Brennan Manning—former Catholic priest, speaker, writer, icon for many evangelicals—is saying goodbye. He’s 79, in failing health, under the care of a caretaker, but still telling his stories, still telling the rest of us that God loves you where you are.
All is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir, written with writer and author John Blase, is Manning’s farewell and, in a sense, final confession. He devotes a considerable portion of his farewell to his failures – a point Christian writer Philip Yancey takes issue with in the foreword to the book. But that’s the point of a confession, and especially a final confession. “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”
And what is on Manning’s mind is his never-ending struggle with alcoholism, the strained relationship he had with his mother, and how he failed his wife Roslyn. He provides information about his childhood and growing up, and how he became a priest, but it is those three things that are on his mind as he moves closer to the end of life.
From the time he was 16, he says, he’s embraced, fought, lost, recovered and lost again his battle with alcohol. He drank so much as a teenager that he was nicknamed the “Funnel.” He drank so much that he experienced blackouts, including the one in the New Jersey hotel room in 1993 when he missed his mother’s funeral. He readily admits his lies and deceits, his denials and the hurts he caused to families and friends alike.
His felt something sorely missing in his relationship with his mother, and that something was acceptance. One feels the pain of the little boy who believes he can never do enough to be accepted by his mother, and Manning describes that pain here. He eventually finds and offers forgiveness a decade after her death.
And he describes the eventual failure of his marriage to Roslyn. He left the priesthood after falling in love with her, and that was the beginning of his fame outside the Catholic Church as a speaker and writer. He describes their life together in New Orleans. But he didn’t know how to be a husband, he says, and his alcoholism eventually doomed the marriage.
And yet he knows that despite all of his failures, he knows God loves him as he is, and he is forgiven. In All is Grace, Manning offers his testimony of failure so that we, too, no matter what we are and what we have done, can know that we, too, are God’s children, forgiven and loved as we are.
Related: Co-author John Blase writes about Manning and the book for the Huffington Post.