Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Spirit is Moving! Fr. Daniel Berrigan, Pacifist, Presente!

       By Monica, The Lamb Catholic Worker, Columbus, Ohio.
       The Holy Spirit is blowing in sweeping mountainous strokes within the Catholic Church and in our world with several amazing and awesome (in the true sense of the word) happenings!
       I applaud the Catholic Times here in Columbus for printing the Catholic News Service release of the life and legacy of the famous 94 yr. old Jesuit priest, Reverend Daniel Berrigan, who, more than anything else in his life, adored his Jesuit priesthood of 54 years.  I spoke with him 9 years ago about both a movie screenplay I had written and the Lamb Catholic Worker - and the gentleness and sweetness of his little holy disposition came through the phone!  He said, "Oh God bless you for what you are trying to do!"
       The Tablet, a Catholic online magazine, posted this in Rev. Berrigan's obituary:

"Dan Berrigan died on the feast day of St Catherine of Siena. Like Catherine, he had been a warrior against war. 'We do not see how much harm there is to souls and dishonour to God in war,' Catherine would say. 

Rev. Richard McSorley, S.J. (Monica's mentor) and Rev. Daniel Berrigan, S.J.

         [The above picture was taken by Monica of Rev. Richard McSorley, S.J. and Rev. Daniel Berrigan, S.J. at the Pacem en Terris award given to Berrigan at the Georgetown Center for Peace Studies in the early 1980's].
       These were some of the words of his nieces and nephews at his death:  "Dan taught us that every person is a miracle, every person has a story, every person is worthy of respect...  And we are so aware of all he did and all he was and all he created in almost 95 years of life lived with enthusiasm, commitment, seriousness and almost holy humor."  "The 'heavy burden' of peacemaking will continue among many people,' the family added, saying, 'We can all move forward Dan Berrigan's work for humanity.'"
        With Brother Louis, the famous Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, as his mentor, Dan Berrigan engaged in several acts of civil disobedience that landed him in jail and prison for years, even with arthritis in his spine.  It began with his outrage of children and many innocent Vietnamese civilians in huts and villages being burned alive with napalm during the Vietnam War by U.S. soldiers.  He joined others to break into a government office holding draft files of those having been drafted and forced against their choice, to napalm others in Vietnam.  They pulled out draft files to the parking lot  outside, and napalmed them.


     The following is part of my very favorite poetic writing of Dan, which was part of the Catonsville 9 statement in their defense of burning the draft files of those forced to kill.  This was at a time when the idea of a priest breaking the law and going against law and order seemed a terrible witness to many. The lawlessness was too much to bear. This was part of their (his) reply:

Our apologies, good friends,
for the fracture of good order,
the burning of paper
instead of children, 
the angering of the orderlies
in the front parlor 
of the charnel house. 
We could not, so help us God,
do otherwise.
For we are sick at heart,
our hearts give us no rest
for thinking of the
Land of Burning Children.
And for thinking of that
other Child, of whom
the poet Luke speaks. 
It is in Him that we put
our trust, and in no other.

     Fr. Berrigan went on to confront the evils of creating, investing in ($ multi-billions), manufacturing, and potentially using, again, weapons of mass destruction, or nuclear weapons. He began the "Plowshares" movement based on the Old Testament quote from Isaiah:
 "And they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
            Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
            And never again will they learn war."
       On Sept. 9, 1980, Fr. Berrigan and six other demonstrators were arrested after entering the General Electric missile plant in Pennsylvania, and beating on the nose cones (without the weapons inside), of intercontinental ballistic missiles. They then poured blood over classified defense plans there.  I was at the courthouse outside on sentencing day praying with fellow Catholic Workers for them.  It was quite a sacrifice on their parts, and Fr. Berrigan spent years in prison for it, even with painful arthritis of the spine.
        There have been many other Plowshares actions done around the country against not only weapons of mass destruction, but also exposing the direct link of nuclear energy and power plants to weapons of mass destruction.  The "spent" radioactive rods of the core can be converted into weapons grade plutonium and into weapons of mass destruction against entire cities of innocent people.  Even the term of the man-made element on the Periodic Table, Plutonium, had to be named after the god of hell in ancient Greece, Pluto.  This is used in weapons of mass destruction.  To think that it was not part of God's plan of creation, we brought "hell" to earth with our own hands.
       At Hiroshima, Japan, he wrote the following poem.

Shadow on the Rock

At Hiroshima there’s a museum
and outside that museum there’s a rock,
and on that rock there’s a shadow.
That shadow is all that remains
of the human being who stood there
on August 6, 1945
when the nuclear age began.
In the most real sense of the word,
that is the choice before us.
We shall either end war and the nuclear arms race
now in this generation,
or we will become shadows on the rock. 


Fr. George Zabelka in the middle with white beard, Dad, right.

