Jesuit Father Dan Berrigan turns 81 today. A poet and prolific writer, Fr. Dan has been a prophetic voice in the United States for many years. His poetic readings of the bible are an inspiration.
I met him several times and cherish my copy of his book on the psalms, Uncommon Prayer, which he autographed many years ago at a retreat of his that I attended, “to the happy philosopher.”
He was so outspoken about the Viet Nam war that he was sent to Latin America. He spent time in jail for his acts of civil disobedience – including burning draft board files with napalm and hammering on planes.
Some “prophets” are grating, full of themselves and their cause. But I found Fr. Dan gentle, even as his words are sharp and disturbing. I think part of this is because he’s a poet.
A few years ago I ran cross this quotation of his. I used to do a lot of baking – it’s harder to do it here in Honduras – and so I found the words consoling and challenging:
Sometime in your life,
hope that you might see one starved man,
the look on his face when the bread finally arrives.
Hope that you might have baked it or bought it or even kneaded it yourself.
For that look on his face,
for your meeting his eyes across a piece of bread,
you might be willing to lose a lot,
or suffer a lot
or die a little.