by Daniel Berrigan

Original Language English

I would it were possible to state in so
few words my errand in the world: quite simply
forestalling all inquiry, the oak offers his leaves
largehandedly. And in winter his integral magnificent order
decrees, says solemnly who he is
in the great thrusting limbs that are all finally
one: a return, a permanent riverandsea.

So the rose is its own credential, a certain
unattainable effortless form: wearing its heart
visibly, it gives us heart too: bud, fullness and fall.

-- from Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters), by Daniel Berrigan / Edited by John Dear

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This past Saturday we lost Father Daniel Berrigan. If you're not familiar with who he is, I highly recommend you look him up -- you'll find several excellent memorial articles and repostings of past interviews. Daniel Berrigan was one of those great souls to whom we in the modern era owe so much, alongside other great spiritual figures like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Thich Nhat Hanh, and Dorothy Day, people who put themselves on the line to transform society and awaken a wider compassion in the world. Father Berrigan was one of the early leaders in courageous protest against the Vietnam war and the draft. He worked throughout the Cold War against the proliferation and normalization of nuclear weapons.

He did that thing that makes us most uncomfortable about the Christian pathway: He actually lived it, not just in his head, but on the ground. He rolled up his sleeves and bore his chest as he embraced the poor, spoke up for the vulnerable, and opposed institutional cruelty and violence, done boldly, humbly, amidst the complexities of the modern world and dangers of modern power structures.

I continue to be inspired and challenged and humbled by Father Berrigan. His tireless work for peace and justice and humanity continues to reverberate and benefit us all.

And he was a poet...

In this poem, for example, we are given a couple of images to illustrate how we should understand ourselves and be in the world. In other words, what are our credentials? By what authority and quality do we come into the world and act in the world?

Like the oak tree, we should offer our leaves "largehandedly," giving fully of ourselves and our very nature to the world. And, in winter, in bareness, the essential form that we are comes through. By not holding back our true nature, by being fully ourselves, even when when the world demands all of us, that is when we "return" and recognize that we are part of a grand, harmonious unity, "a permanent riverandsea."

We are our own credentials. Our credentials, our spiritual stamp of approval, is there within us, in our most natural form. Like the rose, we must unfold, be as we are, allowing our innermost heart to become visible, to be seen, to let its beauty be present in the world, bringing healing to the world and to ourselves.

So the rose is its own credential, a certain
unattainable effortless form: wearing its heart
visibly, it gives us heart too: bud, fullness and fall.

Have a beautiful day, with a blossoming heart.

Recommended Books: Daniel Berrigan

Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters) Prayer for the Morning Headlines: On the Sanctity of Life and Death And the Risen Bread: Selected and New Poems 1957-1997 Tulips in the Prison Yard: Selected Poems of Daniel Berrigan Prison Poems: Selected Poems of Daniel Berrigan