In my post, "Why Journeys to Assisi", I mentioned that questions of attachment (material or otherwise) are very alive for me, as they were for St. Francis. Let us begin with an illustration from his life.
This scene is one of a series of frescoes adorning the upper church of the Basilica of St Francis, in Assisi, a highlight of our retreat. The frescoes are generally attributed to Giotto and represent stories from the life of Francis. You may see the entire fresco series here:
Depicted in this particular panel is the confrontation between Francis' father, Pietro Bernadone (pictured on the left in golden robes) and Francis, on the right, draped in the Bishop's cloak. Why is Francis naked? Because, in a dramatic display, he cast aside his clothes, and his filial relationship to his father, to renounce his former life and fully embrace his spiritual journey.
Later, having "married" Lady Poverty, Francis would gladly possess nothing, and would insist that his order shun ownership of property. Having witnessed the mercenary attitudes of the rising merchant class (of which his father was a prominent member), and the violence that they and the nobility would inflict on each other to preserve their respective privileges, Francis may have discerned that poverty could be a pathway to peace.
Said simply, whatever we own may eventually own us. And, when we are beholden, we donate our time and energy in fealty. We attempt to preserve, protect and defend. To maintain the status quo. Why is that problematic? For me, the answer is because life is not static; it is essentially about transition and transformation.
If I am to become a compassionate presence in the world, I could not do that as a self-hating gay man in a heterosexual marriage. And, yet I defended that role for years. If I am to accept responsibility for my actions and make amends for damage done, I cannot do that while pretending to be the victim. And, yet, my drinking allowed me to create and sustain the illusion of being wronged.
My fierce attachments to such mental constructs and destructive behaviors stunted my spiritual growth, and every other aspect of my life. Only when this became clear and untenable, could I stand naked in front of myself and surrender aspects of my former life. Only then could I come out and then, later, get sober.
This is an ongoing process for me. Seeing my attachments for what they are, and being willing to release them, is an exercise in courage and trust. Which is why I need the help and inspiration of others on this journey.