Patched Together -- Review

PATCHED TOGETHER: A Story of My Story.  By Brennan Manning.  Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010.  139 pp.

    Henri Nouwen spoke of Jesus as the wounded healer and invited us to share in that identity as we lived lives in the world.  Brennan Manning, by his own admission a recovering alcoholic and a former Franciscan priest who has authored a number of well-received books, including the Ragamuffin Gospel, introduces us to the “Medicine Man,” a purveyor of a potion called “amorine” or the “medicine of love,” which the Medicine Man gives without cost.  This Medicine Man, we will discover, is also the Man of Sorrows, who brings healing and hope to a young boy’s life.  

    Patched Together is a patchwork of two earlier stories, which Manning has brought together with a third.  Entitled “Morning,” “Noon,” and “Night,” the three stories carry us through the life of Willie Juan, a broken and disfigured boy of mixed ethnicity whose mother is dead and his father has disappeared.  He lives with his Grandmother who pours out love, encouragement and wisdom, but it is his encounter with the Man of Sorrows that changes his life. It is through the Man of Sorrows that he discovers friendship for the first time.  It is through the Man of Sorrows and the Comforter, whom he meets in a mountain cave, that he finds himself able to accept his own scars, which came as a result of a horrendous auto accident, and then find healing.  It is also through this transforming set of experiences that he encounters Abba. 

    In each of the early encounters, shared in the story “Morning,” healing takes place and he learns to accept himself and his own gifts and abilities.  In the second story, “Noon,” we meet Willie Juan in adulthood.  Having escaped across the border into New Mexico, he is able to use his skill with wood carving to become famous and wealthy.  But even as he becomes wealthy, he begins to lose his sight.  But all is not lost, for he encounters, on the streets, a young woman, whom he realizes is the one person who befriended him as a child.  Much younger than he, she had helped him care for the donkey that carried water to the village.  She too was now in Santa Fe, but unlike him she’s not wealthy.  Instead, she is living in a shack, but her life is not empty.  No, she lives a life of service to the children.  They become friends and fall in love, but Willie Juan, having escaped poverty does want to return to it, and Ana does not want to leave those whom she serves.  Their relationship is broken as a result, and then she dies in an accident, and Willie Juan, who over time has begun to forget the Man of Sorrows, and who now is suffering from blindness, grows increasingly bitter and despondent.

    As the story continues, Ana’s mother brings to him a gift from his lost love, a trumpet.  He had always wanted to play, but did not have the skill, but as he picked up this gift, he began to play out his sorrows and grief, and again he became well-known and wealthy, but the music grew hollow, as the grief played out with nothing to replace it.  This changes, in a moment, as he returns home to his village of Hopi, a town that had been transformed due to the gifts he had shared anonymously over the years.  Word that he, the famous trumpeter, had returned to the village reached the Archbishop, who invites him to play a song at the Christmas Eve service in Mexico City.  He accepts and shares in a song written for the moment, a song that cries out his angst, but a song that creates a reply from the Man of Sorrows, who proclaims in a response sung by the crowd, that Abba had always loved him.

    In the final story, Willie Juan is reunited with a resurrected Ana, who becomes his partner in life and service – now in Hopi.  It is in this final time of life, spent with Ana, that he befriends another, who becomes his helper, and the one who is called upon to continue telling the story of the Man of Sorrows.  Here in the final chapter, Willie Juan is able to see Abba face to face.

    This is a brief and flowing story of one’s life in relationship to God.  It is a story of healing and grace, reminder that the Man of Sorrows has taken upon himself our griefs and burdens, bringing healing to our lives.  It is a beautiful and transforming story.  It is not the story of one suffering punishment that we deserve, but one who is willing to share and take on our burdens and injuries.  It is also a story of the ease with which we can lose sight of the one who gives us life.  It also reminds us of what is important in life.  This, one must say is a reminder that gospel stands at the center.  Read this and you will be blessed.


kbrown said…
Good post thanks for sharing...

what is the bible?

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