Dan told me that for 10 years after Merton had died he could not speak about Merton. People would ask him to say or write something about his friendship with Merton, but the words were just not there. And then, suddenly, after 10 years, the grief was lifted.
In September 1979, eleven years after Merton’s death, the Thomas Merton Center for Creative Exchange opened in Denver Colorado. Sr. Mary Luke Tobin, (Merton’s life long friend and neighbor from the nearby Sisters of Loretto Motherhouse in Ky.) invited Dan to give the address. This was the first time that Dan had spoken publicly about Merton since his death.
Referring to his friend as “this extraordinary spirit, Thomas Merton,” Berrigan used Merton’s Cold War Letters to illustrate his urgently prophetic voice speaking against the buildup of nuclear weapons. Berrigan talked about Merton’s contemplative work in the world, a work that impelled him to continue to criticize militarism and to criticize the Church’s silence on crucial issues. Insisting that the true contemplative must be aware of what is happening to people “in the world”, Merton saw the monastery as a bridge to that world.
In his own poetic way, Berrigan described the balance required of a contemplative in today’s world:
"The life of the believing human being is a sort of high wire act in which one goes forward unsteadily, but goes forward, trying out a balance which can only be sustained if life is in movement; a balance between life within and life without; a balance between looking within and measuring the danger and the height from the ground; a balance between the distance to be covered and the distance covered, and going on. Somewhere on that high wire, Merton found his own sanity and recommended it to us.”