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Friday, December 28, 2012

Berrigan's bread: Theological alchemy

(Photo by Milad Mosapoor)
Peace activist Daniel Berrigan, SJ once wrote these lines:  Sometime in your life, hope that you might see one starved man, the look on his face when the bread finally arrives.  Hope you might have baked it or bought it–or even kneaded it yourself…  He goes on to surmise that if every
theologian were to work part time in a bread line, then his/her words might transmute "like stones into bread."

Berrigan certainly knows whereof he postulates.  A Jesuit priest since 1952 and a theology teacher since 1954, this walker of the talk has more than peeked behind academic fences.  Nevertheless, he has also long sought to grind intellectual stones into flour power for the hungry masses.  One way he has accomplished this is through poetry.  His first book of verse, Time Without Number, was a 1957 Lamont Poetry Selection.

However, Berrigan's living biography has been his greatest work of art.  In between poems, he has managed to alter the dynamics between priests and laypersons, to work tirelessly for the poor, to play key roles within the peace movement, to team up with other members of the Catonsville Nine and the Ploughshares Eight, and to be one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives from 1968 to 1970 (due to his involvement in certain anti-Vietnam War protests).

These days, Berrigan is living within a New York City Jesuit house.  Still actively supporting social justice movements, he is no doubt breaking bread and kneading it as always.  

Copyright December 28, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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