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Life-size cut-outs of Jerry Berrigan arrayed to blockade at Hancock airbase in upstate New York on Jan. 28, 2016.
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Fr. Daniel Berrigan's funeral was being live-streamed Friday, as I started to write this, which seems only fitting. Dan's witness and writing have been a constantly re-chargeable battery for my moral compass.
Live-streaming (arranged by America magazine) was the next-best thing to being at the funeral in person. And it brought back memories of getting shoe-horned into West Baltimore's St. Peter Claver church in early December 2002 for an equally moving celebration of the life of Dan's younger brother, Fr. Phil Berrigan.
Homilist Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J., who has spent more than a decade in this or that prison for non-violent resistance to war began with some Berrigan-style Irish humor: "Let members of the FBI assigned here today validate that it is Daniel Berrigan's funeral Mass of the Resurrection, so they can complete and perhaps close their files. 'Death has no dominion!' to quote Daniel's friend William Stringfellow."
Kelly then minced no words in calling out "appointed pastors who collude with structures of domination, blessing the bombs."
Tears welled as I watched Catholic Worker friends drop a large banner with the words from Isaiah, "They shall beat their swords into plowshares. Nations shall make war no more," a charge lived into by all three brothers Berrigan -- Jerry, Dan, and Phil.
And I thought back on what I learned decades ago at retreats led by Dan on the prophets Isaiah and Amos.
During the eulogy, Liz McAlister, Phil's widow, quoted from the "apology" Dan wrote for burning draft cards with home-made napalm in Catonsville, Maryland, in May 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War:
"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."
Liz continued to read from the Statement of the Catonsville 9: "The suppression of truth stops here; this war stops here!"(emphasis added by Liz's own prophetic voice.) Not stopping was the loud, un-church-like cheering that rattled the rafters.
So Liz added a vintage Berrigan admonition for those who "seek ways to exempt themselves from responsibility." I had the feeling that the affirming crowd would still be making a din, had not Phil's daughter Frida gently gestured: Please, let my mom finish.
Thanks to the live-streaming, I could discern many of my friends at the still functioning Dorothy Day Catholic Worker houses for men and women in the Bowery. The only folks missing were those doing the daily Martha-work of preparing food for the lunch line. Ringing in my ears was another charge, heard hundreds of times from my Irish grandmother: "Show me your company, and I'll tell you who you are!"
As the daughter of the late Jerry Berrigan, eldest of the three brothers, added her words to the eulogy, I felt proud to be out on bail, awaiting trial with 11 others of the "Jerry Berrigan Memorial Anti-Drone Brigade" for shutting down the main entrance and exit to Hancock Air Force Base Brigade near Syracuse, New York, on the morning of Jan. 28, 2016. Jerry, who lived in Syracuse, was frequently arrested there for similar protests against drone killings.
"Whatever His Views, He's Harmless"
Following people like Dan, Phil, and Jerry can get you beaten up and thrown in jail, but the benefits are out of this world, so to speak. Watching Dan's funeral, I found myself musing over the words chosen by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's confidant Sidney Blumenthal, reassuring Clinton that she had nothing to fear from the likes of me.
Army veteran and ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern, standing in protest of a speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Feb. 15, 2011.
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