The Berrigan Phase: Symbolic Representation of Space in Anti-War Action


Daniel and Phil burning draft records in Catonsville

This project examines how the creation of a holy space through peace activism and religious symbolism influenced Catholic Americans during the Vietnam War. Fathers Daniel and Philip Berrigan were well known for conducting dramatic demonstrations to protest the Vietnam War in the late 1960s. Their method of protest involved the use of elements such as blood, fire, and prayer to transform secular spaces into religious ones. This created a connection for many Catholics and served as an inspiration for other forms of religious anti-war protest. The three principle demonstrations studied in this project are actions of The Baltimore Four, The Catonsville Nine, and Daniel Berrigan’s play, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine. To interpret the function of religious symbolism within the Catholic tradition and to gauge the public’s response to these kinds of protests, this project analyzes numerous primary sources. These sources include newspaper articles, writings by Daniel and Philip Berrigan, documentary footage, and play transcripts. The Berrigans’ publications allow one to understand the importance of religion in their lives and why they incorporated such symbolism into their protests, and newspaper articles allow one to interpret reactions to such dramatic protesting. These are supplemented by interviews with the Berrigans and analysis of how Daniel’s play represents their demonstrations to other audiences. Through the study of these sources incorporated with other Vietnam War protests and a background of dramatic symbolism within the Catholic Church, this project highlights how the Berrigans were able to transform these spaces and why it was important for influencing Catholics.




Rough Drafts and Revisions

When I turned my rough draft in on March 22nd I felt relieved for the first time in at least a month. Every piece of research I did and every word I wrote culminated up to this point, a 24 page rough draft about the Berrigans and their anti-war protesting. Although I knew I had plenty of work to do on it still, I could finally catch my breath. Unfortunately, that time has come and gone and I am back at it again.

I must admit I was pretty terrified of reading the comments on my rough draft. I imagined a sea of red ink covering the pages I had spent what felt like so much of my life on. Would my thesis make sense? Was my historiography good? Did I use enough quotes? These are just a few of the endless questions that kept popping into my head. When I finally received back my edited rough draft I was pretty wary about opening it. I didn’t yet feel ready to delve back into the world of the Berrigans and research. However, I forced myself to buck up and open the file.

To my surprise, what I found was not bad at all! All of the feedback I received was definitely more doable than I imagined. As it turns out I don’t have to scrap every idea I had for this paper. My major edits focus on adding a historiography about Vietnam War protest, expanding upon public reactions to the Berrigan protests, and conducting a deeper analysis of the Berrigans’ ability to transform secular spaces into religious spaces. There are also, of course, a few grammatical errors here and there that I need to fix up, plus I could definitely stand to be less repetitive. Despite this, I feel quite confident about my  ability to make these edits.

I have to be careful not to let myself feel too comfortable though. When writing my first draft I ended up working on most of it right around the time it was due. This was probably one of the most stressful situations I’ve ever been in. That is why I plan to be much more on time with my revisions. I already started adding in some paragraphs detailing reactions from newspaper articles to the Catonsville Nine  protest. I hope to add in other reactions to the Trial of the Catonsville Nine play this weekend before I start to work on my Vietnam protest historiography. After that is finished I hope to work on edits a little bit every day: editing my grammar, scanning over paragraphs that need a deeper analysis, and just overall seeing how my paper flows with all of these additions.

I hope to have most of these edits done by April 20th, the date my polished draft is due. Although I know I still have my work cut out for me, I feel relatively confident about my ability to finish this paper. I really have gotten the worst part out of the way, and now all I can do is follow my professors’ advice and hope to finish writing the best paper I possibly can.

Ramonat Wars, Episode V: The Rough Draft Strikes Back

As everyone may know from my previous blog posts, this is not my first huge research paper. Last semester I wrote a paper on anti-Jacobitism in Early Modern England. I went through many of the same things I am now going through with this current research project: deadlines, researching primary source material, procrastination, etc. At the beginning of this semester I figured I had an advantage because of my prior experience. Well, it turns out that writing about Early Modern notions of savagery is a much different process than writing about Catholic anti-war protests during the 20th century. Who knew, right?

My research differed extraordinarily for my last paper chiefly because of source material. I never thought I’d miss the day when I couldn’t find ENOUGH source material to make a solid argument. One of the frustrations I have found with my project this semester is the overwhelming amount of information I have at my disposal. While I was lucky to find enough 18th century sources for my topic last semester, I now feel as though I am drowning under books and primary source papers. Aside from the fact that Daniel Berrigan wrote about a million books, I have had tons of his poetry, diary entries, and speeches at my disposal, not to mention primary materials written by others, such as play reviews, other papers written on the Berrigans, and documentaries.


They sit there and judge me every day. 

