Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Brother Son, Sister Moon

It was a Saturday evening with nothing to do. I found myself alone in La Ceiba, Honduras, during my two-plus years of voluntary service in that locality. For some reason, there was no youth group meeting, our usual Saturday night entertainment. All my friends were gone somewhere and I was left alone.

Many times I loved to get away by myself when my fellow volunteers sat up until late at night playing cards. They would get so involved and excited that they couldn’t sleep when they finally climbed into bed. I had participated in many of these games until I decided that we were not immersing ourselves in the  culture we had come to serve by playing card games with ourselves. So I would venture out on my own, sit in the park and talk to whomever walked by. Often my conversation partners were shoe shine boys. But I was learning Spanish and culture.

On this particular night, however, I wanted some ex-patriot company, and there was none around. What should I do? There were times when we sneaked into the movie theater to catch a movie, even though attendance at such venues was frowned on by our church. The usual fare on Saturday night was spaghetti westerns, usually a double feature, but not one of my favorite ways of spending time. But I was bored, and probably even a little homesick. I decided to go to the movies.

The feature film was called “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.” Since I was not very well versed on movies, I had no idea what it was about. I figured it was a western, and planned to  pass the time with some mindless entertainment.

Like a blossoming rose, slowly the movie unfolded in front of my eyes. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. It was a movie about the life of St. Francis of Assisi, something I knew nothing about, but which held me spellbound for its entirety. Nearly everything about his life reminded me of my own Anabaptist heritage; conversion from a frivolous wealthy merchant’s son to taking a vow of poverty; from reforming the church to service to the poor; remaining true to his conversion in spite of threats from his family, friends and the established church.

Perhaps it was because I was expecting nothing while attending the movie. Perhaps it was the similarities between how Francis lived and my idealized theological perspectives. Perhaps it was a well-directed and photographed movie. Whatever the reason, I was mesmerized by this event. I walked out of the theater with my feet barely touching the ground. What started out as a lonely, boring evening turned into a transcendent moment.

I was reminded of this event recently while reading Jamie Arpin-Ricci’s chapter in the recently released book
A LivingAlternative: Anabaptist Christianity in a Post-Christendom World from Ettelloc Publishing, titled “What Anabaptists Can Learn from St. Francis of Assisi.” There are lots of parallels, a few of which I mentioned above. I have found deep resonance with the writings of Franciscan Richard Rohr as well.

What points of convergence and divergence do you see between Franciscan and Anabaptist theology and practice?


  1. Hi Don - your post made me smile. I saw this movie as a young kid in a drive-in in Windhoek, Namibia, in 1974/5 and again in the mid-eighties. It's been my all time favourite movie since then and, living in Africa, I struggled for years to find the DVD. What a joy when I finally got a copy from the USA! I'm not an Anabaptist in name but if I have to identify with a historical theological label it would be brethren/anabaptist - for the very reason that these groups are so closely affiliated with the type of spirituality portrayed in the movie and, of course, by the life of Christ.

    1. Thank you for your comments Tobie! I would have replied earlier, but comments from my posts were ending up in my email spam. Glad you found my comments to your liking. Blessings on the journey.