Daniel Berrigan is a Jesuit priest, poet, and peacemaker, whose words and actions over the past 50 years have offered a powerful witness to the God of Life. Fr. Berrigan, along with his brother Philip, was one of the Catonsville 9, arrested and imprisoned in 1968 for destroying draft files in a protest against the Vietnam War. But this was only one step along a journey ofDaniel Berrigan is a Jesuit priest, poet, and peacemaker, whose words and actions over the past 50 years have offered a powerful witness to the God of Life. Fr. Berrigan, along with his brother Philip, was one of the Catonsville 9, arrested and imprisoned in 1968 for destroying draft files in a protest against the Vietnam War. But this was only one step along a journey of faith. Through this selection from his many books, journals, poems, and homilies, a chronicle of Fr. Berrigans life and work unfolds, from the early steps in his vocation, to his decision to cross the line and go to prison, his ongoing witness for peace, and his extraordinary commentaries on scripture and the life of radical discipleship....
|Title||:||Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings|
|Number of Pages||:||285 Pages|
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Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings Reviews
This book, introduced and edited by John Dear who was mentored by Berrigan, is a wealth of materials of Berrigan’s talks and writings through the years as well as some of his poetry.I am not a big fan of the poetry, although that probably says more about me than about Berrigan's skill as a poet, but I continue to be challenged by Berrigan's narration of his thoughts about peacemaking, thoughts tied in with his extensive non-violent, civil disobedience through the years.Here are just a few of the statements I liked:“The nonviolent person is the one who within normal times can save normal times from their idolatries—neglect of the poor, growing bourgeois selfishness, weapons or war, and the other realities around us” (p. 64). In 1970 Berrigan wrote, “Americans who can bear equably with the sight of burning children are enraged and baffled by the sight of burning draft files” (p. 112). Also, “There is no peace because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war—at least as exigent, at least as disruptive, at least as liable to bring disgrace and prison and death in its wake” (p. 113). In his court testimony in March 1981, Berrigan said, “I have learned that we must not kill if we are Christians. . . . I have read that Christ our Lord underwent death rather than inflict it. And I am supposed to be a disciple” (p. 189). Later: “The only message I have to the world is: We are not allowed to kill innocent people. We are not allowed to be complicit in murder. We are not allowed to be silent while preparations for mass murder proceed in our name, without money, secretly” (p. 192)."The first nonviolent revolution was, of course, the Resurrection. The event had to include death as its first act. And also the command to Peter, 'Put up your sword." So that it might be clear, once and for all, that Christians suffer death rather than inflict it" (p. 276)."The 'just war theory' is in fact a cruel oxymoron. War, no matter its provocation or justification, is of its essence and nature, supremely unjust. The injustice of war implies a blasphemous inflation of human authority, that humans are allowed to decree who shall live and who shall die, to dispose of human differences by disposing of humans. We are done with that theory forever" (p. 278).
The life of Daniel Berrigan is something to be honored and studied. His poetry and prose is rich in imagery and passion. That being said, this book could've been 1/3 of the size and would've been a more enjoyable read. After a while the academic activist language got to be too much for me.
My oh my!This is what you get when you get a person who has lived out the gospel of peace in full allegiance to the slaughtered lamb compiling writings from one who has done the same. Absolutely incredible book worth revisiting again and again. The constant appeal to practice resurrection needs to be on the forefront of our minds in a culture of death.Here are some quotes for you:On Trial with the Catonsville Nine:Defense: Could you state to the court what your intent was in burning the draft files?Daniel Berrigan: I did not want the children or the grandchildren of the jury or the judge to be burned with napalm.Judge: You say your intention was to save these children, of the jury, of myself, when you burned the records? That is what I heard you say. I ask if you meant that.Daniel Berrigan: I meant that or I would not say it. The great sinfulness of modern war is that it renders concrete things abstract. I do not want to talk about Americans in general.Judge: You cannot think up arguments now that you would like to have had in your mind then.Daniel Berrigan: My intention on that day was to save innocent from death by fire. I was trying to save the poor who are mainly charged with dying in this war. I poured napalm on behalf of the prosecutor's and the jury's children. It seems to me quite logical. If my way of putting the facts is inadmissible then so be it, but I was trying to be concrete about the existence of God who is not an abstraction but is someone before me for whom I am responsible.Defense: Was your action at Catonsville a way of carrying out your religious beliefs?Daniel Berrigan: Of course it was. May I say if my religious belief is not accepted as a substantial part of my action, then the action is eviscerated of all meaning and I should be committed for insanity.Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings Selected by John Dear, Pg. 125-127___________________________"We are deeply respectful of a law that is in favor of human life. And as we know, at least some of our laws are. We are very respectful of those laws. We want you to know that. Years and years we spent writing letters, trying to talk to authorities, vigilant in public places, holding candles at night, holding placards by day, trying, trying, fasting, trying to clarify things to ourselves as we were trying to speak to others; all of that within the law, years of it.And then I had to say, I could not not break the law and remain human. That was what was in jeopardy: what I call my conscience, my humanity, that which is recognizable to children, to friends, to good people, when we say, “There is someone I can trust and love, someone who will not betray.”We spent years within the law, trying to be that kind of person, a non-betrayer. Then we found we couldn’t. And if we kept forever on this side of the line, we would die within ourselves. We couldn’t look in the mirror, couldn’t face those we love, and no Christian message in the world, nothing to say if we went on that way. I might just as well wander off and go the way of a low-grade American case of despair: getting used to the way things are. This is what I mean by dying. That is what we have to oppose.”Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings Selected by John Dear, Pg. 191___________________________"I wish I hadn’t had to do it. And that has been true every time I have been arrested, all those years. My stomach turns over. I feel sick. I feel afraid. I don’t want to go through this again. I hate jail. I don’t do well there physically. But I cannot not go on, because I have learned that we must not kill if we are Christians. I have learned that children, above all, are threatened by these weapons. I have read that Christ our Lord underwent death rather than inflict it. And I am supposed to be a disciple. All kinds of things like that. The push, the push of conscience is a terrible thing.So at some point your cowardly bones get moving, and you say, “Here it goes again,” and you do it. And you have a certain peace because you did it, as I do this morning in speaking with you. One remains honest because on has a sense, “Well, if I cheat, I’m really giving over my humanity, my conscience.” Then we think of these horrible Mark 12A missiles, and something in us says, “We cannot live with such crimes.” Or our consciences turn in another direction. And by a thousand pressures, a thousand silences, people begin to say to themselves, “We can live with that. We know it’s there. We know what it is for. We know many thousands will die if only one of these exploded.”We believe, according to the law, and the law of the state of Pennsylvania, that we were justified in saying, “We cannot live with that,” justified in saying it publicly, saying git dramatically, saying it with blood and hammers, as you have hard; because that weapon, the hundreds and hundreds more being produced in our country, are the greatest evil conceivable on this earth. There is no evil to compare with that. Multiply murder. Multiply desolation. The mind boggles. We we went into the death factory, and in a modest, self-contained, careful way, we put a few dents in two missiles, awaited arrest, and came willingly into court to talk to you. We believe with all our hearts that our actions as justified.”Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings Selected by John Dear, Pg. 189-190___________________________"Our 'no,' uttered in face of imperial violence, takes the form of a non-answer. Our appeal, more often than not wordless, like the silent Christ before Pilate, is precisely to Christ Crucified. Which is to say, to God in trouble for being Godly. God under capital punishment. God sentenced to death, executed for being God, for being human. The crime: such acts, miracles, healings, stories, refusals, as serve to vindicate, honor, and celebrate human life.In contrast, "Witness of the Resurrection" was a title of honor, self-conferred by the twelve [Acts 1:21-22]. The meaning of the phrase is simple. The apostles were called to take their stand on behalf of life, to the point of undergoing death, as well as death's analogies--scorn and rejection, floggings and jail.This is our glory. From Peter and Paul to Martin King and Romero, Christians have known something which the 'nations' as such can never know or teach--how to live and how to die. We are witnesses of the resurrection. We practice resurrection. We risk resurrection."Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings Selected by John Dear, Pg. 279___________________________"My teachers, among others, have been Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Gandhi, Thomas Merton, and my brother Philip, a continuity of nonviolence and non-ideology, stemming from the early church and the prophets, from Jesus himself. My teachers are non-ideologues. They are attached to no self or special interest, including the self-interest commonly considered most legitimate of all, their own lives. Simply put, they know how to live and how to die. They draw on the great earth-time symbols that offer both 'mimesis' and 'praxis' --"the image" and "the movement.""Your ancestors said, 'An eye for an eye,' but I say to you, offer no violent resistance to evil. Love your enemies." That is why we speak again and again of 1980 and all the Plowshares actions since, how some f us continue to labor to break the demonic clutch on our souls, of the ethic of Mars, of wars and rumor of wars, inevitable wars, just wars, necessary wars, victorious wars, and say our No in acts of hope. For us, all these repeated arrests, the interminable mailings, the life of our small communities, the discipline of nonviolence--these have embodied an ethic of resurrection.Simply put, we long to taste that event, its thunders and quakes, its great Yes. We want to test the resurrection in our bones. To see if we might live in hope instead of in the silva oscura, the thicket of cultural despair, nuclear despair, a world of perpetual war. We want to taste the resurrection.May I say we have not been disappointed."Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings Selected by John Dear, Pg. 280-281
First Daniel Berrigan, then Muhammad Ali -- two heroic individuals whose lives truly mattered. Within several months of each other we've lost two of the most soulful Americans in public life, both never hesitating to stand up for what they believed in. Not coincidentally, they both went to jail for not towing the line when it came to the Vietnam War. Ali, to be sure, is far more well known; if you've never heard of or read anything by Berrigan, start here.
This really is essential reading--a wonderful distillation of Dan Berrigan's thought and witness throughout his long, prophetic life. I used the readings as daily spiritual reading, meditating on each selection as it inspired me. Wonderful stuff, all!
I'm not crazy about a lot of Berrigan's poetry. His writing is sometimes stiff and stilted. But his passionate commitment to peace and justice underlie his every word and make this a great introduction to his thought and work.