This may normally sound like a researcher’s dream, right? Perhaps, if I had a few years I would be thrilled. However, a semester is definitely not enough time to get through all of this material. Trying to come up with a thesis and proving that thesis while remembering which notes belonged to what source has been the most difficult part of this project for me. The amount of source material is absolutely astounding! It basically came down to me picking and choosing which materials I thought would best help me, which required using more brain power, something I feel I’m running short on these days.

sleepy brain


Ironically, I found that after finishing my first draft, even with tons of source material at my disposal, I didn’t use probably 90% of them! That either means that I was able to narrow down on only the source material that would be directly useful to supporting my thesis or, the more likely answer, I was rushed for time and ended up only using a few primary sources. This brings me to the area of my paper I think will need more work, my use of primary source material. I definitely feel that I could supplement my argument with more quotes and more primary source material evidence. While I do believe that I have a relatively decent argument, I also realize that the more material I have to back it up with, the more solid my argument will appear. Once my rough draft is returned to me, a moment I am deathly afraid of, I hope to add in more material to make my paper more well-rounded.

Another aspect of my paper I believe will need work is the evidence I am using to supplement my argument. Some of my arguments about symbolic connections between Berrigan actions and Catholic tradition might appear a bit loose. This, again, may just require me to go out and find more sources, this time secondary. While I think a lot of my arguments hold some degree of validity, finding quotes by different scholars and relevant sources may just give me the concrete argument that I am searching for.

So far, most of this experience may sound like it has been agonizing for me. While the source material and time constraints definitely caused my sanity to unravel a bit, this experience still has its positive aspects. For one, I now have experience with having too many sources instead of too few. I am learning to adapt my research methods in order to gain the most out of as many sources as I can look through. Also, although turning in a completed 25 page paper as a rough draft was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, I am actually much more ahead now than usual. Last semester I was finishing my first paper draft within two weeks of the due date. I now have a finished product over a month before the paper is due! That never would have happened otherwise. I also enjoy learning about my research subject as well. One of the best parts of research has always been going into the archives and getting to see first hand the handwritten documents of those you are studying. It really give me a sense of their personality better than I could have from simply reading a book.

In all, I was much more satisfied with my first draft than I believed I would be. Yes, I screamed and cried while I agonized over trying to finish such a large paper in time for the deadline and yes I am exhausted beyond belief because of this project. Do I want to see the edits on my rough draft? Admittedly, no I do not. However, I do feel confident in saying the worst part is over and I can now only prepare myself for the edits that are to come for my paper.

star wars

Outlines: Helpful or Harmful?

Hello everyone

Well, the moment finally came where I had to create and turn in a final outline. Of course, that is just phrasing because I know that many outlines will be made after this one. My mind is always changing the flow of the paper as I conduct more research and begin to write different parts of the paper. This is the outline I created for how I want my paper to flow, at least for now.

  1. Introduction
    1. Performance in everyday life
    2. Vietnam protests besides the Berrigans
    3. Berrigan Brothers performance – connections to the Church ceremony
  2. Historiography of performance in the church
    1. The drama of the church ceremony hundreds of years ago
      1. Medieval/Anglo-Saxon Examples
        1. Easter (The Dramatic Liturgy – Bedingfield)
        2. Excerpts from other authors such as Kretzmann, Schnusenberg and Young
      2. Importance of symbolism
      3. Why it is important to follow drama of church over the years
        1. Dramatic influence of church always been there, just changed over the years
  • Vatican II
    1. Changes within the church
    2. What this means for the public
    3. What this means for the radical nature of the church
      1. Always radical in some aspect
      2. The difference in radicalism
    4. How this change related to the Berrigans
      1. Excerpt about facing audience in mass from play important
    5. Berrigan Brothers
      1. Small backstory of Dan and Phil
        1. General articles about them
        2. Dan’s description of their upbringing (Poems and stories by Dan book)
      2. Influences other than the church
        1. Mother
        2. Dorothy Day (Maybe Ellsberg talk)
  • Experiences they had seen
    1. Dan’s experience in Hanoi (Online documentary)
    2. Phil’s in WWI (Catonsville Nine Play)
  1. Relationship with each other (letters between each other)
  1. Importance and significance of Catholic Church mass influence
    1. Catonsville Nine
      1. Why it was done
        1. Symbolic nature
      2. Catonsville Nine Play
        1. Specific mention of Christian duty
      3. Dramatic nature of Phil and Dan in their lives
        1. Dan’s writings (DePaul and Cornell archives)
          1. His scribbles
          2. His poetry
            1. One priest calls him poet first (documentary?)
          3. His play
            1. Critic who says the play is not a drama – it is a symbolic drama
          4. His protests
          5. His school lectures
        2. Dan’s fugitive status
        3. Phil’s willingness to participate in another raid when he was on bail (documentary)
          1. Baltimore Four
          2. Marriage to a nun
  • Symbolic nature of the Church
    1. Connect symbols of the mass with their actions (a few references from historiography section)
    2. Impress how important symbolism was in Dan and Phil’s actions and how that connects with the Mass
      1. Blood of Christ/blood on papers
      2. Napalm – symbol
      3. Symbol of the Catonsville Nine Play
      4. Church is all about symbols – it is what makes up the ceremony
        1. “Cannibalistic” tendencies of the church
        2. Body and blood of Christ
  • The priest is the conduit – symbol of God in a person
  1. Emphasizing connections between specifically Catholic symbols and Berrigan symbols
    1. Their work as priests guided them – Catholic dramatic influence
  2. Why are symbols dramatic?
    1. What purpose do they achieve?
  3. Why does this matter?
    1. The Church as a radical influence
      1. Seen normally as boring
      2. Conservative or doesn’t involve itself in affairs
        1. Women in documentary thought Daniel had surely been excommunicated
      3. Church is very radical
        1. All the way from medieval times to Vatican II
        2. Symbolism and dramatic actions of Berrigans prove this
      4. Conclusion
        1. It is time to start interpreting the Church differently and one way to do so is to start with the Berrigans


