An Unbound Spirit

JESUIT FATHER DANIEL BERRIGANBy Bill Wylie-Kellermann. A review of Jim Forest’s At Play in the Lion’s Den: A Biography and Spiritual Memoir of Daniel Berrigan (Orbis books 2017). A shorter version of this was published in the November 2018 issue of Sojourners Magazine.

When Fa. Daniel Berrigan and his brother Philip, along with AJ Muste, John Howard Yoder, and a handful of budding Catholic radicals gathered in 1964 with Thomas Merton at Gethsemani Abbey for a retreat concerning the Spiritual Roots of Protest, the intercessions of that meeting, I am convinced, not only seeded a movement, but fell upon me, summoning my vocation.

Four years later when the Berrigan brothers with seven others entered the draft board in Catonsville, MD, removed the 1A files (of those eligible for sending to the Vietnam War) and burned them with homemade napalm, those ashes too would eventually anoint my life and pastoral calling. Daniel turned that action toward liturgy, toward poetry. He edited the transcript of their conviction in Federal Court into a play of international repute, refused induction into the prison system, and went notoriously underground for four months writing and speaking from the “most wanted list,” before being captured by the FBI at the Block Island home of his friend William Stringfellow. When he was released after two years in the Federal system, Berrigan came to New York City and taught a course on the Apocalypse of St. John when I was a student at Union Seminary. Full disclosure: Dan Berrigan became to me not merely teacher, but mentor and friend. Continue reading

Sing about it until it can be realised

IMG_0655.JPGBy Talitha Fraser

“Sing about it until it can be realised” said Ched Myers at the Kinsler Institute, a call to write, play and sing the songs of freedom until freedom is won . This is not a new idea, we sing in the tradition of so many justice movements: civil rights, suffragettes, apartheid, slavery… What songs are we singing that are calling us forward and giving us courage along the way – in this place, at this time, in this context? Continue reading

Sermon: “Preceding the Dawn”

dawn.jpgBy Bill Wylie-Kellermann, Easter Vigil, April 16, 2017
– St. Peter’s Episcopal and Detroit Catholic Worker

Matthew 281-10

Dan Berrigan, now of blessed memory, who crossed over to the ancestors and saints a year ago this month, has since been repeatedly quoted as saying, “If you want to follow Jesus, you better look good on wood.” Theology in a quip. He also said, though less famously, “It all started with the Resurrection…If only we would have stayed put!”

I love the particulars, the details of Matthew’s story of how Jesus refused to stay put – and more often than not, God is in the details. Let me mention a few unique to Matthew’s Gospel. Continue reading

Missives of Love and Conscience

book reviewBy Bill Wylie-Kellermann, written for On the Edge, A Detroit Catholic Worker paper

The Berrigan Letters: Personal Correspondence Between Daniel and Phillip Berrigan , arrived here by post unbidden from Orbis, just days before the news of Daniel’s death in NYC (+April 30, 2016+). I carried it east to the wake and funeral. It was soaked with rain in my pack during the procession from Mary House (NY CW) to the church.  Its stiff warp and wrinkle is a sweet remembrance.

The publication was initiated by Dan himself with such events on the horizon.  It is a gift, even if one that suffers from the haste of getting it into his frail and failing hands. Continue reading

Remembering his Uncle

jerryDaniel Berrigan Memorial
September 30, 2016
St. Thomas More Parish, Kalamazoo
Jerry Berrigan

It is wonderful to be with you all on this last evening of September.  I need to begin by expressing my gratitude, deep beyond words, for this circle and each individual within it and for many more who couldn’t be here tonight.  You are my community and my family, your lives and the friendships we share undergird everything we do at Peace House and not only make our work possible but make our lives rich beyond any measure.  Thank you, for everything.  Continue reading