Prophecy found right on your computer screen

by Joshua J. McElwee

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You might not have noticed, but there's a very special piece on the NCR Web site today.

Elizabeth McAlister, co-founder of the Jonah House Community in Baltimore with her late husband Philip Berrigan, reviews a book on the continuation of America's wars under President Obama.

In journalistic parlance, there's no simple one sentence description of McAlister's life. She's a peace activist, a scholar, and, dare I say it, a prophet. Along with her husband and so many others who have devoted entire lives to Gospel nonviolence, she has pushed, shoved, and prodded our church and our society to rethink their ways of violence.

Hers has been a life of intense devotion.

For the past few months, there has been a small piece of paper sitting near my computer monitor.

It's the prayer card that was given out at Philip Berrigan's funeral. On the front is a small image of a smiling Berrigan, a green winter cap sitting just above his ears, looks off in the distance.

On the obverse of the card are his last words, with a note that they were dictated to loved ones as he "lay dying of cancer." It's just a few short paragraphs. From his deathbed, Berrigan outlines his life of witness -- still keeping his fiery focus on the continued existence of nuclear weapons.

"I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself," writes Berrigan.

"Because of myopic leadership, of greed for possessions, a public chained to corporate media, there has been virtually no response to these realities..."

Berrigan's final words end there. The prayer card says that because of failing health he was unable to complete the thought.

There's something mystical in that. Berrigan wasn't able to finish the sentence. But his wife is still writing it, still responding to the ever-violent realities of our times.

It's a great honor to have her thoughts on our site. Go read them. There's a lifetime of witness, of countless hours of pain and prophecy, between the lines.

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