This might look very ordered to some people and quite messy to others. I see it as both. This is what it looks like when my mind is trying to make sense of a lot of information and categorize it. However, while trying to put it in an order I begin to think of more ideas and add in small things along the way which might create more of a mess than an order.

Just as this outline is a mix of order and mess, so was my experience when creating this outline a mix of satisfaction and frustration. I find creating outlines satisfying because I can physically sort out and see where my paper is going to go. It helps me to think more critically about the information I have and that which I lack. I can sort out the paper in my mind when I make an outline and begin to ask myself questions. Should this information be included? Does the flow of the paper make sense? Would I be able to understand this if I were an outside party? Am I getting too off track in this section? I love to see the bits and pieces of my ideas slowly fall into place. I can also see which ideas are missing and which ones I need to expand upon. Usually at this stage I still have a lot to expand upon as I struggle to keep up with my research, but that seems to be the nature of my research methods at most times.

The frustrating part is feeling like I don’t have enough writing or information yet to really make a decent outline. Every single outline I create right up until the final paper will change in one way or another. I cannot truly see how I need to organize my paper until I start writing large parts of it. This is why I tend to create so many outlines. As I write, I realize what ideas I have and what ideas I need, so those go in a new outline. This outline was frustrating for me simply because I don’t feel ready to have such a specific order of things. This paper is going to grow and change and I cannot see where it is going exactly yet, so to make an outline can feel a bit like I am lying to myself. Will I really include this here? Do I even know enough about this subject yet to say it will for sure make an appearance in my paper? The only way I could really create this outline was to know that it IS fluid and that it must change eventually.

In all, though, this outline has helped me realize the exoskeleton of my paper. I am formulating my ideas and figuring out where they should go and why they should go there. I feel it helps me see how far I’ve come while possibly showing me how behind I am as well in some points…. I know that I will continue to make more outlines as the paper takes a more solid shape in my mind but I am glad that I was able to create one so detailed as this. Organizing my thoughts in this way will surely help me more than it will hurt me.




Well, it’s week five of research and I feel confident in saying that I am not behind in any way and that I am totally, 100% prepared for this paper….did that sound convincing?

Alright, I’m a little behind but who isn’t when it comes to research? However, I am happy to say that I have progressed in my research. I have been to the DePaul archives several times, taking notes on both the dramatic history of the Catholic church and the actions of the Berrigan brothers during the Vietnam War. I am slowly but surely accumulating information in the hopes that I will be able to prove my thesis.

Though the Ramonat class has only met a few times this semester, that hasn’t stopped us from hosting more events. What better way to celebrate a Dorothy Day centered research class than to have a guest speaker come in who actually worked with Dorothy Day?! This past Thursday, Loyola hosted a talk by Robert Ellsberg and on Friday a Dorothy Day symposium. While I was unfortunately only able to attend the Robert Ellsberg talk because of scheduling conflicts, I feel honored to have been witness to it. For the first time since I began the Ramonat Seminar, Dorothy Day seemed to be a real person instead of just a spunky character whom I read about in the pages of a book.


Robert Ellsberg

Ellsberg’s talk covered his encounters with Dorothy Day from the moment he began to work with her in the 1970s until her death in 1980. He described his encounters with Day in a way that made me feel like I knew her. She was a no nonsense kind of woman who used her past life experiences to shape her life of faith, who never apologized for what she did or how she felt, and who told people directly what she wanted, no questions asked. Ellsberg made her appear both more personable and more like a storybook character at the same time, if that’s even possible. So many of her actions sometimes seemingly contradicted each other, such as her fight for women’s suffrage but her unwillingness to ever vote, yet she was always so confident in the way she handled things. Day didn’t need to perform loud, obnoxious actions to show her beliefs and opinions. She was content with sitting around a table drinking coffee and chatting with almost anybody. Ellsberg showcased her humor, her spirit, and her strength all within one hour-long talk.

While Ellsberg gave his talk, I began to think back to my own project on the Berrigans. I compared Daniel and Philip’s actions with those of Day, exploring the similarities and differences between each. They all wanted many of the same things such as peace for all people and a rejection of violence. As I listened to Ellsberg, I knew that Day must have had an effect on the two brothers. While she didn’t agree with some of their more radical actions, they all belonged to the same radical, Catholic family. They all valued what they saw as morally right above being a “true American” or supporting a government which allowed violence and war to occur. Ellsberg’s talk sparked in me the desire to know more about Day’s potential influence on the brothers or even their influence on her.

