Berrigan brothers

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Berrigan brothers

(bĕr`ĭgən), American Catholic priests, writers, and social activists. Daniel Berrigan, 1921–2016, b. Syracuse, N.Y., was ordained in the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1952. Travels in France exposed him to the worker-priest movement, and after teaching at secondary schools and at LeMoyne College (1957–63), he devoted himself in the 1960s to civil rights and antipoverty work, eventually becoming a leading activist against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam WarVietnam War,
conflict in Southeast Asia, primarily fought in South Vietnam between government forces aided by the United States and guerrilla forces aided by North Vietnam. The war began soon after the Geneva Conference provisionally divided (1954) Vietnam at 17° N lat.
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. His poetry had meanwhile appeared in several volumes, including Time without Number (1957). He ultimately wrote more than 50 books, and also taught at Fordham and other universities. Philip Francis Berrigan, 1923–2002, b. Two Harbors, Minn., served in Europe in World War II, grad. from Holy Cross College (1950), and was ordained (1955) in the Josephite order. After holding pastoral and teaching positions, in the 1960s he turned to peace activism.

In 1968 the Berrigans and seven others were arrested for destroying Selective Service files in Catonsville, Md., in an antiwar protest. While in hiding after their conviction, Daniel published a play, The Trial of the Catonsville 9 (1970). Both Berrigans served prison terms. Philip secretly married Sister Elizabeth McAlister, a fellow activist; the couple were later excommunicated. After being paroled in 1972, both brothers continued their involvement in such actions as "Plowshares" protests at weapons plants. They were repeatedly arrested and imprisoned, and continued to write prolifically.


See Daniel Berrigan's autobiographical To Dwell in Peace (1987), Night Flight to Hanoi (1968), The Dark Night of Resistance (1971), and his prison memoir, Lights On in the House of the Dead (1974); J. Dear, ed., Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings (2009); Philip Berrigan's autobiographical Fighting the Lamb's War (1997), Prison Journals of a Revolutionary Priest (1970), and Widen the Prison Gates (1973). See also biography of Daniel by R. Curtis (1974); S. Halpert and T. Murray, eds., Witness of the Berrigans (1972); M. Polner and J. O'Grady, Disarmed and Dangerous (1997).

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In twenty-five years of writing, Berrigan (1934-83) created a poetry that melded wit, feeling, and intelligence in unexpected ways, a poetry that encompassed both painterly abstraction and an attention to daily human details, a poetry of radical formalism (the sonnet as a series of fourteen one-line units) and open-field composition, a poetry by turns opaque and utterly clear, a poetry of unabashed imitation (of Frank O'Hara, among others) and singular originality.
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