“What?” I was jarred by his forwardness.
“Have you said goodbye to your father yet?”
I looked away from him. “I’m not sure what you mean,” I said.
“I think you know,” Thomas Replied.
- From “Chasing Francis,” by Ian Morgan Cron
Thomas is an old monk speaking to Chase in this creatively written presentation of the life of Francis of Assisi. According to the story, the real St. Francis was being accused by his father for thievery and before the judge and jury of his world Francis stripped to the buck naked birthday suit of his skin and gave his father not only the money he made from the thievery, but the clothes off his body, too. Francis turned to his dad and said, “Until today, I was called Pietro di Bernardone my father. From this day forward I have only one father, my Father in Heaven.”
The Bishop was so moved by his action that he dressed him in his own cloak.
Francis had said “goodbye” to his father.
This made me ask the question Thomas asks, knowing full well what was being proposed. God seems to have said, “Yeah. Yeah, you said goodbye a long time ago.”
But the past month has been a sort of goodbye, also. A goodbye to the ways I was waiting, that I didn’t know about; like for years, I had been sitting at some train station that closed years before, waiting for my father to show up or approve my life or something…
In the manner of Francis, I feel like I have laid down the last of the clothes that came from dad, and claimed singularly the Father that God has always been; the Father that I signed on to know 20 some odd years ago. And too, He seems to have put his own cloak on me.
Clearly, hear me on this. It isn’t a bitter renouncing of my dad. If anything has happened in the past few months I have come to see dad more fully human than before, simply another man with a story that has made him who he is, for good or bad. It was a releasing him of the responsibility of being “dad.”
In this, though, there is a new freedom to be engaged with my Father, the one that has made me with a story He tells, in a way that is more what he had in mind. It comes with a name by which He knows me. It comes with a freedom of movement that is crazy enough to breathe in impossibilities. Simon Tugwell, called Farnciscanism a “radically unprotected life.” Or rephrased in Thomas’ words, “It’s to be real because we know the Real.”
It seems that we are made for leaving our fathers at some point in life in order to find out whom we are. Paradoxically, we leave the one with whom we have so much in common. But then again, our fathers are simply men who, too, have to say “goodbye” to their idea father-hood – the one they inherited from their dad’s.
Francis’ move changed a bit of the world.
Gotta wonder what it means to say goodbye and head out into that great big yonder that is akin to the radically unprotected life.
Have you said goodbye, yet?