At 90, Father Daniel Berrigan is still turning heads
One of the “actions” I did while at Occupy DC was to hold my banner (made for me by my good friend John Amidon) with a quote by Fr. Daniel Berrigan that reads, “How many must die before our voices are heard, how many must be be tortured, dislocated, starved, maddened? How long must the world's resources be raped in the service of legalized murder? When, at what point, will you say no to this war?”
The quote is from his book, "Night Flight to Hanoi," published in 1968 during the Viet Nam War and 43 years later applies equally shamefully and painfully to the three wars we now find ourselves in.
Like any artist who has an expert command of his medium (and I'm not just talking words here, I include also the depths of the human heart), Fr. Berrigan can cut to the quick, the core (dare I say the truth?) with just a precious few strokes of his pen. To say he has a gift is an understatement.
It turns out that the truth (awful or otherwise) needs very few words to be expressed.
Although as I stood in Freedom Plaza holding the banner I often felt as though I was “preaching to the choir” it being a peace rally and all –- the banner did receive quite a bit of “eye traffic.” I lost count of the number of people who stopped to read it, let alone take a photograph or film it with a video cam. If it was one, it was one hundred, no exaggeration. A few of those without cameras found a paper and pencil and wrote the quote down.
I thought to myself, “You may be 90 years old but you till got it father!”
Even with the banner rolled up and just the name “Daniel Berrigan” showing brought inquiries and I'd have to unroll it and let folks read it.
John Welch of the radio station WSLR – 96.5 was doing a live broadcast from Freedom Plaza on the 6th and used the quote on his show that day.
My friend, Judith Kelly, and I carried the banner in Thursday's march through the streets of Washington to the rally at the National Chamber of Commerce. Vernon Smith, a friend of Judith's, took several photos and was kind enough to send one to me (see photo at top).
Just about everyone asked about Fr. Dan and several were surprised and delighted to know that he was still with us. A couple of folks even took down his address when I offered it. Several shared stories about meeting him at anti-war rallies or hanging out with him when he taught at Cornell.
Professional photojournalist (and former Viet Nam army medic) Mike Hastie took a photo for his portfolio and stopped to chat for a bit about his meeting with Fr. Dan decades ago. His was a beautifully common story of a brief encounter that has stayed with him for a lifetime. A common miracle.
A young man walked by, read the banner and drawled, “Yeah, Berrigan was the real deal man.”
He still is.