The more I learn about both Day and the Berrigan brothers, the prouder I am that I chose the topic I did. I am excited to learn about the dramatic actions of the Berrigan brothers and how that connects to the Catholic Church while also keeping in mind one saying in my head…what would Dorothy Day do?

More Information:

Dorothy Day

Robert Ellsberg





A Quest for Knowledge


Well it’s a new year with a new research project! With all of the chaos going on politically right now it seems almost fitting that my subject centers on the protests of two radical priests. Just to give a brief reminder, my project focuses on the anti-war protests of Catholic priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan and how the theatricality of their protests are inextricably linked with the performance aspects of the Catholic Church itself. I definitely have a lot of work to do but I am excited to see what I might uncover in the primary sources I discover.

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce everyone to a few examples of the sources I will be using. One of the great things about going to a Catholic university is that I actually have a lot of sources on the Berrigans and Vatican II right at my fingertips. I have already stocked up on works written by both Philip and Daniel Berrigan from the library. To give you a good idea about the works I will be using, I’ve provided a few examples below.



These are just a few of the many works by Daniel Berrigan I will be reading. I hope to find evidence of theatricality in the words and actions displayed in his writings. I am currently working on Daniel Berrigan Poetry, Drama, Prose. This is a book full of different samples of Daniel’s writings, from stories about his childhood to poems about the church. His words are often very rich and full of emotion and when I read his stories I can see both the priest and the protester.

Daniel wasn’t the only author in his family. His brother Philip published a book called Widen the Prison Gates: Writing from Jails. This book covers his jail cell writings between April 1970 and December 1972. While some are simply journal entries, others are letters that he sent, most likely to his wife Elizabeth McAlister and to Daniel. These writings will give me a sense of what Philip’s life was like behind bars, and I also hope to uncover some of the influences that led him to perform such ostentatious protests.

Not only do I have all of these writings at my disposal, but I also hope to make a few trips to some archives as well. Both DePaul University and Cornell have collections on the Berrigan brothers, potentially giving me access to information about their protesting that cannot be found within their books. I am very excited to see first hand documents, for history always feels more real when doing research in an archive.

I feel as though I have only reached the tip of the iceberg with the sources I currently have. I also plan on searching for sources on changes in church liturgy during Vatican II and even writings on drama in the church. These sources will give me both a necessary background knowledge of performance in the Catholic Church and how it has changed as well as (hopefully) some connection between the church ceremony and the actions of the Berrigans. As I said earlier I’ve only just started, but I cannot wait to see where these sources will take me.

For More Info on the Berrigans:

Daniel Berrigan

Philip Berrigan


Peace of Mind: My Research Process

I’ve only ever had to come up with a research topic once in my life before joining the Ramonat Seminar. This past semester I took an honors class created solely for the purpose of picking any topic I wanted and spending the entire semester writing about it. For the past few years I have had a strong love of Scottish culture and history, so it was pretty easy for me to come up with a general idea of what I wanted to write about. However, when it finally dawned on me this semester that I would have to pick a topic for the Ramonat Seminar as well, I panicked just a bit.


         A depiction of the Battle of Culloden, fought between England and Scotland. See? Who wouldn’t want to learn about this? 

I have always been a European history type of girl. I love learning about Scotland, England and all the countries that comprise Western Europe. Although I have some interests in early American history, I have never really been passionate about a certain American subject or event, certainly not in 20th century history. I am all about those medieval and early modern periods. How was I going to pick a subject to write about passionately and still find enough information for it? I knew I would never be able to write a good paper if I just picked some random topic that I didn’t care about. I had to find something in Dorothy Day’s America that I could invest my whole heart and mind in for an entire semester.

So, I began to think. I know that sounds really lame and anticlimactic but it’s actually what I did. I just sort of sat around and thought about what I had learned and what I was most interested in. I went through a variety of topics: Scots and religion in America, civil rights, the power of music, etc. Every topic I approached didn’t seem to matter enough to me. At one point I was totally sure that I was going to work on civil rights. Then I watched the Kennedy speech. In 1960, JFK gave a speech and sat for a Q&A with The Greater Houston Ministerial Association. This occurred while he was running for president and it was meant to make his stance on separation of church and state clear to many of those in Houston and even around the world. He was forced to make this distinction because so many were worried that his Catholic background would cause issues during his presidency. It was a fantastic video and JFK spoke extremely well. After watching this video, I felt positive that I had to write on JFK’s Catholic presidency or something related to it. However, not surprisingly, this changed within a few days.


