Ched Myers: 50/500: A Season of Protest and Remembering

by Ched Myers

“[As] we prepare to embrace that great feast of remembering, the “Triduum of Saints”: All Hallow’s Eve, Saints and All Souls Day, or Dia de los Muertos (learn more about the Triduum by reading this blog or linking to this free 2012 BCM webinar).

As I have gotten older this season of the Saints has become my favorite time of year. This morning Elaine and I sat and prayed at our table, pictures of parents and other missed loved ones spread out. We both cried telling stories. Tears always help.

This season is personal, but also political. It reminds us that Movement history matters. A few days ago, on October 27th, we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the “Baltimore Four” action. And today is Reformation Day, which this year marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s famous protest, tacking 95 Theses onto Wittenburg’s door.

Luther was publicly naming what he saw as excesses and apostasies in his Roman Catholic Church (see more here), an action that eventually led to the world-historical changes of the Protestant Reformation, for good and for ill. Later in 1521 when called before Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms, Luther confessed: “My conscience is captive to the Word of God… Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.”

The Baltimore Four witness, while not nearly as famous, was perhaps equally consequential, inaugurating a series of more than 100 subsequent draft board actions across the country between 1967–72. And it was just the second time in U.S. history that a Catholic priest was arrested for civil disobedience—the first being five days earlier, when Phil’s brother Daniel was arrested at the Pentagon in an anti-war protest …”–Ched Myers

Read Ched Myers’ full reflection and support the work of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries.

Fr. Dan Berrigan: ‘Peace I Leave With You’

26142144483_ed8ae3568d_oToday, on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, we celebrate the life of Daniel J. Berrigan, a Jesuit priest of “uncommon conscience,” as William Stringfellow called him. (See my earlier post.)

Heidi and I attended St. Stephens & the Incarnation Episcopal Church today to hear our friend and pastor Linda Kaufman preach. When we made plans to attend, we didn’t know it would be the day after losing Dan. It was the perfect celebration.

It’s in this church that the Holy Week Faith and Resistance retreats, led by Phil Berrigan, Liz McAlister, Art Laffin and others of the East Coast Catholic Worker and Jonah House communities, have been held for decades. Dan Berrigan spent a lot of nights sleeping on the floor in this church basement.

Linda’s sermon drew on the readings for the sixth Sunday of Easter–Revelation 21 and John 14. The political poetry in Revelation was an apt memorial for Dan: Here the wounded lamb is the center of the healing of the nations. And in John 14 Jesus says to his disillusioned and confused disciples: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

The mantle of the Berrigan brothers and the communities and families with them is laid down for us … to take up in community. We cannot be the peace of Christ alone.

A wake, public witness, funeral Mass and celebration of resurrection will be held in New York City on Thursday and Friday, May 5-6.

Wake and funeral arrangements for Father Dan Berrigan
Thursday, May 5:
2-5pm and 7-9pm, Wake
Church of St Francis Xavier
46 W 16th St, New York, NY
Friday, May 6:
7:30am, Peace Witness and March to Xavier (gathering location TBA)
Mass at 10am
Church of St Francis Xavier, 46 W 16th St, New York

Here are bits and pieces of more news about Dan Berrigan’s death (and in us and Christ, his resurrection):

Poet and Prophet: The peacemaking legacy of Daniel Berrigan, SJ (America)

The Life and Death of Dan Berrigan by John Dear

Father Daniel Berrigan, Anti-War Activist & Poet, Dies at 94 (Democracy Now!)

Daniel J. Berrigan, Defiant Priest Who Preached Pacifism, Dies at 94 (New York Times)

Daniel Berrigan, poet, peacemaker, dies at 94 (National Catholic Reporter)

Daniel Berrigan, Activist Jesuit Priest Who Opposed Vietnam War, Dies (NPR)

Born on Iron Range, peace activist and priest Daniel Berrigan dies Minneapolis Star Tribune

Jesuit priest, peace activist Daniel Berrigan dies at 94 (CBS News)

They Might Be Giants: Remembering Jerry Berrigan

Jerry Berrigan, left, and his brother the Rev. Daniel Berrigan with Sister Elizabeth McAlister in 1972. (Credit: UPI)
Jerry Berrigan, left, and his brother the Rev. Daniel Berrigan with Sister Elizabeth McAlister in 1972. (Credit: UPI)

Catholic peace prophet Jerry Berrigan died last week at home in Syracuse, NY. His brother Dan Berrigan is now the last of the six Berrigan brothers that called America to account for its soul. Among them they raised generations peace prophets. Below are excerpts from Jerry’s obituary and a recent profile of him. Thank God for the Berrigans — and all their relations!