        Fr. George Zabelka, the military chaplain over Paul Tibbits of Columbus, Ohio who was the main pilot of the "Enola Gay," the plane that dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, had a milestone conversion of heart to Christian nonviolence (of our early Church history of the first 300 years).  At first he was as gung-ho as Paul Tibbits, long after the incineration of so many innocent lives.  It was Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy who helped bring about his change of heart.
      He explained how our earliest most pure roots had been 100% pacifist for a very very long time. He also explained how most of the destruction of lives and cities of Europe in World War I and II was mostly Christians upon Christians - many times Catholics upon Catholics!  He spoke of how Christ taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves (all outside of oneself is one's neighbor) as well as even to love our enemies (!).  It is not possible to love and kill the same person at the same time.  If God can make His sun and rain fall on the good and bad alike (as in Scripture), so great and equal handed is His love for ALL, made in His own image and likeness, then who are we to be above God?
       Once converted, Fr. George Zabelka went on the be an outspoken advocate for Christian nonviolence and nuclear disarmament.  He and my father marched across Ohio together in the early 80's.  
       My father, peace activist Tom Siemer, a Navy veteran, has spent the past 40+ years working tirelessly against weapons of mass destruction and for Christan nonviolence. He had previously spent 23 years working as a defense contractor in the military industrial complex (money-making with war products).  He nearly died of cirrhosis of the liver, and given only a short time to live, from his guilt-ridden alcoholism over his part of the war machine.   He asked God to spare him and promised to dedicate the rest of his life working for peace. 
      The dynamite inventor/maker had the same crisis when he was thought to have died, and his obituary praised how he brought the explosive and destructive power of weapons to such a higher degree.  He spent the rest of his life working for peace as well.  His name was Arthur Nobel.  My father has worked very hard for the past 40+ years to make up for his past.  In fact, I have filled two thick binders with many of the newspaper articles and stories of protests, arrests, marches, and even a documentary centered around him called "Gods of Metal."  
     He was more recently arrested for throwing red paint on the above mentioned "Enola Gay" airplane at the National Air and Space Museum on Washington, D.C.  to symbolize the massive loss of innocent human lives at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.  Fr. McSorley, S.J. had taught him (even though he knew this): "He who chooses the lesser of two evils soon forgets he chose evil in the first place."  There is always a third choice.  Fr. McSorley's most famous quote, on posters across the U.S. in Catholic pacifist circles, has been:  "It's a Sin to Build a Nuclear Weapon."  Dad also made a statement with the following:  "...B-29 bombers were used to firebomb all other cities in Japan, killing over three million Japanese civilians.  To praise the technology of the B-29 [and that of nuclear warheads] is like praising Hitler's poison of the gas chambers."

       My father saw the Enola Gay more recently in an exhibit at the Dulles Airport and the tour guide explained, "And this spot is where a protester broke a glass of red paint to symbolize the massive loss of innocent life that day."  There is hope!  While Dorothy Day did not herself believe in nor participate in civil disobedience involving the harm or destruction of persons or possessions belonging to another ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," and that the end never justifies the means, the means and ends are equally holy), she came to respect people with the mentality who would say, destroy the Nazi files of those Jewish people that they are about to remove from their homes and send off to work (death) camps.  All that was done to Jewish people in Catholic Germany was completely legal, even though inhumane, unethical, and immoral.

       Fr. Daniel Berrigan said in an interview for The Nation in 2008 the following:  "Dorothy Day taught me more than all the theologians."  Bravo to Cardinal Timothy Dolan for stepping up her cause for canonization in his April 19 article on the Archdiocese of New York website!  He wants to press for interviews through the end of this year with those who knew her, attesting to her holiness of life.   
      This was one month after I sent the medical records of my two surgeries with a cover letter to the priest collecting Dorothy Day information stationed at the New York office.  We cannot find another survivor besides myself of anyone who has undergone this dangerous and risky procedure (of donating 59% of my liver to my nephew), requiring a second emergency surgery 3-5 days after, surviving.  I relied on Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin's intercessory prayers.  Because they helped me, hopefully this data will help the canonization process for both of them.
   Below is a picture Abby took of me last summer at the Mayo.  She was my caregiver who was truly put through the ringer day and night!  This was especially so when she had to keep a secret that I was to die, I believed, offering my life for Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin's canonization (coming through someone else) and for the Lamb Catholic Worker  to begin in Columbus.  

