Dan Berrigan offered me a path

I was 20 in 1962 when Thomas Merton brought his visitor, Daniel Berrigan,  over to the Loretto motherhouse to speak to the novices. I don't remember what he said to the hundred or so gathered in our auditorium one morning, but six of us were selected to have a poetry seminar with Fr. Berrigan in the front parlor the next hour.

Berrigan was 40, lean, dark and very handsome to me, who hadn't seen any men under 60 but my father and the motherhouse farmhands for a couple of years. But more important than his looks, he was on fire with zeal for the poor. He didn't talk about poetry at all. He talked about his life on the edge of Harlem and how he and a couple of his brothers drove a truck through the neighborhood every week picking up garbage because city services were nonexistent.

I formed that phrase, on fire with zeal for the poor, while I sat there looking and listening. I had never imagined, much less met the like. That morning Berrigan opened a path for me. Religious could live with the poor, stand in solidarity, act on behalf of justice.

NCR-Podcast-logo_web.jpgListen to the latest episode of the NCR podcast.

I don't remember any more about that meeting than what I just told you, except that, as a good novice, I felt guilty that we had not talked at all about poetry, even as I was inspired myself to burn with zeal for the poor. And it was a dozen years before I picketed and got arrested on behalf of farmworkers and then moved into a Catholic Worker house. But it was Dan Berrigan who first showed me the way.

Support independent reporting on important issues.

 One family graphic_2016_250x103.jpg

Advertisement

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.

 

300x80-lighthope-web-ad.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

June 16-29, 2017

NCR_6-16.jpg