Jerry Berrigan, a Catholic peace activist who, like his better known brothers Philip and Daniel, was arrested frequently for protesting the Vietnam War and other conflicts, died on July 26, at his home in Syracuse. He was 95.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Carla Berrigan Pittarelli.

Mr. Berrigan was a quieter counterpart to his brothers, the former Josephite priest Philip and the Jesuit priest and author Daniel. The two of them became international antiwar figures after they participated in the burning of Selective Service draft records in Catonsville, Md., on May 17, 1968. The trial of the Catonsville Nine, as they were known, helped galvanize protesters across the country.

Though he was not among the Catonsville Nine, Mr. Berrigan joined his brothers in other protests, against nuclear proliferation, both wars in Iraq and other causes. He, Daniel and 58 others were arrested in 1973 for disrupting a White House tour by kneeling in prayer on the last day of United States bombing in Cambodia, and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for pouring blood on the floor of the Pentagon in 1979. …

New York Times (By Daniel E. Slotnik, AUG. 2, 2015)

And from the profile:

Jerry Berrigan can offer plenty of first-hand stories about giants.

Dorothy Day, one of the founders of the legendary Catholic Worker movement, was a friend. Day believed in “a revolution of the heart,” in the idea of hospitality and community for those who have the least.

When Day visited Jerry and his wife Carol in Syracuse, she spent a night at their home in the Valley.

Just over 50 years ago, Jerry traveled to Selma for the great march for voting rights, part of a contingent led by the Rev. Charles Brady of Syracuse. By sheer chance, they had an opportunity to meet Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

That was three years before King was shot to death by an assassin. Berrigan said his overwhelming reaction – in a place where he witnessed the essence of raw hatred – was a sense of just how willing King was to put himself at ultimate risk, for a higher cause.

Decades earlier, as a young American soldier during World War II, Jerry had served Mass for Padre Pio in Sicily. Pio was revered among Catholics for bearing the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, and he’d later be canonized as a Catholic saint.

‘Heart! Heart! Heart!’: Jerry Berrigan, at 95, on greatest moment in life of conscience by Sean Kirst (July 25, 2015)

Video: Bill Wylie-Kellermann and the Gospel of Detroit

Pastor Bill Wylie-Kellermann tells his story at The Secret Society Of Twisted Storytellers, Friday, March 21, 2014, at The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, hosted by Satori Shakoor.

Videographer/Editor Don Wellman (https://www.248pencils.com)

Daniel Berrigan: Shadow on the Rock

Shadow on the Rock
by Daniel Berrigan, S.J.

At Hiroshima there’s a museum
and outside that museum there’s a rock,
and on that rock there’s a shadow.
That shadow is all that remains
of the human being who stood there on August 6, 1945
when the nuclear age began.
In the most real sense of the word,
that is the choice before us.
We shall either end war and the nuclear arms race now in this generation,
or we will become Shadows 0n the rock.

Michael Moore: ‘If You Fail to Feed the Hungry, You’ll Have a Hard Time Finding the Pin Code to the Pearly Gates’

capitalism_a_love_storyLGEWho knew that shock-doc film producer Michael Moore was Catholic?

The maker of Roger and Me, Bowling for Columbine, and Sicko, sent a letter this morning promoting his new movie Capitalism: A Love Story that hit theaters last week. Moore’s e-mail is about as much of a “faith testimony” as you’ll get from most Catholics. (We tend to keep our faith on the inside and wear our “works” on the outside. Show, rather than tell.)

Capitalism: A Love Story is Moore’s version of the Pope’s latest encyclical Charity and Truth (read my cliff notes A Love Letter from the Pope), but alot more fun.  Both deal with the most critical question of our day: Is capitalism a sin?

In Bruce Headlam’s New York Times profile of Moore last month, Headlam teased out an interesting take on Moore’s faith-inspired prophetic vision, including Moore’s claim that he got his street-theater sensibilities from radical Catholic prophetic priests Dan and Phil Berrigan.

Headlam wrote:

As much as Mr. Moore sometimes plays a comic-book version of class warrior—Left-Thing vs. the Republic of Fear!—his politics are not grounded in class as much as in Roman Catholicism. Growing up in Michigan, he attended parochial school and intended to go into the seminary, inspired by the priests and nuns who, at least until Pope John Paul II, inherited a long tradition of social justice and activism in the American church. … Along with a moral imperative, Catholicism also gave a method. Mr. Moore idolized the Berrigan brothers, the radical priests who introduced street theater into their activism, for example, mixing their own napalm to burn government draft records. Their actions were a form of political spectacle that, conceptually, is Marxist—workers seizing means of production and all that—and it influenced some of Mr. Moore’s best-remembered stunts.

