Willie Juan is a young boy with a crippled leg, the result of an automobile accident. He also bears of the scars from burned skin he received in the same accident. He’s been raised by his grandmother, Calm Sunset, in a village called Hopi, which could be Mexico or New Mexico. More often than not, he finds himself the object of the other children’s jokes and cruelty. The scars on the inside may be worse than the scares on the outside.
One day at a town festival, Willie Juan meets Medicine Man, who’s selling a healing liquid. The townspeople laugh in ridicule and walk away, but Willie Juan remains, and as a result his life will change forever. After he returns to his grandmother, he discovers that the liquid has an effect but it doesn’t heal his scars, and he turns away from all the Medicine Man told him. Eventually, his grandmother tells him he must climb the nearby hills to the Cave of Bright Darkness, and wait for what will happen. And what happens is a visit by the cave’s spirit and eventually the Medicine Man himself.
Patched Together: A Story of My Story by Brennan Manning (1934-2013) is an allegory of salvation and redemption. It is a three-part story, assembled from separate writings by Manning published in 1997 and 2002; this assembled version was published in 2010. Manning – the revered priest, speaker, and author – is perhaps best known for The Ragamuffin Gospel and his friendship with singer Rich Mullins. But Manning was also a prolific author of numerous books on faith, grace, and Christianity.
Patched Together is framed as three times of day, morning, noon, and night, representing the three periods of Willie Juan’s life – childhood, adulthood, and old age. In all three, Willie Juan will find himself wandering from what he’s learned from the Medicine Man. He becomes widely known for his carvings of wood, and then for playing the trumpet. World success, however, doesn’t equate spiritual success.
In an author’s note, Manning called Patched Together his story. It’s more than that, of course. It’s all of our stories. Willie Juan is Everyman, who receives the gospel but finds himself living a life of faith, doubt, self-reliance, and then return to faith – many times in a single life.
But after night, as Manning points out, there always comes the morning.
Top photograph by Matt Le via Unsplash. Used with permission.