July 26, 2017 Disclaimer: Please read.
Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.
Bearing the Cross
Posted on May 8, 2016
By Chris Hedges
Square, Story page, 2nd paragraph, mobile
NEW YORK—I arrived early Friday morning, after walking through the rain, at the St. Francis Xavier Church in Greenwich Village for the funeral of the Rev. Daniel Berrigan. I stood, the church nearly empty, at the front of the sanctuary with my hand on the top of Dan’s rosewood casket. It was adorned with a single red carnation and a small plaque that read: “Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan. Born May 9, 1921. Entered S.J. August 14, 1939. Ordained June 21, 1952. Died April 30, 2016.”
The walls of the Romanesque basilica had large murals, by German artist William Lamprecht, of the stations of the cross—Pilate’s condemnation of Jesus, Jesus collapsing under the weight of the cross, Jesus nailed to the cross and crucified. Lamprecht had muted the colors so each successive scene was darker and more ominous than the previous one. A Tiffany stained-glass window, with its glints of light, portrayed the Madonna and child. Over the large sanctuary, with its rows of wooden pews, hung soft, milky-white, bulbous lamps. The blue-veined marble altar, the graceful arches, the Carrera marble floor and the towering organ with its 3,323 pipes gave the moment solemnity and grandeur, although Dan relentlessly challenged the pomp and power of all institutions, including the church.
Dan, like his brother, Philip Berrigan, and his close friends Dorothy Day from the Catholic Worker Movement and Trappist monk Thomas Merton, led a life defined by the Christian call to bear the cross. This is the central call of the Christian life. It is one few Christians achieve. The bearing of the cross, in Christian theology, is counterintuitive. It says that the “the last shall be first, and the first last.” It demands nonviolence. It holds fast to justice. It stands with the oppressed, those who Dan’s friend, the Jesuit priest Ignacio Ellacuria, who was murdered by the death squads in El Salvador, called “the crucified people of history.” It binds adherents to moral law. It calls on them to defy through acts of civil disobedience and noncompliance with state laws, when these laws, as they often do, conflict with God’s law.
Square, Site wide, Desktop
Square, Site wide, Mobile
In her eulogy, Elizabeth McAllister, Dan’s sister-in-law, read the statement Dan wrote for the group, known as the Catonsville Nine:
The 2,000 mourners erupted in a prolonged standing ovation.
Dan—whose 50 books of poetry, essays and Scripture commentaries, as well as his play, “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine,” are as important a contribution as his activism—was the bête noire of senior church officials, including the archbishop of New York, Cardinal Francis Spellman. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who loathed the peace activists, fabricated a case accusing the Berrigan brothers of conspiring to blow up tunnels under federal buildings in Washington, D.C., and kidnap Richard Nixon’s national security adviser, Henry Kissinger.
Dan, who took part in the Freedom Rides and civil rights marches in the South, was in and out of jail all his life. With seven other activists, he illegally entered a General Electric nuclear missile plant in King of Prussia, Pa., in 1980. They poured blood and hammered the fragile cones of Mark-12A warheads. He had been, by the time he died a few days short of his 95th birthday, arrested hundreds of times. This, he said, was the cost of discipleship.
“But what of the price of peace?” he asked in his book “No Bars to Manhood.”
Bearing the cross is not about the pursuit of happiness. It does not embrace the illusion of inevitable human progress. It is not about achieving wealth, celebrity or power. It entails sacrifice. It is about our neighbor. The organs of state security—in Dan’s case, the FBI—monitor and harass you. They amass huge files on your activities. They disrupt your life. And in Friday’s homily, the Rev. Stephen Kelly, evoking laughter, welcomed the FBI agents who had been “assigned here today to validate that it is Daniel Berrigan’s funeral mass so they can complete and perhaps close their files.”
Banner, End of Story, Desktop
Banner, End of Story, Mobile
Watch a selection of Wibbitz videos based on Truthdig stories:
New and Improved Comments
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide