in, expecting always to see a fire-breathing stallion emerge from one of them, rearing up on his hind legs and whinnying in anger.

It’s been a long life these last few days at Rambling Harbor.It has rained for seven days and seven nights, not earth-shaking rain but a deep sobbing rain of sadness and of loss, no fast-rolling clouds but slow lingering ones deliberate in their movements, like a funeral march, each step a measure cadence repeating gone, gone, gone.

There was a death on April 30 that went largely unnoticed.It was not the death of a rock star nor a music legend. It had no commercial value and was mostly ignored by mainstream media. No one except me and one other person posted anything about it on Facebook, and I posted it twice,stating “I’m posting this again because I refuse to let it go unnoticed.” If my friend had been a rock star, Facebook would be covered with grieving pictures,posters, and songs, and some of those things would have been posted by me. But I never got arrested with a rock star or went on a hunger strike or served time in prison, but I did with Daniel Berrigan. More than that, he was my friend.

I resisted the Vietnam War before meeting Daniel, and my life and sentence was sealed long before I met him. I lived at Jonah House in Baltimore, started by Dan’s brother Phil Berrigan, Elizabeth McAlister, and a few other people. It was my home just before I moved to Boston, and Dan was a regular visitor.

On April 30, Fr. Daniel Berrigan died. Some who did notice his death perhaps tried to ignore it because he challenged everything they try not to see or believe in, which is the outright rolling, earth-shaking thunder,and fire and brimstone lightning call to resist Famine, War, Pestilence, and Death. He was once asked when he would stop. “The day after I’m embalmed,” he said on his 80th birthday in 2001. “That’s when I’ll give it up.”  I don’t believe him.   

 

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