Daniel Berrigan, SJ (May 9, 1921 – April 30, 2016)

Rest in peace, Daniel Berrigan, SJ (May 9, 1921 – April 30, 2016)

His words as he and eight co-conspirators stood and burned the draft files that they had just appropriated from the draft board in Catonsville, Maryland:

Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise…..We say: killing is disorder, life and gentleness and community and unselfishness is the only order we recognize. For the sake of that order, we risk our liberty, our good name.

"Which one is free?" FBI agents finally catch up with Berrigan on Block Island.
“Which one is free?” FBI agents finally catch up with Berrigan on Block Island.

Daniel Berrigan’s moral actions provided a defiant moral example to a generation trying to make sense of itself and the world as it came of age during the Vietnam War and the military draft. His four-month evasion of the largest FBI manhunt in history (up until then) was pretty badass too. As the long sixties came to a close and as Reagan rose and the conservative offensive ensued—and it often seemed as if the culture itself had turned against social justice ideals—Daniel Berrigan continued his faithful witness against war and militarism, along with his brother Phil, his sister-in-law Liz MacAllister, among many others. Daniel used his beautiful poetic voice to indict injustice and cruelty, while he himself faced one legal indictment after another for putting his body on the line in acts of peaceful civil disobedience.

Dan and me on Ash Wednesday 1998, protesting President Clinton's plans to bomb Iraq.
Dan and me. Protesting President Clinton’s plans to bomb Iraq. Ash Wednesday 1998.

Almost two decades ago I was arrested for the first time in Manhattan, alongside Daniel Berrigan, Carmen Trotta, and Jeremy Scahill. We were outside of the Israel Consulate protesting the ongoing imprisonment of nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu. This was just another day in the life of Daniel Berrigan, whose faith demanded of him to stand with the oppressed; to stand peacefully but in disruptive defiance of the culpable authorities.

Thank you, Daniel Berrigan, for all that you have given to this world. “Courage, brother, you do not walk alone. We shall walk with you and sing your spirit home.”

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