|The Catonsville Nine, burning draft records, May 17, 1968 (Father Berrigan is third from the right; his brother Philip is the big man in the middle)|
I'm an atheist. And I'm very comfortable with that.
But one of the people I respected most in this world was tireless activist Father Dan Berrigan, who passed away on April 30 at the age of 94.
Some years ago I read the dual biography Disarmed and Dangerous about Father Dan and his brother Philip, who was also a priest and activist. I highly recommend this book. Two finer men you'd be hard pressed to find.
I subsequently exchanged some letters with Father Dan and was always thrilled to hear from him. In one mailing, he sent me a handwritten poem about Philip -- Dan was a much celebrated poet.
I lost contact when Father Dan became too ill to correspond. I can't say I was shocked: he'd lived a long life. But still, it's hard to imagine when you see clips of him, an old man, still getting arrested by the NY cops for peacefully protesting.
Dan and Philip were national news -- BIG news -- when, they were part of what became known as the "Catonsville Nine." To quote a website based on the event:
"On May 17, 1968, nine men and women entered the Selective Service Offices in Catonsville, Maryland, removed several hundred draft records, and burned them with homemade napalm in protest against the war in Vietnam. The nine were arrested and, in a highly publicized trial, sentenced to jail."
Father Dan served 18 months in jail for his part in this protest. That didn't slow him down a bit and the action was a key motivator for the anti-Vietnam War movement.
I could write reams about this very special man, but you get the picture -- and he isn't hard to find on the Net.
For now I'd just like to say farewell and thank you, Father Dan. You will be missed. We desperately need humble and courageous people like you right now.
|Father Dan Berrigan (1921-2016) -- A man of conscience to the end|