Brennan Manning, Author of 'The Ragamuffin Gospel,' Passes Away

Brennan Manning, best known for his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, passed away at the age of 78 after many years of declining health, his family announced.

"Richard Francis Xavier Manning, better known to legions of faithful readers as author, speaker, and contemplative Brennan Manning, for whom grace was irresistible, completed his earthly journey on Friday, April 12 at 12:10AM. He is now resting safely in the arms of his Abba," says the obituary posted on his official website by his family.

"Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death will be part of your journey, but the Kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever," Manning wrote in The Ragamuffin Gospel, published in 1990 and billed as "good news for the bedraggled, beat-up and burnt-out."

"Define yourself radically as one beloved by God," he wrote in Abba's Child.

Brennan was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. After attending St. John's University for two years, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving overseas as a sports writer for the U.S. Marine Corps newspaper. Upon his return, Brennan began a program in journalism at the University of Missouri. He departed after a semester, restlessly searching for something "more" in life. "Maybe the something 'more' is God," an adviser suggested, triggering Brennan's enrollment at Saint Francis Catholic seminary in Loretto, Pennsylvania.

Manning joined the Little Brothers of Jesus of Charles de Foucauld in Spain, a religious institute committed to an uncloistered, contemplative life among the poor, in the late 1960s. He worked as a mason's assistant and a dishwasher in France, was imprisoned (by choice) in Switzerland, and spent six months in a remote cave somewhere in the Zaragoza desert.

A decade later, Manning returned to the United States and began writing after confronting his alcoholism.

One book soon followed another as invitations for him to speak and to lead spiritual retreats multiplied exponentially. He spent the remainder of his life traveling widely as he continued to write and preach, encouraging men and women everywhere to accept and embrace the good news of God's unconditional love in Jesus Christ.

His final book was his memoir, All is Grace.

In April 2011, author Philip Yancey, who wrote the foreword for Manning's memoir, wrote: "When he visited a monastery in Colorado for spiritual retreats, he would sometimes get a temporary dispensation from the rule of silence and meet my wife and me at an ice cream parlor (one addiction he doesn't disclose in these pages). Our backgrounds could hardly have been more different – Southern fundamentalism vs. Northeastern Catholic – and yet by different routes we had both stumbled upon an Artesian well of grace and have been gulping it ever since. One glorious fall afternoon we hiked on a carpet of golden Aspen leaves along a mountain stream and I heard the details of Brennan's life: his loveless childhood, his marathon search for God, his marriage and divorce, his lies and coverups, his continuing struggles with alcohol addiction."

Yancey went on to write in the article posted on his website: "As you read this memoir you may be tempted, as I am, to think 'Oh, what might have been…if Brennan hadn't given into drink.' I urge you to reframe the thought to, 'Oh, what might have been…if Brennan hadn't discovered grace.' More than once I have watched this leprechaun of an Irish Catholic hold spellbound an audience of thousands by telling in a new and personal way the story that all of us want to hear: that the Maker of all things loves and forgives us. Brennan knows well that love and especially the forgiveness. Like 'Christian,' the everyman character in The Pilgrim's Progress, he progressed not by always making right decisions but by responding appropriately to wrong ones. (John Bunyan, after all, titled his own spiritual biography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners)."

Manning's sister, Geraldine Rubino, and her husband, Art, survive him.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Church of St. Rose in Belmar, N.J., his family says in the obituary.

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