May is the Month to Amplify Active Nonviolence in the U.S. Catholic Church

Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Sudan

Catholics and others around the U.S. have an opportunity in May to write to their local Catholic bishop to encourage them to teach and preach on active gospel nonviolence. This is part of the global outreach offered by the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative to support the Catholic Church in re-centering Gospel nonviolence in Catholic life and faith.

Social concerns committees, diocesan social justice directors, youth groups, and individuals can host letter-writing events in May at churches, coffee hours, prayer groups, and other key gatherings.

Write the bishop of your diocese in May. (And you don’t have to be Catholic to join in. See bottom of post.)

Instruments of Reconciliation: A National Campaign to Amplify Active Nonviolence in the U.S. Catholic Church

See here for more details, sample letter, and to report your action.

Three suggested dates below in the month of May have been chosen in the United States to ask Catholics and other concerned Christians to share their hope for greater teaching and commitment to active nonviolence with their local bishop and invite him to affirm active nonviolence as the “nucleus of the Christian revolution” by:

1: Sharing and speaking about Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message broadly within their diocese, seminaries, and other ministries

2: Concretely committing to an initiative to scale-up practices of active nonviolence within his diocese.

As Pope Benedict wrote, “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behavior but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution.’”

We want to support our Bishops in their efforts, like Pope Francis, who pledged the assistance of the church in “every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence.”

Some dioceses – such as the Archdiocese of Chicago – are already experimenting with a commitment to a culture of nonviolence and practical steps to greater active nonviolence to address tensions and crime within the diocese. Pope Francis wrote them a letter of encouragement.

May 3 is the anniversary of The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response (1983), the Bishop’s pastoral letter.
May 8 is the birthday for Daniel Berrigan (b. 1921) and Sophie Scholl (b. 1921).
May 20 is the Feast of Austrian conscientious objector and martyr Franz Jagerstatter who was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

See here for more details, sample letter, and to report your action.

Please share.

What if I’m not Catholic and I want to participate? Thank you! The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative welcomes support from all people of good conscience who want to see greater teaching from the Catholic Church on effective and active Gospel nonviolence.

You do not need to be Catholic to ask you local Catholic bishop for greater teaching on this. Search for your Catholic diocese’s web site to find the address of the local Catholic bishop.

April 30: Feast Day of Daniel Berrigan

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Philip and Daniel Berrigan | Jan. 25, 1971

Fr. Dan died a year ago today. Long live the Resurrection!

Below are reflections from last year:

Fr. Daniel J. Berrigan (May 9, 1921 – April 30, 2016): ‘A Priest of Uncommon Conscience’
by Rose Marie Berger

Daniel J. Berrigan–priest, prophet, poet–died today in New York City. He was 94.

In the coming days there will be joyful celebrations of Fr. Dan and gatherings to tell his mighty story. He was one of the great Christian witnesses of our time; a giant of the 20th century in America, along with Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Martin King, Fannie Lour Hamer, and Cesar Chavez.

He leaves an extended family of Berrigans, O’Gradys, and McAlisters, and an even larger community who called him “Uncle Dan.” But now, at last, he is pain-free and dancing with the angels and his beloved co-conspirator, brother Phil, who preceded him in death in 2002.

For me, I will remember a few small things: First, that my father kept above his desk a photo of Dan Berrigan’s arrest in 1968 at a Catonsville (Md) army draft board and recruitment center, where Dan and 8 others poured their own blood and homemade napalm on 378 draft files and burned them in the parking lot. Years later, Dan told me that he’d once been flying on a commercial airline and the pilot overheard his name from the ticket desk. The pilot walked up to Dan and asked if he could shake his hand. “You don’t know me,” he said, “but I owe you my life. My draft record was one of the one’s you burned that day. Because of all the mix up, I was never called up. Thank you for saving my life.”

Daniel Berrigan by Rose Marie Berger
Daniel Berrigan by Rose Marie Berger

Second, that I was able to study Isaiah with him on a Sojourners community retreat in the early 1990s (see photo at right I took on that retreat in rural Maryland). And I heard him read his Advent poetry one year–wild, frightening, unpredictable, incarnate–when he was visiting Dorothy Day house in Washington, D.C. (I also asked him to dance once at his 75th birthday celebration, but his back pained him too much to accept.)

Third, I was able to spend a time at Dan Berrigan’s summer house on Block Island, Rhode Island, given over to him by the radical Episcopalian lawyer and theologian William Stringfellow and his partner Methodist poet Anthony Towne. The tiny house teeters on an eroding cliff over the Atlantic. It’s a place where the primal forces of God are not obscured by human hubris. But it was here that Bill and Anthony “harbored” Dan there when he was a fugitive from the FBI after being convicted of felonies “by reason of the illegal activation of their opposition to the Vietnam war,” said the trial document. Framed on the wall of the house is a calligraphy with an excerpt of Bill and Anthony’s letter in defense of their actions of “harboring a fugitive.”

