FOUR DECADES AGO, when I was a young editor at Sojourners, Daniel Berrigan wrote a poem for a special edition of the magazine. The note accompanying it read: “Here’s the poem—my first on a word processor. Seems a bit jumbled. Might have got a food processor by mistake.”
Berrigan has been described often as poet, prophet, and priest. The note reveals another alliterative trio that marked his life: humor, humility, and hospitality. Though I never saw him use a food processor, over the years I enjoyed several delectable dinners he whipped up in his apartment in New York City and his cottage on Block Island, accompanied by his droll wit. Berrigan was engaged in an unflinching, lifelong facedown with the world—observing its worst inhumanities and fully understanding its unlimited capacities for destruction—but he also knew how to be tickled by joy.
Bill Wylie-Kellermann is among those in Berrigan’s close circle who feasted regularly at his table, drawing sustenance from the food, lively conversation, and prophetic insights. Celebrant’s Flame: Daniel Berrigan in Memory and Reflection (Cascade Books) is Wylie-Kellermann’s moving tribute to the man who was first his professor, then his mentor, and ultimately his beloved friend. It is a treasure trove of poems and letters, sermons and speeches, reflections and court testimonies, even a seminary paper—a patchwork sewn into a beautiful whole.