JFK speaking to The Greater Houston Ministerial Association 

While I found  JFK’s speech interesting, I feared that I was more interested in JFK himself than any sort of argument I could make about American Catholicism in politics during that time. So, I started from scratch. I tried to think about what I found the most interesting about the 20th century. Was it war? Racial issues? Science? To try clearing my head, I thought what better way to get my mind working than to watch Netflix? It definitely wasn’t because I was procrastinating…. Anyway, when I logged onto Netflix, the first thing to pop up was a list of movies I had saved for watching, one of which was Across the Universe. For those of you who don’t know, Across the Universe is a movie that takes place in the 1960s and interprets the Vietnam War through romance, drugs, and the music of The Beatles. It has always been one of my favorite movies, mostly because I love The Beatles, and when I saw it pop up on my Netflix it gave me an idea. Why don’t I write about the Vietnam War?

I should probably be more specific. I didn’t want to write about this part of the war:


…but this part of the war:


I knew that many Catholics had been actively involved in anti-war peace protests and the 60s and 70s had always been the most interesting era to me in 20th century American history. Plus, I felt that these protests had a lot of pertinent connections to events happening today, such as the Standing Rock protests.

So, I delved into a world of complicated research on the Vietnam War as I tried to figure out what I could understand about the inner workings of peace protesting. In other words…I searched “Vietnam War peace protesting on Google”. Besides what I had seen in movies, I knew next to nothing about the Vietnam War era. While browsing the internet for information about peaceful protests, I came across an individual named Daniel Berrigan, a man deeply involved in protesting the Vietnam War. When I saw that he was a Catholic priest I thought that I had scored the jackpot! Here was my Catholic connection! Not only was Daniel Berrigan known as one of the more extreme Catholic protesters against the war, but he also had a brother named Philip who was also a priest and anti-war protester. These guys went to jail constantly, destroyed draft records, and wrote quite a few books. It was perfect…except for one small problem.


Philip Berrigan on the left and Daniel Berrigan on the right

As it turns out, radical priests who perform ostentatious protests and break into buildings to steal and burn draft records are pretty popular. I found that there was already a lot of scholarship on these two. So I, a junior undergrad, had to figure out something significant about the Berrigan brothers’ protesting that NOBODY ELSE had figured out. Needless to say, I felt panicked. I had only just figured out my research topic in general, but now I had to come up with a brand new, unique idea. How could I possibly delve through all the literature on the brothers to figure out what hadn’t been talked about?

The news that I needed to come up with my idea within the next couple weeks was broken to me the day I went home for the Thanksgiving holiday. Since going home involved a 6 hour train ride, I had plenty of time to ruminate on what my topic could be. I started reading about the Berrigan brothers and tried to imagine what I could talk about. I thought about connecting it to civil rights or maybe gender, but nothing seemed to stick for me. I began to get frustrated, but something was pushing at me in the back of my mind. When discussing my topic earlier, I remembered a comment one of my instructors made, wondering if there was any connection between protesters and having an artsy, perhaps theater background. Although I hadn’t really payed much attention to it at the time, it kept coming back up in my thoughts. Would it be possible for me to connect a theatrical background with the protests of the Berrigan brothers?

As I thought about it, I began to make more and more connections between theater and protest. I grew up in the Catholic Church, so I am very familiar with how the Mass is performed….and there it is. Performed. If you think about it, the Catholic Mass isn’t just a religious ceremony, it’s basically a theatrical performance! There are actors, story lines, songs, and cues for the audience to join in. Attending a Catholic Mass is almost like attending a the same play every week, only the play centers itself around a different biblical story every time. It was so obvious to me now! How could the Catholic ceremony be considered anything but a theatrical performance?? It had all of the elements of one and the priest was at the center of it all. The priest was the star performer every week. He read his lines, he acted out his performances, and he closed with a song. Priests were basically theatrical performers for a living.


The Mass isn’t the only aspect of Catholic culture that is one big performance. Catholic processions for holy characters such as saints are a common occurrence as well. These processions are a public form of celebration, usually to honor a certain saint on his or her feast day. Hundreds or even thousands of people can gather together on the streets to march in honor of a holy figure. These marches can be accompanied by hymns, prayers, costumes, and displays of the saint being held up by individuals, and they ring with theatrical characteristics. They are an integral part of Catholic celebration, public performances made to honor a saint or other holy figure. Based on both the theatricality of the mass and these holy processions, it is rather obvious that performance is an integral part of the Catholic church. Masses are special productions put on every week in honor of Christ while processions are street performances, created to showcase certain important saints. It is no coincidence that out of this religious world of performance came the Berrigan brothers.


The Procession of Saints in Philly

The Berrigans were all about theatricality in their protests. They destroyed draft records by  burning them with napalm, the flammable liquid used to burn down sections of forests by American troops in Vietnam, and pouring mixtures of human and animal blood on them. They were always very vocal in a lot of thier protests, always willing to take the blame for their protesting. At one point, Daniel Berrigan even wrote a play about one of his conspiracies to steal draft records, an incident dubbed the Catonsville Nine. Not only did the brothers see their protests as performances, but they were also both priests! I argue that the theatricality of the Catholic Church, both in the Masses and processionals, was what influenced the theatrical aspects of the Berrigan brothers’ protests. As priests, they were both the main part of the performance of the Mass. They starred in their own sort of play every time they carried out a religious performance. It was a part of their lifestyle and would have had a tremendous influence on how they saw the world. Although the Berrigans were definitely more radical than most Catholic tradition taught, they could not have performed their protests the way they did without participating in the performance of the Mass. It was essential to who they were and how they advocated for peace.

