NEW YORK CITY -- Daniel Berrigan listens to the joyous throng sing Happy Birthday and then flashes the wry, wide smile that has illuminated nearly four decades of protest in America.
Hard-earned lines crease his famous smile. But it is as bright and radiant as on that day in 1970 when he was led away to jail as one of the Catonsville Nine anti-war "conspirators."
The Rev. Daniel Berrigan, poet-priest of the peace movement, turns 75 on Thursday. His hair is silver-gray and silken under his trademark black cap, his eyes deep-set and shadowed, but still warm and penetrating. He has lost none of the ardor and none of the wit that has made the Berrigan name -- his and his brother Philip's -- synonymous with the movement for peace and justice since the Vietnam War.
More than 800 people packed a church hall in lower Manhattan Saturday night to celebrate the man they know as a loyal brother and uncle -- and now great-uncle -- and a steadfast friend and spiritual leader, mentor, guide and inspiration.
Many came as disciples. Many had demonstrated with him, been arrested with him, served jail time with him.
He gave each the time they needed. He seemed to know them all. They grasped his hands, held him in close, pressed his cheek while they whispered. They came bearing gifts.
Larry Morlan brought lilacs and roses.
"Because I love him," he said, astonished anybody should ask why. He's a 36-year-old diocesan priest from Bloomington, Ill.
Everybody calls Father Berrigan Dan or, slightly less often, Daniel.
"Dan shows us how to be honest and faithful to the Gospel," the young priest said. "And that's a hard thing."
Dan's birthday party brought together the plain people of the movement and what somebody called the "superstars of social consciousness of the 1960s."
Pete Seeger, the doyen of protest singers, 77 years old only last week, bald head fringed with gray, thin as a Hudson River reed, swung onstage with banjo, guitar and flute.
He sang once again "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" And once again everyone sang along, including Dan Berrigan.
A sweet nostalgia for the days of camaraderie and certainty of the peace rallies spread through the hall like the remembrance of youth and brave times a long time passing.
"It's like a movement hoedown," said Philip Berrigan, who lives at the Jonah House community in Baltimore.
Or perhaps it's more a church supper for the radical peace movement. The food was very good, from lox on pumpernickel to grilled chicken and ziti. Along with his other attributes, Dan Berrigan is a fine gourmet cook.
Although younger than Daniel, Philip is believed to have radicalized his brother when he poured blood on Baltimore draft board files in October 1967.
He joined Daniel and seven other anti-war protesters in burning draft board files at Catonsville May 17, 1968. Philip has been as unwavering as Daniel in the fight for peace and against injustice. He's awaiting trial on at least two protest actions now.
His wife, Elizabeth McAlister, herself a peace activist for more than a quarter century, introduced the speakers as they rose. And though there were many gray heads, stiff backs and Pete Seeger fans at Berrigan's party, there were perhaps as many young people.
Some even boogied with Stevie D and the Way of Emmaus when the funk band played. Daniel Berrigan has a wide circle of friends, indeed. Emmaus House is a homeless refuge.
Listening to Stevie D was Anthony Fromhart, a California psychotherapist who is Berrigan's cousin, and who held his 5-year-old son.
"I named him after Daniel," he said. "Why? Oh, I love him."
Little Daniel is a sweet blond boy chewing on his father's ear.
Head-to-head for intense conversation were Allen Ginsberg, the
aging Beatnik poet, and Howard Zinn, the historian who flew to Hanoi with Father Berrigan in 1968.
Ginsberg, professorial in a Salvation Army jacket and high-water trousers, dedicated his poem "New Verses For Amazing Grace" to Dan Berrigan "and his friends who are working with the hopeless."
Father Berrigan for many years has ministered to the sick and dying at cancer and AIDS hospices. He prays with the living and anoints the dead.
Ginsberg sang in a sweet, cracked chanting voice: "I dreamt I dwelt in a homeless place where I was lost alone "
Dan's old friends in the audience included the 81-year-old Dave Dellinger, the lifelong pacifist tried with the Chicago Seven after the demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic convention
Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971. . .
And Ben Cohen, of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, who used Dan Berrigan in an ad a couple of years ago, eating mocha fudge.
Everybody at the party got Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Berrigan's appearance fee was a lifetime supply.
Jim Wallis, who edits the Washington-based Sojourner magazine, said the Berrigans were the first Christians he found who opposed the Vietnam War.
"Just knowing that name kept alive the hope in me there was some possibility to this thing called faith, kept my heart open."