Leave it to Liz McAlister to cap off the funeral of her brother-in-law Dan Berrigan in New York’s St.Francis Xavier church Dan Berrigan sj whom she knew so well.
In a congregation like this there was the heartfelt acknowledgment that Liz was the equal partner of her more famous husband Philip who died Dec.6.2002.
She gave an incredible eulogy surrounded by Berrigan children, those of Phil and Liz and Jerry and Carole Berrigan.
She began with what has become a classic of resistance literature, Dan’s rationale for the burning of the draft card records at the height of the Vietnam War. Nine Catholics including Daniel and his brother Phillip entered a draft board in Catonsville, Md. and removed draft files of those who were about to be sent to Viet Nam. They took these files outside and burned them with home-made napalm, a weapon commonly used on the Vietnamese.
Our apologies good friends for the fracture of good order the burning of paper instead of children the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house.
We could not so help us God do otherwise
For we are sick at heart our hearts
give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children and for thinking of that other Child of whom
the poet Luke speaks
Luke’s gospel introduces us another child (Jesus) “born to make trouble and to die for it.”
Berrigan like many deeply understood the sickness which still engulfs America, a bloated nation become empire, whose military budget genuflects to the god of war and not human flourishing. The United States still maintains nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad costing between 85 to $100 billion yearly.
The murderous havoc visited upon Vietnam (over 1 million civilians killed ,many more maimed and an ecology in tatters resulted in untold misery at home with more suicides of returning vets than soldiers killed in combat.
Berrigan and the other 8 Catholics were among the first of our tribe to break with an empire run amok.He named government policy as
a massive institutionalized disorder
We say: Killing is disorder
life and gentleness and community and unselfishness
is the only order we recognize
Dan’s question still rings out:
How many indeed must die
before our voices are heard
how many must be tortured dislocated
How long must the world’s resources
be raped in the service of legalized murder? When at what point will you say no to this war?
We have chosen to say
with the gift of our liberty
if necessary our lives:
the violence stops here
the death stops here
the suppression of the truth stops here
this war stops here
Daniel the prophet like his favourite biblical prophet turned his judgment on a church become silent in face of such human suffering
They embrace their society with all their heart
and abandon the cross
The times are inexpressibly evil
Christians pay conscious indeed religious tribute
to Caesar and Mars
As always unto our own age, despite the rule of institutional silence, fear and the substitution of charity for justice
And yet and yet the times are inexhaustibly good
Because there is always a strong minority
solaced by the courage and hope of many
The truth rules Christ is not forsaken
In a time of death some men
the resisters those who work hardily for social change
those who preach and embrace the truth
such men overcome death
their lives are bathed in the light of the resurrection
the truth has set them free
In the jaws of death
they proclaim their love of the brethren
We think of such men
in the world in our nation in the churches
and the stone in our breast is dissolved
we take heart once more.
This poem should be studied in every Catholic school where crucifixes continue to hang.