I keep the record as a memento of the time of Vatican 2 and the Vietnam war, the 1960’s and early 70’s. The energies of both of these events were intertwined for me. At the University of Dayton (a Catholic college) we had little group Masses in the lobby of my dormitory that were a far cry from the rigid rituals of my childhood. Daniel Berrigan and his brother Phil, both Jesuit priests, were risking arrest by speaking publicly against an American war. I felt much hope – for my Church and for my country.
In November of 1964, at Merton’s invitation, a religiously mixed group (Catholic and Protestant) arrived at Gethsemani for a meeting on violence and non-violence. The retreat was titled, “Spiritual Roots of Protest”. Among those who came were J.H. Yoder, Jim Forest, A.J. Muste, and Dan and Phil Berrigan, and Elbert Jean (Methodist).
The meeting was helpful in providing Merton with information on what was going on outside the monastery, and providing him with new friends. Merton gave a talk: “The Monastic Protest: The Voice in the Wilderness”, and quoted extensively from Franz Jägerstätter.
Merton was somewhat stunned by the uncanonical Mass that Dan Berrigan said entirely in English in the novitiate chapel, calling it “way out” yet “simple and impressive”. It was the first time he had seen communion given in both species and to both Catholics and Protestants.
A couple of years later (October 1966) Merton would concelebrate again with Dan. He comments in his journal:
Dan Berrigan arrived by surprise Tuesday – I was not expecting him until the end of the week. We concelebrated twice – once in the regular present rite, and today, with a new Mass he found somewhere which is very fine and simple. I don’t know how legal we were. It was a very moving simple English text (Canon and all). I think it was composed by Anglicans and has been used by them. Contrast to the Mass I said for Jacques [Maritain], old style, last week. That was very sober, austere, solemn, intense. This very open, simple, even casual, but very moving and real. Somehow I think the new is really better – and is far from anything we will be permitted here for a long time. I have nothing against the old. (Learning to Love, p. 149)