Reflections on Kirkridge and Building Peace

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Early morning at Kirkridge. Woodpecker is thumping away at a tree – birds chirping. Patches of fog drift across the valley below. Who can sleep?

I listen to the sounds – the trill of frogs. Even the grass seems to sing. Solitude is lost among this nature. I am not usually an early morning person but how can I stay down amongst this turmoil of earth?

So, I sit and listen and reflect.

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In the night lightning and thunder brought the cleansing drops of rain – a wash and a wakening to the land. Drops are clinging to the bottom edges of the branches of the shrubs. Now every being is calling – and it’s loud, the trill, the chirp, the ringing and the thumping – so where is Peace?

We are here to remember someone. He probably will never be called a saint but to some of us he was special. John grieves, and those of us who even had some small touch from this man can understand the grief.

We tell our stories and our remembrances to honor him, that priest who was more than a priest, who was more than protestor, who was more than just a human being. All around the room each has a tale to tell. I don’t have as much as others, but yes, I remember Daniel Berrigan.

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New York – Greenwich Village, a march is forming. We must go. Protest, that is the game we are playing. End the war. End discrimination. The reason for a march doesn’t matter, we are going to be there.

Dressed to the nines, my grey winter coat is fashionable with a small mink collar. I run down the stairs of my five-floor walk-up apartment building and find my group. Ochs is there. He heard the Berrigan brothers were going to do this march. He wants to meet them.

Yes, I tag along, proud to be protesting a war that makes no sense to me. Vietnam. Where is that? Why are we fighting them? I don’t see any Vietnamese person standing in my yard pointing a gun at me. I can’t understand. And now two Catholic priests are legitimizing our cause by marching with us.

The meeting lasts only a few minutes. Ochs and Daniel Berrigan speak to each other. I don’t hear the words but it doesn’t matter. Later Ochs asks me a question, knowing I am Catholic, he Jewish. Are all Catholic priests like that? Not the ones I had at Holy Name, I say! No, this is not the usual order of things in the Catholic that I know.

Suddenly, someone throws eggs on my good grey coat. Eggs, I think, I can wash out. But then red paint comes flying at us. That cannot be removed. And as I stare down at the destruction, a guy in the crowd grabs me by my fine mink collar and shouts in my face, “Communist!”

“I am NOT a communist,” I shout back, “I’m an anarchist!”

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I tell some of this tale to the group in the circle at Kirkridge and everyone laughs.

Later in Brooklyn I tell the tale again to some 25 organizers who regularly come together on Carroll Street in a house owned by a woman whose mother once worked with Dorothy Day. They honor me that evening at a dinner, I know not what for, but am touched. And they laugh too. An anarchist! Yes!

Well, at least there is humor. Without that we would be lost.

We are not lost, even though many have despair, and fear, and anger. So, we sit in our circle and we listen to Daniel recite poetry and John tells of his life. And we reflect and we speak of our fear and our despair and give each other hope, because there is hope. There is always Hope.

Berrigan’s prose is music, his poetry the lyrics to the song. Thus, music becomes our topic and we speak of it and laugh and tell tales about who we knew and who we wished we knew far into the night. In the morning, coffee and meditation.

I read from Berrigan on Kings as the authority of kings is what we are dealing with today just as it was in the days of the Hebrews. Then we pay homage to our God as John holds his hands over the bread and wine with a blessing and we receive Jesus.

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So, it ends.

Clouds hover close to earth, heavy, ponderous. A warning cry erupts high up in the trees with a loud raucous call. Oh bird, who are you?

All are questions.

I have no answers.

I am listening Lord.

Can you tell me nothing?

And so, I weep.

All things are final.

We move on

Searching for Peace.

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