So…this is currently where I am at with my research idea. Although this is only based off of the tiny amount of information I have accumulated over the past couple weeks, I feel rather confident about my topic. As far as I know, no scholarship has been written on this idea. When I imagine my project in a few months, I am sure I will have accumulated a lot of scholarship not only on the Berrigan brothers, but on the church as performance as well. As I continue to study both of these factors, I will be making connections between the two, studying how and why the church would have had such an influence on the performances of these two brothers.

I am both excited and scared of what the future holds for me with this project. With research projects such as these, one always runs the risk of not being able to find enough evidence to support their claims. However, I feel pretty confident in my idea and in the research I am about to undertake. I know there will be more obstacles along the way, whether because I have a lack of information or of time to do some necessary digging, but I’m excited to face the challenges ahead. This class and finding a research topic has been a long process, once that was tiring but also quite satisfying. I have learned so much about Catholic social justice movements in 20th century America, far more than I ever imagined I would, and I’m excited to use all of this information to create my new and exciting research project for next semester. It’s been a wild and informative ride and I’m so lucky to have been a part of it.

For anyone who wants more info on the topics I covered:

The Amazing Soundtrack of Across the Universe 

The Catonsville Nine Documentary

The Berrigan Brothers 


Race, Religion, and the Power of Music

Race undoubtedly plays a strong role in communities today. It is a part of culture yet can also cause stereotypes. It emerges in politics, religion, economics, arts, and education. Just as it has come to define humans, so did it define the presentation given by Dr. Randal Jelks that our class viewed this past Wednesday. His presentation on the role of Catholicism in the lives of four prominent African Americans in the 20th century showed the importance of race within religion and how it can affect one’s experience with it.  

The individuals Jelks focused on were Ethel Waters, Mary Lou Williams, Eldridge Cleaver, and Muhammad Ali. He talked about the importance religion had on influencing each person and how their race interacted with it. Cleaver’s imprisonment and political views played a significant role in his religious life. For Muhammad Ali, his life in the ring contributed to his religious beliefs and conversion. As for Waters and Williams, their religious lives strongly interacted with music.

Though each person Jelks spoke about has his or her own story of religious faith, the one that spoke to me the most was Mary Lou Williams. I was captivated when Dr. Jelks played a song she had a part in called “St. Martin de Porres.” This song tells the story of the poor and suffering through the use of a choir and Mary Lou’s piano playing. As I listened, I thought that THIS is where one can interact with faith. It fills people with a sense of longing and pride, playing on emotions and creating a sense of oneself that can’t be found in any other medium. Music plays a strong role in culture and religion, and it was through “St. Martin de Porres” that I could truly feel Mary Lou’s faith.


The African American experience of religion in mid-century America was different than any other race’s. Through the pressures of prejudice, the rise of the black power movement, and African American culture, their own sense of faith was created. Race and faith intertwined, becoming a singular identity. For Eldridge Cleaver, it contributed to his role as a Black Panther and for Muhammad Ali it was a part of his boxing and even his name. For Mary Lou Williams, this combination of faith and race was experienced through jazz. Her connection to music gave her faith a sound and a purpose, allowing her to communicate her struggles and beliefs in a unique way. I believe that music moves people in ways that books or political views cannot. Williams’ music was a medium into which she poured her heart and soul, adding to the heterodoxy of African American belief, as Dr. Jelks put it. Through her music, she proved that not only can all people have faith but that faith can be communicated through more than words. As Williams said herself, “I am praying through my fingers when I play.”


Other resources:

Civil Rights Movement

Black Power Movement

Jazz as a Culture


Catholic Worker for a Weekend

In my mind, Dorothy Day’s name is  inextricably linked to the words social justice, Catholicism, and activism. These were all a very big part of her life and defined who she was and what she believed in. Since the Ramonat Seminar is centered on Dorothy Day’s America, these concepts are all intertwined in our readings, classroom lectures, and experiences in the class, so it came as no shock when I learned our class would take a trip to a catholic worker farm called White Rose Catholic Worker.

Before I delve into my experience with this trip, I’d like to paint a quick picture of what the Catholic Worker is. The movement was created in 1933 by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. Catholic Worker Houses are well known for providing houses of hospitality to people, offering food, coffee, and a place to stay for the night to all who come to its doors. They are run by unpaid volunteers and have grown to over a hundred different catholic worker sites around the country. The Catholic Worker is also the name of a newspaper, first published in New York City with Dorothy Day as editor until her death.


