Fr. Dan Berrigan, S.J., turns 92 today.
Poet, priest, prophet, scripture commentator, Fr. Dan has been a sign of contradiction in the US church and a thorn in the side of the US empire. Jailed for his involvement in anti-war activities, including the burning of draft files in 1968 and the denting of a bomber with hammers, he is first of all a priest who has sought to live the Gospel without counting the cost.
“”If you want to follow Jesus, you better look good on wood,” he said.
I’ve heard Fr. Dan several times. In the late seventies I went to a retreat he was leading at Kirkridge, Pennsylvania. I had him sign my copy of his book on the Psalms, where he addressed me as “the happy philosopher.”
Where other protestors of war and violence come across as self-righteous, Fr. Dan seems different – open, tranquil, listening. Perhaps it’s because he’s a poet.
There is a meditation he wrote on the poor that recalls the importance not only of sharing our bread with the poor but getting to know the poor, seeing their faces, experiencing with them their joys and sorrows
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.