Friday, June 29, 2007

the daniel berrigan connection (part 2)

Several years ago someone gave me the record album, “America is hard to find”, pictured here. The cellophane is still around the record (though torn), and I have never bothered to open it since I don’t have a record player anymore. The recording is of a rock Mass, with poetry by Daniel Berrigan, held in Ithaca NY from February 27-March 2, 1970.

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)
... to be continued ...


  1. Your posting brings back memories of the Masses the young Jesuits said in our dorms at St. Louis U during the late 60's. The liturgy tended to be experimental there -- the St. Louis Jesuits' music grew out of that experimentation after I left. The Cardinal at one point forbade us from receiving under both species! I recall our College Church being closed for a period and our having Mass outdoors. It was a turbulent time, but one which galvanized us.
    Merton and the Berrigans were an inspiration to us as we marched in protest against the Vietnam War.

  2. Hello. A pesar de no leer bien el inglés siempre reviso lo que escribes y me resulta muy interesante (very interesting). Sobre todo los temas hablan mucho de un Merton comprometido con su tiempo y su mundo, y eso me gusta mucho.

  3. Barbara - you were at St Louie U? My sister and all of my cousins attended SLU in the mid to late 60's. My sister was there from 67-71 and I visited there often. I was a rebel and attended Spring Hill Cge (also Jesuit), later transferred to UDayton and graduated from there.

    Yes, those were turbulent times, but so much positive energy as well. At least it feels so to me in looking back.

    I credit the Jesuits for showing me the deeper treasures of the Catholic faith.

  4. Manuel, gracias para su comentario. Usted es correcto, Merton escribió para su tiempo. Visito su sitio web a menudo. Yo no leí español bien, pero puedo ver que intereso muy también. Beth


From Dorothy Day’s editorial in the Catholic Worker on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.