Catholic Workers have protested against racism, social injustices, and war. They also stress the idea of voluntary poverty, something Dorothy Day strongly believed in. Though the Catholic Worker movement is known to be quite unstructured,  these communities have helped many poor and have taken many stands in social justice activism. This is what the Catholic Worker is all about. It is the result of Dorothy Day’s and Peter Maurin’s vision of how to help lower class people and their communities. So I was a bit shocked when I found that White Rose Catholic Worker was deep in the rural farmlands of La Plata, Missouri, far away from any sort of urban culture.

When our class arrived on White Rose Catholic Worker last Friday, September 30th, I don’t think any of us had foreseen what we were actually getting into. White Rose was a small farm run by a married couple named John and Regina, with their two year old, Johanna. There was no electricity, running water, or electronic technology of any kind. The kitchen was outside and the toilet was a compost bucket. All of the food was locally grown and nothing was ever wasted or thrown out. I felt as though I had stepped foot into an Amish community, not a Catholic one. Where were the lines of the impoverished waiting to get coffee and food? Where were groups of volunteers who came by to work? Where was the activism? The groups preparing for protest?

On Saturday, we were all separated into groups for certain chores around the farm. We canned food, shoveled hay off of the fields, chopped wood, cleaned the workhouse, and more. At one point, I was up in the rafters of a work house, cleaning out dirt so it could be ready for insulation. It was the best workout I’d gotten in months. That night we all gathered in a circle to talk about our experiences before heading to bed. Sunday, our final day there, was spent doing a sort of mock Catholic liturgy, where a few religious passages were read and then everyone took turns sharing what the experience of being on the farm meant to them. When my turn came up I gave a sort of generic answer about how nice it was to get away from the city and to get my hands dirty working on the farm. I didn’t know what else to say. Did this experience really affect me at all?


The whole group at White Rose Catholic Worker!

What John and Regina have envisioned for this farm is beautiful in some ways. They wanted to cut themselves off from a modern, capitalist society and instead live in a small farming community. Though they were  the only permanent inhabitants of the farm, there were other farming communities near them with whom they traded. They rejected violence, addictive substances, and technology. which they viewed as obstacles to a happy and faithful life. If anyone could fulfill the catholic worker ideal of voluntary poverty, John and Regina did.

I understand what John and Regina are trying to do by living this way. If everyone wanted to live off the land as they do, then perhaps the world would be a more peaceful place. However, that is not the world we live in. We live in a world where poverty is far too rampant and violence is an everyday occurrence, which is why the Catholic Worker movement started in the first place. This knowledge is what made my experience at this farm rather difficult. Yes, it was physically taxing doing a ton of farm work and sleeping without heat. I was sure my back would feel sore for weeks. Yet, it was even harder for me to understand this place as a Catholic Worker farm instead of a home where a couple wanted to make a simple life. The Catholic Worker was created to help those in need, yet these people live in the middle of a farm in Missouri. They can’t serve food to the poor, nor would it be easy for them to give shelter anyone since they live so far outside of modern civilization. Is what they are doing really going to help people in the long run, or are they just doing this for themselves?

I’ll admit that getting to know this lifestyle of voluntary poverty was quite challenging for me. It’s hard to reconcile my preconceived notions of the Catholic Worker movement with what I was witnessing on the farm. Would Dorothy Day have approved such a radical choice? Is the White Rose Catholic Worker Farm capable of following this movement of social justice and helping the poor? Or does John and Regina’s choice of retreating from the realities of today’s world make no difference? I recognize that I come from a very 21st century mindset, so when I look at their pre-industrial lifestyle, it is hard for me not to think that they are making a mistake. While I don’t condemn them for their choices, I must admit that I believe the Catholic Worker movement should mean more than a life of voluntary poverty and prayer. This is a movement about helping those in need, providing the impoverished with what they do not have. I admire John and Regina’s courage to begin this life of voluntary poverty. It is something I could never do myself. Though there is beauty in living this way, I think I will always feel conflicted about whether this lifestyle is truly one that God calls us to do.


Other Sources:

Since we weren’t allowed to take photos, I have linked the Ramonat website where there is a slideshow of photos of the farm.

Ramonat Seminar

Dorothy Day

More info about White Rose









Slaughterhouse VI: Chicago Edition


The summer after I graduated from high school I had the opportunity to travel abroad for the first time in my life. My sister offered to take me anywhere in the world I wanted to go for a couple weeks. After debating it for quite a while, I finally decided to use my two precious weeks of travel to visit Scotland. I’d never had a terribly deep interest of the country, though I thought it was interesting that I had Scottish heritage. However, I was entering this country with little to no knowledge of its history or people. I just knew they wore kilts and liked bagpipes. This was not the case by the end of my trip. I had seen castles, museums, beautiful highlands, and met many local Scots. I left Scotland with not only more of an interest in the country, but also a greater respect for its history. This interest would later fuel my determination to study Scotland. My decision to visit the actual country has impacted me far greater than any book I’ve read about Scotland or Scottish history. When I read about Scotland, I’m learning the history. When I was in Scotland, I could feel the history.


My sister (left) and I petting a highland cow. 

