It's impossible to sum up Brennan's life is any one word; hardship, change, variety would all apply at one point or another. He was born in New York City in 1934.He had an unpleasant home life. He served in the Marine Corps during Korea. He was ordained in the Franciscan priesthood in 1963. He served in many capacities, sometimes among the poor, sometimes as a spiritual instructor at schools.He was a part of a group of priests who established a spiritual community in Alabama, reaching out to shrimpers and their families. He struggled mightily with alcoholism at points of his life. He wrote several wonderful books, probably the most famous being "The Ragamuffin's Gospel" which, speaking from personal experience, is a wonderful, moving read. I'm anxious to read his biography, which Im sure will do his life better justice than this little blurb!
Onto the book review!
I wouldn't say that this is a sequel to "The Ragamuffin's Gospel" but they do mention some of the ideas from that book in this book. Starting with what a ragamuffin is :"The unsung assembly of saved sinners who are little in their own sight, conscious of their brokenness and powerlessness before God, and who cast themselves on His mercy."
The main theme this book is built around is trust, as you may have gathered from the title. The trust that Brennan talks about is not an easy trust to come by. This trust is "the conviction that God wants us to grow, to unfold, and to experience the fullness of life. However, this kind of trust is acquired only gradually and most often through a series of crises and trials."
Trust is obviously hard to come by when terrible things are happening to you. I know personally a question I struggle with is "Why does God allow such terrible things to happen all over the world, he could stop them." I think that's just one of those questions that we will never have an answer to that wholly satisfies us. Brennan quotes author Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote this in a letter to a heartbroken friend: "When the heart strings are suddenly cut, it is, I believe a physical impossibility to feel faith or resignation; there is a revolt of the instinctive and animal system, though we may submit to God, it is rather by constant painful effort than sweet attraction". Submitting our will to someone other than ourselves is not something done easily or without effort.
This was my favorite quote in the book: "On the last day, Jesus will look us over not for medals, diplomas, or honors, but for scars." (Wesley slumps into chair, with hand on heart).Thank goodness for that, because I don't have much in way of medals and diplomas. As I always like to say "God loves broken things", and this quote reminded of my saying, but in a much more eloquent way.
(This next bit is sad but I'm going to end on a high note, I promise!)
This little anecdote didn't really fit anywhere in the review but it broke my heart and I wanted to include it. So I mentioned before that Brennan didn't have a great childhood. One of these reasons was because his mom was, at best, undemonstrative. He says "I have no memory of being held, hugged or kissed by my mother as a little boy.I was called a nuisance and a pest and told to shut up and be still". He figured that this was somehow his fault and it planted the self-hate that haunted him most of his life. Isn't that just the most horribly sad thing you've ever heard? He reasons out later that it's because his mother was raised in an orphanage and never received any affection and therefore wasn't really capable of giving any.He comes to grips with all of this later in life but this really affected him in a terrible way for a big chunk of his life.
Okay ending on a high note!
Brennan tells a story that he read from a named Robert Johnson.
So there's this famous monastery full of these wise, incredibly skilled monks. But there is one little monk who doesn't have any of these lauded gifts and skills that his brothers have. He wanted to have something special to offer Mary as a form of worship but he thought he had nothing to offer.However, he was a tumbler in a circus before he became a monk. So he would sneak down in the crypt where no one would see him and perform a tumbling act in front of a statue of Mary as his offering to her. Another monk sees him and is flabbergasted and offended at this little monk. He marches right up to the abbot and tells him about these crypt shenanigans. The abbot follows this informer down to the crypt. He watches this tumbler and waits until he finishes his act. The abbot turns to the informer (who is insane with anger) and says "more real worship goes on here than takes place upstairs" (in the church). May we all use our gifts in joyful service like our little circus monk. (I love this story so much, I might be tearing up. I am tearing up. I hope that he was humming the little circus song while he was tumbling too. Do do dootle dootle do do dooooootle)
So I love this book. 4 stars out of 5. Readable, relatable, challenging, sad parts, funny parts. All good parts.