It says:

A Christian does what he must do as a Christian
Daniel Berrigan is our FRIEND
And is always welcome
in our home
any visit from him is an
honor for us
because he is a priest of
uncommon conscience
he his a citizen of
urgent moral purpose
and he is a human being of
exemplary courage ….

Dan always was one to turn questions upside down. On his own death I suspect his mischievous grin has finally returned: “Death? What death? I’m only just getting started.”[]

Here’s an excerpt from one of the tributes in Sojourners magazine to Dan Berrigan from the 1990s. It’s taken from a court case:

Judge: “Father Berrigan, regardless of the outcome of these hearings, will you promise the court that you will refrain from such acts in the future?”

Dan: “Your honor, it seems to me that you are asking the wrong question.”

Judge: “OK, Father Berrigan, what do you think is the proper question?”

Dan: “Well, your honor, it appears to me that you should ask President Bush if he’ll stop making missiles; and, if he’ll stop making them, then I’ll stop banging on them and you and I can go fishing.”

-From testimony at the Plowshares Eight resentencing, 1990.

For more about Fr. Berrigan, read Looking Back in Gratitude and his own autobiography To Dwell in Peace (1988). And every American should read The Trial of the Catonsville Nine by Daniel Berrigan. It is a classic of American resistance literature.

‘Elijah: Why Are You Here?’

QumranFrom today’s scripture and reflection:

“When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, ‘Elijah, why are you here?'”–1 Kings 19:13

**

“In the book of Exodus, God manifests to all the non-prophets at Mount Sinai as unbearably loud noise. The people are terrified, and beg for God to speak only to Moses; their prophet can then translate what God says into words spoken at a reasonable decibel level.

But in the book of Elijah, when the prophet hears God ask him a question in words—Why are you here, Elijah?—he answers defensively, stuck in a repetitive loop of his own words, his own story about himself. Any further insight from God cannot get through. So God resorts to non-verbal communication.

Elijah hears the windstorm, the earthquake, and the fire. Then he hears God in the “still, small voice,” the faint sound of quietness. But he does not understand.

Does God manifest to us, sometimes, as quietness? Can we understand?”–Melissa Carpenter (see torahsparks.com)

**

“He [Elijah] is bidden to return by the road he came. He is to anoint kings, and in due time appoint a prophet who will succeed him. An epiphany. But no ease, no relief. Something more, something surpassing expectation and effort. As Moses, so Elijah.”–Daniel Berrigan, The Kings and Their Gods

The Vatican conference call for Just Peace theology gave Dan Berrigan a hopeful departure.

13178780_10153734982017424_1318317997219966761_nAt Dan Berrigan’s funeral celebration on Friday, homilist Steve Kelly recalled Dan and Phil Berrigan as as men who lived the Resurrection and challenged religious leaders to know “bomb-blessing has no place in Jesus’ self-giving.” He said that the Church called the Berrigans many things, but now he suggested they should be called “doctors of the church.”

Many are registering the connection between the watershed conference hosted by the Vatican and Pax Christi International last month calling for the church to develop a robust theology and praxis of active gospel nonviolence and the death and resurrection of Dan Berrigan. Below is an excerpt of a great piece by William Slavick in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald on Berrigan and the Nonviolence conference.

Jesus and his followers were peaceful, practiced love of neighbor, and for three centuries rejected violence, choosing martyrdom over engaging in violence.

The link with Constantine’s empire resulted in contradictory loyalties. Many Christians retreated to the desert; most shelved the Sermon on the Mount and served Caesar. Augustine employed Cicero and contemporary philosophy to fashion norms for just war and war conduct, expanded and refined by Aquinas and Spanish scholastics: Force may be necessary for “the tranquility of order.”

Save for large medieval peace marches, the post-Reformation peace churches, and Catholic Worker movement pacifism, Gospel nonviolence disappeared. Just war norms were ignored more often than respected, i.e., the Crusades and World War I. Yet, in 1957 Pope Pius XII said that Catholics could not be conscientious objectors. But many Christians remained uncomfortable killing those they supposedly loved.

Europe’s post-World War II recognition of the futility of war, John XXIII’s challenge of modern warfare, Vatican II’s embrace of primacy of conscience, and wide disapproval of the Vietnam carnage all challenged war as a means of conflict resolution. John Paul II embraced just war but never found one he could approve. Nowadays, wars have deceitful justifications and predominantly civilian casualties.

