“I may not be here if it wasn’t for Dan Berrigan,” said journalist Jeremy Scahill , the outstanding journalist who peeled back the layers on the US mercenaries in Blackwater and has used his skills to uncover the lies and deceit at the heart of the American empire .His other books are The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield
Scahill’s story is instructive. his parents grew up on the south side of Chicago both were nurses. His father, an only son of irish immigrants was on his way to be a priest studying theology when the Vietnam war became front and centre in the USA. It was at this time that three moral giants arose within Catholicism, prophets who made the gospel tangible and the prophetic dynamite it was meant to be. They were Dorothy Day, the legendary founder of the Catholic Worker who made the radical link between war and poverty; Thomas Merton the activist Trappist monk who preached a radical pacifism in his voluminous correspondence with Catholic movers and shakers meeting during Vatican ll, one of whom was Canada’s cardinal George Flahiff. The third turned out to be Fr.Dan Berrigan,sj . The latter got his cue to come on stage from both Day and Merton.
Scahill’s ffather heard Dan Berrigan give a talk, a voice of New Testament sanity mid the war making clamor of the time. The Scahills moved to New York and became part of the Catholic Worker family. Young Jeremy born in 1974 grew up, grounded in resistance to war making and, like thousands was transfixed by two priests, Dan and Phil Berrigan hauled off to jail after burning draft card records in a Baltimore suburb on May 17,1968.
The gospel joy of the resister.
In the mid 90s Scahill ended up at Jonah House with Phil Berrigan and his extraordinary wife, war resister, Liz McAlister. Talk about “an alternative education.”
Again, here’s the message, crafted so well by Norman Alcock yesterday. We all need cues, invitations to come into history and play our part. Rabbi Heschel says “By whatever we do, by every act we carry out, we either advance or obstruct the drama of redemption.We either reduce or enhance the power of evil.”
Nobody arrives without an invitation. Parents of course are the prime motivators but there are always others. Sometimes the calls are subtle, often below our threshold of understanding. The most powerful are those best expressed by the great philosopher Martin Buber, “All real living is meeting.” Significant people show up in our lives– a teacher, a friend, a significant other. Sometimes the invitation is more direct like, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” Most times however the cues are less direct.Too often the most powerful invitations are from the capitalist culture of excess—to have rather than to be, to own, accumulate, have power, perennial seductions we need to resist. Merton’s advice resonates here: ”You’re not going to survive America unless you are faithful to your discipline and tradition.”
All of us can say about somebody, “I would not be here if it were not for…” For Jeremy Scahill it was Dan Berrigan
Gratitude for those who showed up in our lives, who showed us the way.