Core Circle - Our Fathers

Opening Words: 

"Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent."

- Carl Jung


Check in/Sharing



1st Reading

Fathers, fathering, and fatherhood are ideals and models that have been somewhat mixed up from the beginning.  Consider the story of Abraham and Isaac.  When Isaac is not quite an adolescent, God commands Abraham to lead him away to a mountaintop, and make of him a burnt offering.  And Abraham, the father of all the Jews, patriarch of patriarchs, a man with a Big Idea, simply obeys.  He does not plead.  He does not question.  He does not wonder at the kind of God who would ask such a thing, or even check to make sure he heard it right.  Imagine the scene…  A child tied with ropes to the tinder he himself had carried, an old man, his father, standing over him with the knife raised, his hand stayed at the last moment by God finally believing the Abraham’s faith had been successfully tested.

Scott Turow has written of this story: “…the bible does not record Isaac’s responses.  We do not know if he, like Jesus, asked, “Father, why have you forsaken me?”  We do not know if he begged, the way most of us would, for his life.  We know only that he obeyed.  That he was a child.  That because he knew nothing else, he did as his father required.  We know he allowed himself to be bound with rope.  We know he let his father lay him on the altar of pyramided firewood which together they had raised to God.  We know he watched his father on the mountaintop raise the gleaming knife above his breastbone.  We know he was a child, the son of a man with a Big Idea, who in his longing and confusion, even in his final instants, could only look to his father with that eternal if foundering hope for love.”


"I never know where you’ll turn up next.  Jesse and I were backpacking in the Smoky Mountains this past August, not far from your Mississippi stomping grounds.  He was barely three when you died, your fourth grandchild, so he remembers you only through family stories.  As we made camp in a grove of hickories and oaks that you would have admired, I was telling him about my own hikes with you.  Then along toward supper time the sky turned dark and ornery with a coming storm.  Before the rain hit, we decided to rig our ponchos into an awning to cover the stove.  In order to stretch a line from one tree to the next, we needed to tie a pair of ropes together.  I knew the best knot for the job was a sheet bend, a favorite of sailors and farmers, as you explained on the day you taught it to me.  I hadn’t tied one in years, and so long as I stared at the ropes I couldn’t remember how.  Then I shut my eyes and my hands began to move, weaving the ropes; when I looked again, there was the proper knot.  Jesse and I stayed dry under the awning.  After we ate, he asked me to show him how to tie a sheet bend.  So I did, and there you were again, reaching through my hands, reaching through his."

- Scott Russell Sanders, writing in memoriam to his father


Focus Questions:

Who were these men who were our fathers?  What did they strive for?

How are we like them?  How are we different?

What did they teach us?  What did they never learn?

Tell two stories about your fathers: one positive, one negative.

What have you never forgiven them for?

For what will you always be grateful?


Likes And Wishes


Closing Words:

"How do we forgive our fathers?  Maybe in a dream?  Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too often, or forever when we were little?  Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage or making us nervous because there never seemed to be any rage there at all.  Do we forgive our fathers for marrying or not marrying our mothers?  For divorcing or not divorcing our mothers?  And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth… or coldness?  Shall we forgive them for pushing or leaning?  Or shutting doors?  Or speaking through walls?  Or never speaking? Or never being silent?  Will we forgive our fathers in our age… or in theirs?  Or in their death?  If we forgive our fathers, what is left?"

- Dick Lourie, Native American poet