So, if you weren’t on the list that got a letter from Michael Moore this morning, read on:

Friends,

I’d like to have a word with those of you who call yourselves Christians (Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Bill Maherists, etc. can read along, too, as much of what I have to say, I’m sure, can be applied to your own spiritual/ethical values).

In my new film I speak for the first time in one of my movies about my own spiritual beliefs. I have always believed that one’s religious leanings are deeply personal and should be kept private. After all, we’ve heard enough yammerin’ in the past three decades about how one should “behave,” and I have to say I’m pretty burned out on pieties and platitudes considering we are a violent nation who invades other countries and punishes our own for having the audacity to fall on hard times.

I’m also against any proselytizing; I certainly don’t want you to join anything I belong to. Also, as a Catholic, I have much to say about the Church as an institution, but I’ll leave that for another day (or movie).

Amidst all the Wall Street bad guys and corrupt members of Congress exposed in “Capitalism: A Love Story,” I pose a simple question in the movie: “Is capitalism a sin?” I go on to ask, “Would Jesus be a capitalist?” Would he belong to a hedge fund? Would he sell short? Would he approve of a system that has allowed the richest 1% to have more financial wealth than the 95% under them combined?

I have come to believe that there is no getting around the fact that capitalism is opposite everything that Jesus (and Moses and Mohammed and Buddha) taught. All the great religions are clear about one thing: It is evil to take the majority of the pie and leave what’s left for everyone to fight over. Jesus said that the rich man would have a very hard time getting into heaven. He told us that we had to be our brother’s and sister’s keepers and that the riches that did exist were to be divided fairly. He said that if you failed to house the homeless and feed the hungry, you’d have a hard time finding the pin code to the pearly gates.

I guess that’s bad news for us Americans. Here’s how we define “Blessed Are the Poor”: We now have the highest unemployment rate since 1983. There’s a foreclosure filing once every 7.5 seconds. 14,000 people every day lose their health insurance.

At the same time, Wall Street bankers (“Blessed Are the Wealthy”?) are amassing more and more loot — and they do their best to pay little or no income tax (last year Goldman Sachs’ tax rate was a mere 1%!). Would Jesus approve of this? If not, why do we let such an evil system continue? It doesn’t seem you can call yourself a Capitalist AND a Christian — because you cannot love your money AND love your neighbor when you are denying your neighbor the ability to see a doctor just so you can have a better bottom line.  That’s called “immoral” — and you are committing a sin when you benefit at the expense of others.

When you are in church this morning, please think about this. I am asking you to allow your “better angels” to come forward. And if you are among the millions of Americans who are struggling to make it from week to week, please know that I promise to do what I can to stop this evil — and I hope you’ll join me in not giving up until everyone has a seat at the table.

Thanks for listening. I’m off to Mass in a few hours. I’ll be sure to ask the priest if he thinks J.C. deals in derivatives or credit default swaps. I mean, after all, he must’ve been good at math. How else did he divide up two loaves of bread and five pieces of fish equally amongst 5,000 people? Either he was the first socialist or his disciples were really bad at packing lunch. Or both.

Yours,
Michael Moore

Do You Say to a Sister “Goodbye. Be Healthy”?

paxchristilogoHere’s a shout out to Patrick Mahon for sending me his current post on Health Care and Gospel Values.

Pat blogs for Pax Christi South, a web site for two Pax Christi groups—the Berrigan Peace and Justice Community at St. William Church in Murphy, NC, and its mission, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Hayesville, NC. Pat is a leading nonviolence teacher and retreat leader. He and his wife Joan live in Georgia.

I really like his paraphrase from the epistle of James. Check it out:

The readings for this Sunday offer further thoughts for reflection. Let’s paraphrase James 2:15-16:

If a brother or sister is unable to secure affordable and adequate health care and one of you says to him/her, “Goodbye. Be healthy!” without giving him/her access to health care, what good does that do?

As Christians we always face the struggle of discerning, espousing and working for Christian values. Pope John XXIII made the Christian value explicit when it comes to health care. It is the right of every American. Period! End the debate! Now let’s find out how to make it a reality.

Read Pat Mahon’s whole post here.