This month would have marked the 95th birthday of Father Daniel Berrigan, an award-winning poet, a courageous witness for nonviolence, and general disturber of the “false peace.” Visiting Dan last month in the Fordham nursing home where he was confined over the last years, I was pleased to present him with a copy of the bound galleys of The Berrigan Letters: Personal Correspondence Between Daniel and Philip Berrigan, edited by Dan Cosacchi and Eric Martin. Alas, with his death on April 30, this book serves as an epitaph to a remarkable life.
Dan and Phil Berrigan were famous, of course, for their part in destroying draft files in 1968 as part of the Catonsville 9 protest against the Vietnam War. That action and their subsequent imprisonment was only one chapter in their tireless work for peace and justice. And that work was rooted in a remarkable personal bond. Over a period of seven decades, they wrote each other almost every week. Their letters reflect not only their common hopes and dreams, but also their intense devotion to one another and unbending faith in the face of great adversity. For all who have shared any part of their journey, this book is an event and a great gift.
Many testimonials have paid tribute to Dan’s priestly and prophetic ministry. I cannot fail to acknowledge my gratitude for his friendship over four decades—marked by countless meals, walks in the park, notes of encouragement and acts of kindness. Above my desk is a “zen poem” he presented for a birthday in 1976. It concludes: “The angel whispered to / my puzzled soul / the further you dig/ into origins, / the deeper deeper / the origins get.”
For a lifetime of extraordinary work and witness, we are extremely grateful, and celebrate now your dies natalis—your birth to eternal life.
Publisher, Orbis Books
Founded in 1970, Orbis Books publishes works that enlighten the mind, nourish the spirit, and challenge the conscience. Orbis seeks to explore the global dimensions of Christian faith and mission, to invite dialogue with diverse cultures and religious traditions, and to serve the cause of reconciliation and peace. orbisbooks.com