Daniel Berrigan was born on May 9, 1921 in the northern Minnesota town of
Virginia and grew up in Syracuse, New York. Through his father’s union work and
exposure to Dorothy Day, Berrigan’s interest in matters of social justice blossomed.
In 1939 Berrigan enrolled in a Jesuit seminary in Poughkeepsie, New York; he was
ordained as a priest in 1952. For six years beginning in 1957, Berrigan was associ-
ate professor of dogmatic theology at Le Moyne College in Syracuse. His “call” to
militant activism came in 1965 when Dr. King urged clergy to come and march in
Selma. Berrigan answered the call. Three years later Berrigan became famous as
one of the Catonsville Nine, a group that broke into a Catonsville, Maryland draft
headquarters, stole hundreds of draft files and then burned them in a parking lot
with homemade napalm. His actions earned him 18 months in a federal prison. In
1980 Berrigan along with his brother Phillip, cofounded Plowshares, a group com-
mitted to radical action in defense of peace. A prolific writer, Berrigan has written
more than 50 books, including many volumes of award-winning poetry.
In this eulogy for Jonathan Daniels, slain just days before in Hayneville in
Lowndes County Alabama, Berrigan ruminates on the meaning of Daniels’s death
in the context of the blood of man and the blood of Christ. For the Christian,
death promises immortality. But borrowing from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians,
Berrigan also uses the occasion of Daniels’ passing to reflect on brotherhood and
reconciliation, and their resolution in Christ’s sacrificial blood. “But the blood of
Christ summons us to all men. When I have drunk his blood, I may not ever again
question the blood which runs in the veins of other men; of men of color, of men
who worship in another Church, of men whose blood runs violated in the streets. .
. . A universal bloodstream joins man to man, religion to religion, race to race, sex
to sex.” Ultimately, the truth of Jonathan Daniels’s death and the truth of God’s
word calls us to a “life in public,” a life not of comfort and easy repose, but of hard
discipline, perhaps even martyrdom.
Jonathan Daniels’s Memorial Service, St. Andrew’s Church, Yonkers, New York
When a good man dies, there is no mistaking the loss. We know it in our bones and in our flesh. We know it as if we had awakened one morning and, turning to rise, come upon a bandaged stump in place of a whole limb. We
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Publication information: Book title: Rhetoric, Religion and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965. Contributors: Davis W. Houck - Editor, David E. Dixon - Editor. Publisher: Baylor University Press. Place of publication: Waco, TX. Publication year: 2006. Page number: 898.
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