James Martin, S.J.June 14, 2012

Of course as someone who has written on the Old Testament (particularly the Prophets) Daniel Berrigan, S.J., age 92, the Jesuit priest, poet and peace activist, understands the centrality of the original Ten Commandments.  But thanks to Jim Forest, himself an apostle of social justice, for pointing me to these ten spiritual rules from Father Berrigan's book, Ten Commandments for the Long Haul (1981).  There's a personal interest in this for me, too.  Once, several years ago, I wrote to Dan when I was frustrated about something in the church and was tempted to, as Thomas Merton used to say, "blast off," i.e., speak my mind in not the most sensible way.  In response to an agitated letter, Dan, who had himself known Merton, wrote me to counsel patience, and reminded me that I'm in this "for the long haul."  I think his "Commandments" are useful in the church today.  (Photo also thanks to Jim Forest.)

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 of 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.


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9 years ago
Perfect list to live by for the present time and culture.  Thanks for posting it.
David Pasinski
9 years ago
Sounds like real wisdom to me... Colbert and DiMello and The TaoTe Ching.. with a mix Father Guido Sarducci... and the witness of a good man who's lived it...
Jane P McNally, Ph.D.
9 years ago
I'm reminded of the wise words of support Berrigan gave to Sister Anita and the IHM's back in the 1960's.  He said, ''If you were not in trouble, that would be trouble indeed.''  Perhaps the LCWR needs to recall these wise words.  At 92, bless him, Dan Berrigan continues to support and comfort with his wisdom.  [For those not in trouble, Berrigan's words tend not to comfort, but to distress.]  Ah, the way of a prophet....
Thomas Farrell
9 years ago
Fr. Martin:

I wonder if you have heard of the Jesuit clinical psychologist and spiritual director from India named Anthony de Mello (1931-1987).

A new book by Tony has just come out: REDISCOVERING LIFE: AWAKEN TO REALITY. I just posted a customer review of this book at Amazon.com.

This book consists of the transcript of a retreat that Tony preached in 1984. He was in India speaking via satellite to people at Fordham University in New York City.

I would urge you to read this book because you might find points in it that will help you prepare for the long haul.
Patricia Bergeron
9 years ago
Both DeMello and Merton were in it ''for the long haul,'' a fact proven by the lives they lived. That anyone can deny their commitment is ludicrous.
Anne Chapman
9 years ago
Interesting list - I especially like #4. A bit like the ''serenity prayer.''

Thomas Farrell, thanks for letting us know about Tony De Mello's ''new'' book.  I have already ordered it! Every time I read Awareness (once every few years) it's as if I have never read it before. With time, I ''get'' more and more of it, and continue to learn from it. Awareness was the first of his books that I read - and it hit me like a bolt of lightening.  I have at least half-dozen others on my shelf and I learn from them every time I read them. I would hope that James Martin and EVERY Jesuit has read De Mello - he is one of their own, after all, and one of the greatest spiritual teachers of the last 50 years.  I have seen some of the videos of his retreats and  I wish I owned them to be able to watch them again and again. There are many excerpts from his retreats on youtube though and with patience, it's possible to get through an entire retreat by continuously downloading the next video.
Beth Cioffoletti
9 years ago
Love that photo of Dan!  I've been following Dan since the early 70s (even met him a couple of times ) and am much comforted knowing that he still walks this earth.  
Sara Damewood
9 years ago
What  a delightful, unique list that is!   Thanks for posting this!
Faiza Khan
6 years 4 months ago
As a starter, the many opportunities and individuals you will encounter along the way will overcome you. you can look here
Roger Brown
5 years 1 month ago
I love number ten. I'll never know the exits. Only He does, and will open it when needed!
5 years 1 month ago
Dan was one of the most influential Catholics in my life. I met him through my mother, and had the privilege of working with him in college. Heaven is now in a rage!
john fitzmorris
5 years 1 month ago
In 1988, I had the privilege of taking a course on the Gospel of Mark given by Dan Berrigan. It was a metanoia moment in my life. He managed brilliantly to bring the world of Mark and hence the world of Jesus to life relating it our world in a telling way. He was a truly a transformative and disruptive presence in our imperial world. I rejoice that he is now in the presence of the God he served so well.
James Sullivan
5 years 1 month ago
What a beautiful man-- I'm sure he drove some people crazy- so do I. Any good biographies of DB out there?

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