STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A breathless hush filled the overflowing room at Mount Manresa Jesuit Retreat House here as Jesuit Fr. Dan Berrigan slowly approached the podium. Organizers and audience seemed painfully conscious there wouldn’t be many more times this 89-year-old Catholic peace icon -- whose life has been punctuated with countless arrests and prison time, and guided by an unyielding commitment to Christian nonviolent resistance -- would appear in a public forum.
Now frail and bent, he carried with him to the front of the room not only more than a solid half century of peace work but also many associations with other peacemakers, including his late brother, Philip, and, on the 30th anniversary of her death, the cofounder of the Catholic Worker movement, Dorothy Day.
The Nov. 29 talk was billed as Berrigan’s reflection on Day. But as with any other Berrigan talk, it would cut to the essence and contain a message for his audience. And what would this peace message on this evening be?