The wisdom of Fr. Daniel Berrigan


By Dan Ebener


Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan recently celebrated his 93rd birthday. Still active in peacemaking efforts after all these years, the 1993 Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award recipient shared his 10 commandments for the long haul. Here is a look at some of his wisdom.

1) Call on Jesus when all else fails. Call on him when all else succeeds (except that never happens).

2) Don’t be afraid to be afraid or appalled to be appalled. How do you think the trees feel these days, or the whales, or, for that matter, most humans?


3) Keep your soul to yourself. Soul is a possession worth paying for, they’re growing rarer. Learn from monks, they have secrets worth knowing.

4) About practically everything in the world, there’s nothing you can do. This is Socratic wisdom. However, about a few things you can do something. Do it, with a good heart.

5) On a long drive, there’s bound to be a dull stretch or two. Don’t go anywhere with someone who expects you to be interesting all the time. And don’t be hard on your fellow travelers. Try to smile after a coffee stop.

6) Practically no one has the stomach to love you, if you don’t love yourself. They just endure. So do you.

7) About healing: The Gospels tell us that this was Jesus’ specialty and he was heard to say: “Take up your couch and walk!”

8) When traveling on an airplane, watch the movie, but don’t use the earphones. Then you’ll be able to see what’s going on, but not understand what’s happening, and so you’ll feel right at home, little different then you do on the ground.

9) Know that sometimes the only writing material you have is your own blood.

10) Start with the impossible. Proceed calmly towards the improbable. No worry, there are at least five exits.

Some might say it took Daniel 93 years to compile such wisdom. We should all be obliged that he shared it.

(Dan Ebener is director of Stewardship and Parish Planning for the Diocese of Davenport, assistant professor of the College of Business for Master of Organizational Leadership at St. Ambrose University in Davenport and a published author.)

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