Beloved author Brennan Manning is known for his thoughtful, challenging books, including RUTHLESS TRUST and THE RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL. His longtime fans will recognize SOUVENIRS OF SOLITUDE as a second edition of a work originally published in 1979, which offers a collection of Manning’s thoughts from that era. Many of the themes that he has been teaching for more than 40 years are expressed with exuberance and exhilaration, one of which is simply God’s boundless love for us.
Manning acknowledges that silence and solitude are treasured commodities in life, and notes that his restless self only discovers peace when he finds his rest in God. Yet convincing others of this truth has proven an uphill battle. He recognizes that part of his need for alone time can be attributed to his personality and describes himself as an “introvert-intuitive, feeler-perceiver type.” As a result, one of Manning’s primary needs is simply to be alone. He writes:
“As a hungry man needs food and a thirsty man water, I need solitude --- time to achieve a state of peace and recollection from which I can function and give to others what I was meant to in the personal plan of God for me.”
Yet despite this need, Manning says he wrestled with feeling guilt. After all, isn’t alone time just a way to skirt responsibility? Waste time? Embrace idleness? What he discovered was that the alone time with God is time to be treasured. The moments of silence and solitude reveal the love story of his passion for God. By revisiting these moments with God, Manning draws on a rich well of spiritual lessons, insights from God, and instances when he heard God’s voice echo in his life.
SOUVENIRS OF SOLITUDE is a collection of these moments. Most of the memories (or souvenirs as he calls them) are only a few pages long, allowing the book to be used as a devotional as each of the short chapters ends with a prayer-filled poem. Chapters include “The Beauty of the Eucharistic Liturgy,” “Hopeful or Wishful Thinking,” and “Christmas Reflections at O’Hare.” In a particularly insightful chapter, “Good Humor,” Manning challenges readers to reflect on their own disposition on life and notes that a zealous and humorless evangelist can cause others to want to avoid religion altogether:
“Through good humor, a Christian triumphs over that subtle form of egotism that would make him pose as a martyr or at least a victim that makes him want to be noticed, consoled, or placed on a pedestal. And it makes community life richer and more delightful.”
Such gentle reminders line the pages of SOUVENIRS OF SOLITUDE. Manning draws from life, literature and scripture to illustrate his message. Though some will long for him to go into more depth on some of the topics, most will enjoy the brevity. Fans will be glad to see this second edition of the book released and find themselves challenged by its thoughts and reflections. Recommended to those looking for a rich devotional.
Reviewed by Margaret Oines on October 15, 2009