It has been a terrible week, watching and hearing of the devastating news from Fort McMurray, Alberta. A fearsome forest fire. The city of Fort Mc Murray on fire. Homes destroyed. People fleeing for their lives, scant inches from the flames. Heartbreaking moments, many tears and simple awe at the power of this fire. Almost 100,000 people out of their homes. What will these folks do?
Fort McMurray is a famous place, known all over Canada. Much of the possible work force of Newfoundland, PEI, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick works in and around Fort Mac. There are many people from all cross Canada who have gone to work in that area of the nation.
Fort McMurray is also famous because of the ecological and environmental concerns raised about tar sands development. But all that seems academic now in light of the suffering of ordinary working people in that place.
I invite all of us to simply hold the people of Fort McMurray in our prayers. Then I invite you to consider making a donation to the Canadian Red Cross canadianredcross.ca for the Alberta special appeal. Let us not forget our brothers and sisters in such pain right now.
At the beginning of this week, I also learned of the death of Father Daniel Berrigan. He was a Jesuit priest who was very active in opposition to war, and who believed that the church might have something extraordinary to say about this. Berrigan was not popular in the Roman Catholic hierarchy, but his conscience and his faith carried him in such difficult times. Berrigan also wrote many books, especially about prophets such as Daniel Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Daniel Berrigan was 92 years old when he died. A true prophet. A Man of God.
I share below some words about Berrigan written by a friend, Donald Grayston, an Anglican priest, spiritual director, and a Daniel Berrigan disciple.
An opponent of the Vietnam war from its beginning, he traveled to Hanoi in January 1968 with Howard Zinn to receive from the North Vietnamese three American POWs, the first such to be released since the beginning of the American bombing of Vietnam. Later in the same year, with eight fellow activists, he destroyed 378 draft files belonging to the Catonsville, MD, draft board—his group became known as “the Catonsville Nine.” He was sentenced to three years in prison for this, but went into hiding for a time in order to draw attention to the group’s cause. Soon re-arrested, he went to jail until 1972.
Then in 1980, with his brother Philip, and six others (“the Plowshares Eight”), he was a participant in an action in which nuclear warhead nose-cones were damaged, and in which the Eight poured their own blood onto documents and files in the nuclear base in King of Prussia, PA. After ten years of appeals, he and the others were re-sentenced and then paroled. (I shudder to think what would be the punishment if he or anyone else performed such an action today, given the paranoia of the US administration, or, more accurately, of the national security state apparatus which is the effective government of the United States.) Since then, while continuing to protest the war-related actions of his government, he has lived in New York, devoting himself to his poetry, to teaching at Fordham University, and to bearing witness to the truth (cf. John18:37, significantly, from Jesus’ word to Pilate at his trial).
I consider him a prophet (i.e., somebody who sees what he sees and then says what he sees), and worthy to stand in the lineage of the biblical prophets. There is already a prophet Daniel in the Bible, but we can certainly use another one! Ad multos annos, Dan Berrigan, servant of God, friend of Jesus, prophet of peace!
And not to forget, remember your mom this weekend.
Peace, Rev Boyd