Thursday, July 2, 2009

the roots of dissent

Fr. Dan Berrigan, age 88, at his New York apartment 2009

The following is excerpted from an article in this week's America magazine, "Looking back in Gratitude - a conversation with Daniel Berrigan", by George M. Anderson:


In the 1960s, Dan Berrigan came to know Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and writer at Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky. On being asked how the initial meeting with Thomas Merton came about, Dan explained that it took place in the early 1960s. “I was teaching at LeMoyne College in New York State. Merton had written an article in The Catholic Worker newspaper about what he saw as the imminent likelihood of nuclear war. I was appalled by the article,” he said, “and I wrote to thank him for the piece but also to say it was hard to accept his version of what was taking place in regard to the nuclear threat. Merton wrote back and said, ‘Come down and we’ll talk about it.’”

“I did go down to the Trappist monastery in Kentucky, and was taken both by his temperament and by his spiritual view of the world. The chemistry was good and our friendship got underway. After that first visit, we had the idea of getting together with some friends there. He didn’t use the word resistance, which was not yet in the vocabulary of people who opposed the Vietnam War. He used a phrase like the roots of dissent. He invited 15 people from various denominations and backgrounds for a long weekend, which proved to be very fruitful. All the ones who attended ended up either in jail or dead.”

Merton, who was also writing about peace, persuaded James Fox, O.C.S.O., the abbot, to invite Berrigan to give an annual address to the community; Berrigan did so from 1960 until Merton’s death in 1968. ..."

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