FATHER DANIEL BERRIGAN
May 4, 2016
Sometime in your life, hope that you might see one starved man, the look on his face when the bread finally arrives. Hope that you might have baked it or bought or even kneaded it yourself. For that look on his face, for your meeting his eyes across a piece of bread, you might be willing to lose a lot, or suffer a lot, or die a little, even.
Father Daniel Berrigan, Catholic Priest, passed away Saturday at the age of 94. He had and will continue to have a compelling influence upon my life and bakery…Berrigan.
May God bless Father Daniel Berrigan in Death, for he surely blessed him in Life. Father Berrigan proved—just as Bayard Rustin, Thomas Merton, Fannie Lou Hammer, John Lewis, Dorothy Day, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—that the gospel of Christianity must not be bound by leather and paper. Instead, the gospel is living ink, and we must apply it now, here. A mantra of the 60s was, “If not now, when? If not us, who?” St Luke reminds us that the Kingdom of God exists not within God, but within us, within ourselves. Sinn Fein, the Irish political party, translates from the Gaelic to, “We, Ourselves.” Injustice, oppression, inaccessibility, antagonism—on the supermarket shelves or on the streets—will exist only so long as we tacitly allow them to by our indifference, apathy, and lack of love for God. Because the first lesson of every religion—including Atheism—is self-love. From there the petals bloom as we embrace the remediation of our land, our water, our ecology and educations and prisons and neighbors and farms. But without the fundamental premise taught by Christianity through Jesus—self-love, acceptance, enfranchisement, solidarity, engagement—nothing is possible. And without priests like Father Berrigan, who’s loss has shaken me tremendously, we will continue to find God once a week on Sunday mornings; only when we are in need and demand of others; only when we have gone wrong and need right to be revealed. But that’s not the gospel of Father Berrigan, in life or death. No, resistance is, was: the active, present engagement of the moral and righteous self standing up with universal values, not sitting down with apathetic shame. A principle tenet of nonviolent resistance is that it seeks—we must seek—to defeat injustice, not people. And Father Berrigan taught us through praxis—that gorgeous gangway between thought and expression—that we must preach what we practice. It is not enough to receive the homily or the dogma or the prayer like a lottery ticket. No, the purchase of religion is in its practice. And Father Berrigan taught me, teaches me, that we will never find the materiality in the spiritual, we will never find the soul in the body, we will never find darkness in light, we will never find ugliness in beauty. (Nor will we find Jazz or Heritage at Shell Oil). So we stopped looking. Doubt is mere shadows, or their fear. The newer world we seek will never be born tomorrow if we do not take care today, now. Thank you Father Berrigan for your faith, which was the vulnerability of love beyond belief, of the value of life beyond a binary. You re-invigorated the world’s most radical religion and we will now join hands to hold its mantle. May God bless you, Father Berrigan, for you have blessed us so much.