Saints: Brennan Manning (April 27, 1934 – April 12, 2013)

I cannot say quite how–I think it was the connection of Rich Mullins’ use of the word “Ragamuffin” that first led me to pick up The Ragamuffin Gospel from a discount shelf in a Christian bookstore when I was around 16 years old. From there, Brennan Manning’s grasp of grace came into my life like the first waves of a tide that has simply kept rolling higher up my rocky shores–a king tide moving far past any water lines I had previously marked out.

In The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus, Manning writes:

“Before I am asked to show compassion toward my brothers and sisters in their suffering, [God] asks me to accept [God’s] compassion in my own life, to be transformed by it, to become caring and compassionate toward myself in my own suffering and sinfulness, in my own hurt, failure and need. The degree of our compassion for others depends upon our capacity for self-acceptance. When I am most unhappy with myself, I am most critical of others. When I am most into self-condemnation, I am most judgmental of others. It is a truism that the saints, like Christ, are the most unjudgmental of Christians. They get on very well with sinners. They are not severe with human weaknesses. . .

When the compassion of Christ is interiorized, made personal and appropriated to ourselves, the breakthrough into caring for others occurs. In the mystery of divine wholeness, the way of compassionate caring for others brings healing to ourselves, and compassionate caring for ourselves brings healing to others. . . .

For many of us, trust does not come easily. Trust does not come from discovering in philosophy or cosmology some proof that God exists. Sometimes it happens when my eyes meet yours or when we share something in common. It is most likely to happen if I love you. . . .

If we are using the Gospel to segregate gays, batter blacks, justify prejudice toward Hispanics, Asians, Jews, or any of God’s children, then get rid of the Gospel so that we may experience the Gospel. If God is invoked to justify division, competition, contempt and hatred among Christian sects in the Body of Christ and hostility toward other world religions, then get rid of God so that we may find God. As the fourteenth-century mystic Meister Eckhart said: ‘I pray that I may be quit of God that I may find God.’ Our closed human concepts of Gospel and God can prevent us from experiencing both and stifle our freedom to love one another in a nonjudgmental way.”

The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus, 70-75. 1986

These words were published when I was 1 year old.

Somehow this song by Mary Gauthier has been rolling through me this week and when I heard the news of Brennan Manning’s death, something clicked and I felt something reverberate between me, this song, and his words and life.


Brother Brennan,

Pray for us. Pray that we may stumble into the staggering grace that you wrote and lived about. Intercede for us, as we seek to show compassion to ourselves and others. May your prophetic words offer us solace, courage, comfort, and hope as we lean into the breast of a God who is fond of us in ways we cannot imagine.


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