ronniemcbrayer300 blackKENTUCKY (5/12/13) - Years ago my oldest son asked me a question: “What is a saint?” When you’re driving along with a numb mind at day’s end, as I was, that’s not the type of question you are prepared to answer. So I splattered out, “A saint is someone who does what God wants them to do.” My son answered, “If that’s a saint, then why did New Orleans choose that as their football mascot?” I didn’t have an answer for that question either.

What is a saint? Well, we often think of saints as being holy or remarkable people who did something extraordinary for God. We think of people we know personally who have influenced us: A grandmother, parent, or mentor whom we easily refer to as saints. Or we think of some poor lady with a worthless husband and an impossible life. She never loses her patience or resolve, so behind her back we talk about how great her reward in heaven will be, and we call her a saint.

Thomas Merton, a saintly person in his own right, said: “A saint is not someone who is good. It is someone who has experienced the goodness of God.” Going with Merton’s thought, saints are those have come to know deep, abiding grace. Saints understand that their failures and shortcomings do not disqualify them from receiving God’s love. Saints have learned that their grotesque, self-inflicted wounds, rather than alienating God, bring the divine to bear in their lives in unique and powerful ways.

Extraordinary. Influential. Determined. Fallible and damaged. If these are the characteristics of sainthood, then a true saint left the world in recent days: The writer, priest, preacher, alcoholic, divorcé, and all-round self-proclaimed “ragamuffin” known as Brennan Manning.

As a young man Brennan entered the seminary and was ordained to the Franciscan priesthood. He would go on to become a theologian, a campus minister, a spiritual director, the author of nearly two dozen books (his “Ragamuffin Gospel” should be required religious reading), and a practitioner in the way of Jesus, living among the poor as a mason’s assistant, a dishwasher, a voluntary prisoner, and a shrimper.

Of course, if Manning’s story and life ended there, there would be little doubt about his sainthood. Teaching theology, working among the pitiable and overlooked, self-imprisonment (though innocent) in order to minister to convicts, living among the rough and tumble fisherman of the Gulf Coast – who could be more like Jesus?

But Manning’s ministry and life disintegrated into horrific alcoholism. He was homeless and busted, living on a quart of vodka a day, when he finally entered treatment. It took him months to get sober, but he did, only to relapse. When sober again he began writing in earnest, left the priesthood, married Rosalyn, and moved to New Orleans (he was an avid Saints fan), where his marriage would end in divorce, and again he would land in rehab.

Manning says that the greatest regret of his life is not his relapses into alcoholism. His greatest regret is “The time I’ve wasted in shame, guilt, remorse, and self-condemnation…I’m not speaking about the appropriate guilt one ought to feel after committing a sin. I’m talking about wallowing in guilt, almost indulging in it, which is basically a kind of idolatry where I am the center of my focus and concern.”

He went on to say, “I can waste no more time being shocked or horrified that I have failed. There’s nothing else I can do now but help sinners journey from self-hatred to God’s love, and to help people see that if God ceased to love, God would cease to be God.”

This blessed, bumbling drunk; this muddled mix of failure and faithfulness; this holy, blue-eyed and blue-jean-wearing champion of grace did exactly that for untold thousands – he helped them find the love of God in spite of personal shame. And while I only knew him through his words, he did the same for me. So from one ragamuffin to another, “Thank you, Brennan. A saint truly is marching in.”

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.


Disclaimer: The content supplied by columnists and letters to the Editor on this site does not in any way, shape or form, implied or otherwise, necessarily express or suggest endorsement or support of any of such content, statement, or opinions therein. SurfKY News does not necessarily adhere to or endorse content provided by outside non-staff sources.

© Copyright 2015 SurfKY News Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, or rewritten without permission. SurfKY News encourages you to share this story on social media.

In Other News...

Pyrotechnic Event for City's Bird Control Program on Monday, March 2

OWENSBORO, Ky. (2/28/15) — In the interest of human health and safety, a pyrotechnic event, which is part of the City… Read More

Daviess County Traffic Advisory

DAVIESS COUNTY, Ky. (2/28/15) — A contractor for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet plans to ramp up work zone… Read More

Most Read This Week

February 21, 2015 7785

Traffic Advisory for Western Kentucky

in Top News For All Sites by KTC
February 25, 2015 6956

Multi-Agency Investigation Nets Large-Scale Meth…

in Top News For All Sites by Trooper Stu Recke
February 24, 2015 6786

Two Charged in Central City Meth Bust

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Trooper Stu Recke
February 22, 2015 6655

Easter Cuties Pageant in Memory of Shanice Bean

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
February 21, 2015 6372

Local Administrators Warn Employees to Watch for…

in Top News For All Sites by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
February 25, 2015 6019

New Asian Restaurant Coming to Madisonville

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Gary Gates, SurfKY News

Most Read This Month

February 12, 2015

UPDATE: Name of Pennyrile Fatality Officially…

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
February 09, 2015

Police Pursue Man after Fight at Taco Bell

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Detention Center

Stories Trending Today

February 28, 2015 3243

City's Parking Ordinances to be Strictly Enforced…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
February 27, 2015 2343

AIRPLAY: Travis Dukes Makes Stop for Jam Session

in Top News For All Sites by Paul McRee, SurfKY News
February 27, 2015 2293

Local Church Hosting Spring Campmeeting

in Video by Gary Gates, SurfKY News
February 28, 2015 1529

Market Commentary - Feb. 28, 2015

in Top News For All Sites by Randall L. Franklin
February 28, 2015 1278

UK Athletics to Deepen Investment in Center for…

in General Sports For All Sites by UK Athletics
February 28, 2015 1241

Keeping the Faith - 'The Fewer the Words the…

in General News For All Sites by Ronnie McBrayer
February 28, 2015 1225

Whitfield Meets with American Physical Therapy…

in General News For All Sites by Robert Hankins
February 28, 2015 1207

Hooked on Science - 'Scribblebot'

in General News For All Sites by Jason Lindsey
February 28, 2015 1196

Happenings, Meetings Listed for Hopkins County

in Hopkins News by Amber Averitt, SurfKY News
February 28, 2015 995

Retirement Reception Held for City Employees

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Amber Averitt, SurfKY News