We had burned papers instead of children. That was our crime.
— Rev Daniel Berrigan, Jesuit Priest.
At 94 years of age, Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit Priest has passed away. In 1968, he was a leader of the Catonsville Nine. A group of nine men and women who, in an act of civil disobedience, stole draft records from the Selective Services Office in Catonville, Maryland. Then carefully used napalm to burn them in the parking lot so as not to harm any employees or spectators. While the records burned, they held hands and prayed the Lord’s Prayer. Their goal was to raise awareness against the atrocity of the Vietnam War.
Daniel spent three years in prison for this crime after evading capture for four months at the home of William Stringfellow. And yet, he was not deterred. During this time he wrote that being on the run enabled him “to ponder the joy and hope that arose within him.” And as the authorities moved in to capture him, he wrote that he “felt a new spiritual freedom opening before him” (The Dark Night of Resistance, 2007, pg 6).
Rev Daniel Berrigan has taught me that it is in following the teachings of Jesus — despite the problems it may cause us — a supernatural joy, hope, and freedom will be ours!
But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you.
–Jesus (Matt 5:44).
April describes herself as a Red Letter Christian who writes about scripture and spiritual disciplines. See her latest book, James in the Suburbs: The Disorderly Parable of the Epistle of James. Great for Bible Studies too!