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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