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franciscan - May 2005

The Society of Saint Francis, 2005

Of Francis, Film and Fathers

by Alexander Levering Kern

For a ten-year-old boy's birthday party

most parents would bring kids

to see Star Wars or Indiana Jones,

but not my father.  He chose

Zefferelli, a double dose of Romeo and Juliet and

Brother Sun, Sister Moon.

Grabbing his chance to educate us

while saving pennies on the double bill,

he herded twelve boys

into the grand Circle Theater, Sistine Chapel

of repertory film in Washington, DC.


I cannot say which was more appalling

to that rowdy crowd of boys:

Juliet's nakedness or Francis'.

We giggled, fished for popcorn in deep buckets,

exchanged sharp elbows and shy whispers,

then vied for the best seats in the car ride home.


Who could have guessed then

that I would star as Romeo

with an elementary school Juliet,


when she moved to Baltimore that summer

just after we confessed our crushes?


Who could have known then

that I would prowl medieval Europe

with my father,

or follow the pilgrim's way

to Assisi and then among the destitute

on America's streets, excited and afraid?


Once moved by that vision

of a celluloid hippie,

now spellbound by the life

of an ascetic saint,

might I too relinquish the claims of my father,

renounce the expected, respected life

for one of holy zeal?

Could I dare, after he paid

the price of admission? f


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