How To Go “All In” For Peace: No More Velleities!

May 1, 2023

Recently, Frida Berrigan gave her reflection for our Lectures at St. Ignatius series in our church. She engaged the audience with stories of her parents, Phil Berrigan and Elizabeth McAllister, and her childhood years spent at Jonah House with her siblings in Baltimore, MD. She recalled days of “dumpster diving” for fruit and vegetables that were considered not worthy to sell in supermarkets. She recalled how Jonah House, made up of peace activists in the Catholic Worker tradition, became family to each other, and these were the people who took care of her and her siblings if her parents were both in jail at the same time.

Although Frida had quite an unusual childhood, she is thoughtful and soft-spoken and adds humor to her stories. Another important person in her life was her Uncle Dan. Dan Berrigan, S.J., was a poet, peacemaker, anti-war activist, and Jesuit priest. She entitled her lecture, How To Go “All In” For Peace: No More Velleities! She quoted her Uncle Dan, “We have assumed the name of peacemakers, but we have been, by and large, unwilling to pay any significant price. And because we want the peace with half a heart and half a life and will, the war, of course, continues, because the waging of war, by its nature, is total—but the waging of peace, by our own cowardice, is partial. So a whole will and a whole heart and a whole national life bent toward war prevail over the velleities of peace.”

Velleity is the weakest form of volition, a desire that one has no energy or intention to fulfill. Frida urged the audience to go all in. “No more velleities! No more half-tries, no more vague attempts, no more vacillation. All in. All together. The work is clear: Reconnect estranged family members, reweave tattered human connections, restore frayed trust, reforge bonds between people, repair the damage done by decades (no centuries) of war. And do it all on a human scale. And bit by bit, connection by connection, person by person, we are creating new cultures—as Dorothy Day taught us—where it is easier for people to be good.”

 — Jean Santopatre, Pastoral Associate