In one of the most heart-rending scenes from Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye meets his daughter Chava in the field and battles with whether to accept her elopement with a Christian boy or remain faithful to his tradition. When Chava asks him to accept her marriage, Tevye ponders the coices.
“Accept them? How can I accept them? Can I deny everything I believe in? On the other hand, can I deny my own daughter? On the other hand, how can I turn my back on my faith, my people? If I try and bend that far, I’ll break. On the other hand… No! There is no other hand.” And Tevye walked away from Chava in a rage, leaving her crying in the field.
At one point in my legionary life, I too was disinherited.
Dirty snow still lined the drive of the house where it had been plowed into mounds after a winter of frequent storms. I walked in what seemed like a very normal spiritual direction, except that this time he called it a conversation. Something strange was happening. Spiritual direction, or the conversation, ended abruptly and without the conclusions that you would normally expect. I was not to continue in the Legion, and I was not given a reason why. I walked away making it clear I was not willing to accept this decision.
At the time I was a religious, having made my perpetual profession, but was not yet a priest. I would need to write a letter to the Holy Father asking to be released from the vows. I would not be expelled. The weight of responsibility rested sparely on my shoulders. And yet, I had no basis to grapple with this responsibility. Surely if I had received a sound reason, I would gladly leave. But faced with silence I responded with silence.
I began to realize the Legion was ill, and like so many, faced with a terminal disease, I was in denial. I had gambled my life on following Christ. I had stepped up to the table, and having been dealt the first hand, wagered it all – all in. I had left everything behind, and unlike Judas who separated himself and betrayed his Master, I was being separated from the disciples in the name of the master.
From that spring day until the day I resolved to leave the Legion, my life became as shaky as a Fiddler on the Roof.