              Why is The Lamb Catholic Worker taking so long to begin?  The intercessory prayers of Moses and Abraham have been added to that of Mary, St. Joseph, Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin and many others!  Abraham had to wait approximately 15 more years, in old age, for Sara to conceive after being told he will be the father of many nations and peoples as numerous as the stars.  Moses had it the worst though!  He had to wait 40 years to get to the promised land, through harsh desert conditions involving many deaths, thirst, hunger, serpent bites, fatigue, and most of all, doubt of many around him (and probably of himself at times).  I presume that was hardest of all with decades of time passing.  I would have given up after 3 months in so dreadful of conditions with little provisions.
          What Fr. Schalk always says, to encourage me, is "Persevere!"  What Fr. Denis Kigozi says is, "the Will of God is in the present, is only right in front of you. Looking back at regrets or forward with doubts and fears, this is not the Will of God.  He puts right in your path and in your heart, what you are to do right here and right now." 
          I will say that Benedictine crosses and Benedictine medals, blessed in the proper way with Benedictine prayers and holy water, are powerful!  It is what our Vatican trained exorcists use against the evil one and his followers.  Yes, these principalities truly do exist and the spiritual battle is going on constantly all around us.  We do indeed need tools as channels of God's protection, to keep us from spiritual harm.  St. Benedict tried to bring the level of holiness of higher levels of monasticism to the world and all the powers of hell tried to stop him.  He was given these prayers, this medal and the Benedictine cross for special added protection.  I recommend it!
          Many happenings give hope though!  The fact that Dorothy Day is in the spotlight again, and we may have an answer after the end of this year about her moving forward to "Venerable" from "Servant of God" in the steps of canonization is marvelous.  Also, the fact that it was a unanimous vote to open her cause for canonization of every U.S. Catholic bishop, archbishop, and cardinal in the United States a few years ago shows that the Spirit is moving strong.
        I gave my first talk at St. Mary Magdalene Church on Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement in March, with great encouragement. I have had priests over the years ask me to come and give a talk on her, but I decline because we are not doing it yet. I said yes only to see many faces at my alma mater.

      Moreover, people ask me about the progress all the time, wanting to volunteer once it gets going (a list of about 100 people!).  The fact that our Catholic Times included this article about Fr. Daniel Berrigan gives much hope too!  Many people do not know that Pope Emeritus Benedict talked of Dorothy Day two different times of day in his last day as pope, so badly did he want her name (and cause) remembered into the next papacy.  This did not make it into many Catholic papers.  The Holy Spirit is indeed moving, through the intercessory prayers of Mother Mary, St. Joseph, Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin.
      Another sign of hope: the Spirit has also been moving in the secular world!  At one of the schools I have taught at, during the Winter Concert and to honor Martin Luther King Jr, the Columbus City School children (K-5 grades) belted out at the top of their lungs an anti-war song from the Isaiah quote above.  Some day these songs will be sung at Catholic school functions too!  

Gonna layyy dowwwn my sword and shield,
Down by the riverside,
Down by the riverside,
Down by the riverside.
Gonna layyy dowwwn my sword and shield,
Down by the riverside,
Ain't gonna stuuuuudy warrrr no morrrre.
I ain't gonna study war no more.
I ain't gonna study war no more.
I ain't gonna stuuuudy warrrr noooo morre.
I ain't gonna study war no more.
I ain't gonna study war no more.
I ain't gonna stuuuudy warrrr noooo morre.

     A final note of hope for the world is the Holy Spirit moving strongly through my family, extended family, and especially through the Catholic Church in Columbus!  In 2017 it is the 50 anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and much of this outpouring and outgrowth of faith in younger people's lives stem from their "old time charismatic" parents and grandparents, myself included!  I am 43 years in the Charismatic Movement and it is far from dead!
    Pope Francis was fairly neutral on this movement until he went to a mass where tens of thousands broke into intense, spirit-filled "tongues" at the consecration.  He felt, "Whooaa, there really is something to this!" He has been very supportive.  Just like when the Apostles and Mary in the upper room called out to receive the Holy Spirit, and His swooshing rush came through, so He does again and again and again.  Dorothy Day had even encouraged to become a part of a charismatic group, as Msgr. Marv Mottet, overseeing this Catholic Worker.
     One last example of hope for the world: the holiness of life of many of my nieces and nephews and children (and their friends).  These are people who love to get to daily mass, like Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, who get to Eucharistic Adoration at least once or twice a week, who pray many rosaries each week, have a fair amount of religious reading, pray a lot, and are very helpful to others. Most have gone several times in the summer to a rural poor Appalachian area in Kentucky/Portsmouth, Ohio with the Appalachia Project for a week.  They build room additions for needy families, fix plumbing, paint, even chop wood for the winter.  It is sort of a mini-Peace Corps right here.
     Nine have served for a 10-month stint with NET, the National Evangelization Team, and one additional one with Christ in the City in Denver, being one with the homeless people on the streets at night.  They are excited for the possibility of this Catholic Worker getting started, to help where they can.
     Six high schoolers have contacted the vocations office to become priests from the east side church where my son, Josh, and my niece Abby (my main caregiver at the Mayo) have been youth ministers for a while.  Heidi and Jotham (niece and nephew) have also been youth ministers there.  Abby recently got married (April 15). Her first date with her husband was last year, at a morning daily mass, followed by a rosary at Eucharistic Adoration.  Rumor has it that their first real kiss was on the altar a year later.  Abby and Matt were recently blessed by Pope Francis, their dream of dreams for a honeymoon.  The Holy Spirit is moving!