Daniel Berrigan's life was punctuated with bold acts of nonviolent social action. Born in 1921, he grew up in an Irish Catholic family in Minnesota and joined a Jesuit seminary right out of high school. After he was ordained a priest, he traveled in France where he was influenced by the worker-priest movement. He returned to the United States and began teaching in colleges, including Le Moyne College in Syracuse, Cornell, and Yale. He also wrote poetry which became a way to express his growing concerns about American war-making.

During the Vietnam War, Berrigan was one of nine activists who burned draft registration records in Catonsville, Maryland, for which he was tried and sentenced to three years in prison. He refused to surrender himself and went underground for several months living with supporters and surfacing periodically at anti-war rallies. He eventually was apprehended and spent eighteen months in prison before his release in 1972.

Daniel and his brother Philip then organized the Plowshares Movement to protest the production of nuclear and other weapons. Their first action was at a General Electric plant in Pennsylvania, a nonviolent protest in which they hammered on nose cones and offered prayers for peace. Over the years Berrigan participated in many more demonstrations, including protesting the Gulf War, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iraq war.

Daniel continued to conduct retreats, to speak publicly, and to write until his death in 2016 just short of his 95th birthday. He authored more than 50 books of prose and poetry.

Quotes

Put these quotations in your heart on Berrigan's birthday.

  • "We want peace, but we live content with poverty and injustice and racism, with the murder of prisoners and students, the despair of the poor to whom justice is endlessly denied. We long for peace, but we wish also to keep undisturbed a social fabric of privilege and power that controls the economic misery of two thirds of the world's people."
    — from Lights on in the House of the Dead by Daniel Berrigan
  • "We spoke out, committed civil disobedience, and went to jail because the peace hangs senselessly and precariously upon weapons costing billions to build and billions to improve — weapons which become more useless as we add to their destructive force. With this money we could have fed the world's people."
    — from America Is Hard to Find by Daniel Berrigan
  • "The 'just war theory' is in a 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."
    — from Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings, edited by John Dear
  • " 'Love' and then 'enemies.' The two cannot coexist, they are like fire and ice in the hand. The fire melts the ice, or the ice extinguishes the fire. The fire wins out (at least in the Gospel text)! The verb 'love' transforms the noun 'enemies.' The enemy is reborn by the power of love. Astonishing. Now the enemy is a former enemy, and a present friend, brother, sister, lover even. Talk about rebirth!" Love, you, the enemy, and lo, the enemy vanishes where he stood."
    — from Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings, edited by John Dear

Books

  • Read Apostle of Peace, edited by John Dear which contains 40 essays in honor of this Jesuit peace-maker and social activist. Here this apostle of peace says: "If you want to follow Jesus, you better look good on wood."

Teachers

Check out his Living Spiritual Teachers' page for reviews and excerpts from 13 books by Daniel Berrigan.