After two years in federal prison for his part in an anti-war protest, Jesuit priest Dan Berrigan agreed to teach a seminary class in the fall of 1972. That’s where Bill Wylie-Kellermann, then a young ministry student at Union Theological Seminary, met Berrigan and where the story of Celebrant’s Flame, Kellermann’s new title from Cascade Books, begins.
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Through a series of essays and personal letters, Wylie-Kellermann explores the many identities of his teacher and friend, Dan Berrigan — from fugitive priest to prisoner-poet to confessor to evangelist of nonviolence to chaplain with the dying.
Celebrant’s Flame is a fond reflection on Wylie-Kellermann’s lifelong friendship with Berrigan and a fascinating, accessible retelling of Berrigan’s life and impact on the church and the world.
Well-researched (including a four-page bibliography), the book covers Berrigan’s journey from young seminarian during World War II, his participation in the civil rights movement, his opposition (and eventual arrest and imprisonment) to the war in Vietnam, his anti-nuclear activism, his life as a poet and scholar, and, at the end of his life, his ministry as a chaplain to New York City’s dying AIDs patients.
SPECIAL OFFER: For a limited time — now through May 1 —get a 40% discount when you purchase with a coupon code. Request the coupon.
In Celebrant’s Flame, Wylie-Kellermann shares reflections and personal letters from his own collection and from other friends of Berrigan. Included in this 174-page tribute are:
- Reflections from author and scholar Eric Martin on the decades-long correspondence that Dan kept with his brother, Philip, and Dan’s insatiable hunger for learning
- A personal letter from Dan’s fellow inmate, John Bach, about the Great Books class Dan and Phil led at Danbury prison and the resulting hunger strike and underground newspaper
- Peace activist Kathy Kelly’s memories of hearing from other activists — as far away as in the deserts of Iraq — about how profoundly they had been influenced by Berrigan’s message and example
- Jim Reale’s recounting of how Berrigan’s deep commitment to friendship transformed Reale’s own life and vocation from day laborer to Plowshares activist to hospice nurse
- Plus Wylie-Kellermann’s reflections on his time as Dan’s student, in contemplation and conversation about death and dying, as co-conspirator in activism and ministry, and their connected lives of faith and justice-seeking
Celebrant’s Flame is an inviting read for anyone familiar with Berrigan’s ministry or for those just learning about this remarkable priest, poet, and prophet for the first time.
Written with Berrigan’s upcoming 100th birthday (May 9) in mind, these reflections help keep the flame of this beloved celebrant burning for a new movement generation arising among us. (This book is just one of several centennial celebrations: DePaul University’s inauguration of the Berrigan-McAlister Award for Christian nonviolence, and film director Susan Hagedorn’s premier of Berrigans: Devout and Dangerous.)
What people are saying about Celebrant’s Flame:
“Here we have one of the best Christian writers of our time reflecting on one of the best Christians of our time, or any time. Bill has a rare, gentle thoughtfulness and insight that helps us unpack the profound word and witness of Daniel Berrigan. I hope this book inspires many to study Dan’s life and writings anew and to deepen our own witness to peace and nonviolence, that we might become, like Daniel Berrigan, disciples, apostles, and prophets of the nonviolent Jesus to our broken world.” — John Dear, editor of Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings
“In these relentlessly compelling pages, Dan Berrigan keeps coming at us. We get Dan’s wisdom, courage, passion, honesty, good humor, faith, joy, and eloquent gracefulness. And besides all of that, we get the imagery and testimony of his wide circle of friends who shared his passionate vocation of justice. We get all of this because of the generous gifts of Bill Wylie-Kellermann, gifts of poetic cadence, good memory, strong imagination, a close friendship with Dan, and a passion for justice not unlike that of Berrigan himself. This deeply moving book consists of poems, memories, sermons, speeches, and testimonies that will keep Dan’s singular legacy alive for time to come. The book is a welcome gift to us. It is indeed compelling in ways that will both unnerve and give nerve to an attentive reader.” — Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary
“Beneath all the lives of the saints there lives the mycelium of friendship. In Celebrant’s Flame, Wylie-Kellermann orates Daniel Berrigan’s sacred story. Yes, as Catholic priest, social prophet, and liturgical poet, but first and foremost as friend. Wylie-Kellermann’s intimate and wry turn of phrase allows their holy friendship to again do its alchemical work: transforming readers of the Word into its creative witnesses.” — Rose Marie Berger, senior editor at Sojourners and author of Bending the Arch: Poems