Although I enjoyed my experience in Scotland, I don’t want to diminish the power history can have through other means. I could read a book about the Jacobite Rebellion and feel many of the same emotions I did when I visited Culloden Moor, the place where the Jacobites fell once and for all. I can feel heartbreak and anger over the Nazis’ brutal treatment of the Jews without visiting Auschwitz and I can be disgusted by the way meat was handled in the Chicago Union Stockyards by only having read The Jungle. Reading historical books and watching documentaries can be a powerful experience and many people, including myself, can learn a lot from these historical avenues. However, I think that there is something to be said about the power of place within history. Place can elicit emotions in people that might not surface otherwise: pain, happiness, fear, or a strong degree of interest. I have talked about Culloden Moor and read about it many times since my return from Scotland, but none of that can compare to my experience of standing in the middle of that field in the rain, knowing that where I stood was where, a few centuries ago, thousands of Scots had been slaughtered by the British. I really felt that I was standing in the middle of history. I can’t find a connection like that in a book or film because at that moment, the past had never felt more present in my life.

Although one doesn’t have to feel emotionally invested in history in order to understand it, passion can go a long way. A passion for history can enliven and enrich one’s understanding of the past, and the places in history can add to this. When we took our field trip to Back of the Yards with Prof. Pacyga, professor of history at Columbia College Chicago and author of Slaughterhouse, it was hard to get a grasp of its history. Unlike Scotland, which has ancient castles dotting the landscape left and right, the Chicago Union Stockyards have left little to no evidence that there were ever thousands of animals in cages or huge buildings where animals were slaughtered. The only real indication that there was ever a stockyard in the South Side of Chicago is the stone gate built at the entrance with a small information sign next to it giving a brief overview of the stockyards. So how is a place supposed to elicit a passion or emotions for history when it just looks like a construction zone?



A piece of the stone gate which reads Union Stockyard Chartered 1865. The cow’s head is also a bit of a giveaway. 

This is where not only places in history, but the people who were a part of those places come into importance. Having grown up in the Back of the Yards, Prof. Pacyga was a part of the stockyard life. As a teenager, he was surrounded by the smells, the animals, and the muck. His experience in this place in history and his passion for it is part of what keeps it living. If I had visited the stockyards by myself, I probably would have felt next to nothing. However, while walking with Prof. Pacyga I could feel the history and what the place used to be. I could see the pens where the hogs were kept, where the sewage overflowed, and where the slaughterhouse operated. All of this was communicated through the memories and the history of Prof. Pacyga having lived in this place. A place not only shapes history, but the people who experienced it as well. Prof. Pacyga, The Jungle, and even that lone part of the gate are all connections between the place and the people. Packingtown seemed like an intriguing story to me, but was made real through my experience walking the streets where it happened while Pacyga spoke of his life within the confines of this place. His experience growing up here gives us a look at the stockyards that we never could have gotten from books or articles.


This is how the neighborhood looks now. Would you have known this was once Packingtown?

Place in history not only has the ability to shape a person’s memory or emotions, but it can also help shape an entire city or country. The Union Stockyards in Chicago shaped the lives of many both in the past and the present. They brought in thousands of people from all over the world. It was a hodgepodge of different ethnicities. As Prof. Pacyga explained, there were so many different cultures there that they had their own parts of town. The Germans had their own stores and bars just as the Polish and the Irish did. As the number of immigrants coming to Chicago rose, so did the diversity. Today, Chicago is home to a huge diversity of people, from those of Polish to Southeast Asian origin. Though many factors have affected the rate of immigration over the years, the Chicago Union Stockyards definitely had a hand in the enormous range of diversity, according to Prof. Pacyga. How could it not? It is a huge part of Chicago’s history and is a part of what shaped the city into what it is today. The importance of place in the history of the stockyards is shown in Chicago’s current population. Although we can’t know how the history would have been affected if these huge stockyards had been placed in St. Louis instead of Chicago, there is no doubt that Chicago would not have been the same city that it is now. Places are just as important for feeling a connection to history as they are for understanding how the location of a historical event can shape a people, a city, or even a country.


No, this is not a reference to the football team. 

I know that I’ll never be able to experience the fear and pain that the Scots felt that day on Culloden Moor in 1746 just as I’ll never smell the stench of thousands of slaughtered animals in the Chicago stockyards. I can read about them and learn their stories, but I’ll never be a part of that history. However, I can still step foot into these places. I can physically go there and experience a blending of the present and the past. This is why place is so important in history. Historical events only happen the way they do because of where they take place. Place defines society and our understanding of things that have happened. It contributes to not only our emotions and memories, but also to who we are today. It is part of the context of every event and shapes many of their outcomes. One can’t understand the Battle of the Alamo without Texas just as one can’t understand the Union Stockyards without Chicago. Place will always be an integral part to both the shaping of history and how it is perceived today.

Other Sources:

The Stockyards

Chicago’s Diversity

Upton Sinclair

In Case You Didn’t Get the Title Reference