When I saw splashes of color and flowery, swirly script on the cover of Vulnerable and Free by Fr. Paul Farren (Paraclete Press 2019), I thought it would be an easy, lighthearted read. However, when I opened this slender volume and began reading, my heart was touched on a deep level. While this was easy to read, it was also difficult because of the way Fr. Farren’s words challenge us to truly change our lives and become more like Christ.
Pointing at the particular act of Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper, Fr. Farren expresses one of the main themes of the book: the importance of relinquishing our control and becoming vulnerable. He talks about the “pyramid model” of society, where the rich and power sit on top and all others fall below them. “The pyramid model is not the model of Jesus. His model was that we would live as his body-that we would live as brothers and sisters, not independent but dependent, acknowledging our mutual vulnerability,” he writes.
Encouraging us to reject the pyramid model, Fr. Farren continues to discuss poverty, humiliation, and the need for an attitude of patience and surrender. Drawing from a few examples in his own life, as well as stories from a few other people, Fr. Farren illustrates the power of forgiveness in the face of humiliation, and the freedom found in letting go of control. Fr. Farren is a priest in Derry, Ireland, and while he does not specifically touch on the Troubles in this book, it is apparent that his words come from profound experiences he’s had living in a place that is still struck with much discord.
Vulnerable and Free may be small and rather innocent-looking, but it is a challenging book. It calls us to break down the walls we create and truly reach out to others as Christ did, so that we may experience healing and true community. As he reflects on Christ’s message of forgiveness and peace as laid out in the Gospels, Fr. Farren imparts wisdom that we can all learn from. In fact, reading this felt like reading a personal letter of encouragement and hope.
The simplicity, profundity, and gentle tone reminded me of the books by Fr. Jacques Phillipe, and I truly enjoyed this and now want to read more by this author. Vulnerable and Free is well worth reading and re-reading.
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Copyright 2020 AnneMarie Miller
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