Dan Berrigan, who burned draft records to protest the Vietnam intervention and engaged in numerous acts of resistance to war leading to jail time and who died Saturday, argued that the Gospel calls us to be faithful, however remote the prospect of results. The U.S. Bishops’ 1985 pastoral, “The Challenge of Peace,” rejected nuclear weapons and legitimized Gospel nonviolence as an alternative theology to just war theory.

Read Slavick’s whole commentary.

Daniel Berrigan: Ten Commandments for the Long Haul

Daniel Berrigan (by Rose Berger)
Daniel Berrigan (by Rose Berger)

I’ve had the joy of reviewing Dan Berrigan’s generative and joyful life this past week. On Friday, I’ll take the 3:00 a.m. train from D.C. to New York to celebrate his resurrection. Below is a list by Dan that has inspired me since I first found it in the mid-1980s.

Daniel Berrigan: Ten Commandments for the Long Haul

1. Call on Jesus when all else fails. Call on Him when all else succeeds (except that never happens).

2. Don’t be afraid to be afraid or appalled to be appalled. How do you think the trees feel these days, or the whales, or, for that matter, most humans?

3. Keep your soul to yourself. Soul is a possession worth paying for, they’re growing rarer. Learn from monks, they have secrets worth knowing.

4. About practically everything in the world, there’s nothing you can do. This is Socratic wisdom. However, about of few things you can do something. Do it, with a good heart.

5. On a long drive, there’s bound to be a dull stretch or two. Don’t go anywhere with someone who expects you to be interesting all the time. And don’t be hard on your fellow travelers. Try to smile after a coffee stop.

6. Practically no one has the stomach to love you, if you don’t love yourself. They just endure. So do you.

7. About healing: The gospels tell us that this was Jesus’ specialty and he was heard to say: “Take up your couch and walk!”

8. When traveling on an airplane, watch the movie, but don’t use the earphones. Then you’ll be able to see what’s going on, but not understand what’s happening, and so you’ll feel right at home, little different then you do on the ground.

9. Know that sometimes the only writing material you have is your own blood.
10. Start with the impossible. Proceed calmly towards the improbable. No worry, there are at least five exits.

Excerpted from Ten Commandments for the Long Haul by Daniel Berrigan, SJ, (Abingdon Press, 1981)

Daniel Berrigan: Ten Commandments for the Long Haul

Daniel Berrigan by Rose Marie Berger
Ten Commandments for the Long Haul

1) Call on Jesus when all else fails. Call on Him when all else succeeds (except that never happens).

2) Don’t be afraid to be afraid or appalled to be appalled. How do you think the trees feel these days, or the whales, or, for that matter, most humans?

3) Keep your soul to yourself. Soul is a possession worth paying for, they’re growing rarer. Learn from monks, they have secrets worth knowing.

4) About practically everything in the world, there’s nothing you can do. This is Socratic wisdom. However, about of few things you can do something. Do it, with a good heart.

5) On a long drive, there’s bound to be a dull stretch or two. Don’t go anywhere with someone who expects you to be interesting all the time. And don’t be hard on your fellow travelers. Try to smile after a coffee stop.

6) Practically no one has the stomach to love you, if you don’t love yourself. They just endure. So do you.

7) About healing: The gospels tell us that this was Jesus’ specialty and he was heard to say: “Take up your couch and walk!”

8) When traveling on an airplane, watch the movie, but don’t use the earphones. Then you’ll be able to see what’s going on, but not understand what’s happening, and so you’ll feel right at home, little different then you do on the ground.

9) Know that sometimes the only writing material you have is your own blood.

10) Start with the impossible. Proceed calmly towards the improbable. No worry, there are at least five exits.

From Ten Commandments for the Long Haul by Daniel Berrigan, SJ

Cesar Vallejo’s “God”

vallejo1While proofing a 1989 article in Sojourners by Daniel Berrigan, I came across this poem by Cesar Vallejo. Berrigan referenced it in relation to Isaiah 49.

Vallejo was a Peruvian poet. He was born in 1892 and published his first collection of poems – Los Heraldos Negros – in 1918. This translation of “Dios” is by Robert Bly.

God
by César Vallejo

I feel that God is traveling
so much in me, with the dusk and the sea.
With him we go along together. It is getting dark.
With him we get dark. All orphans . . .

But I feel God. And it even seems
that he sets aside some good color for me.
He is kind and sad, like those that care for the sick;
he whispers with sweet contempt like a lover’s:
his heart must give him great pain.

Oh, my God, I’ve only just come to you,
today I love so much in this twilight; today
that in the false balance of some breasts
I weigh and weep for a frail Creation.

And you, what do you weep for . . . you, in love
with such an immense and whirling breast. . . .
I consecrate you, God, because you love so much;
because you never smile; because your heart
must all the time give you great pain.