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PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2014 6:01 pm 
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Director
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Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2008 7:05 am
Posts: 52863
Location: Here and there. Everywhere and nowhere.
Title: DOCTOR!
Aliases: Scurvy Gums Ramona
Gender: Female
Title: Find My Way Home
Characters: Tim, Father Charles
Genre: Holiday, religious, friendship
Rating: FR13
Word Count: 3,824


A/N: This is the sixth and possibly last story in my Father Charles series. I'm not sure if it's really the end, but right now, it feels pretty over. :)

It's only a oneshot; so if there are any comments, they can go in this thread.

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Find My Way Home
by Enthusiastic Fish

He believed in the things
That he always thought he knew
And had done all the things
That he always wanted to do
Collecting
Each thing reflecting his worth
But now he pondered
How he had wandered this earth

For we all seem to give our lives away
Searching for things that we think we must own
Until on this evening
When the year is leaving
We all try to find our way home
~ “Find Our Way Home” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra


Father Charles looked through his books on hagiography, deciding on the best one to take with him today. He wasn’t sure how much longer he’d have the captive audience. As Christmas drew nearer, he was getting busier, but he wanted to make the time when he could. He had the time now.

Maybe St. Francis? he thought, pulling the book off the shelf. He was credited with creating the first Nativity scene...with live animals and people. That might be fun.

Decision made, Father Charles put the book in his bag and left. It was a bit of a drive, but it was always worth the effort. He parked on the street and walked to the door. He knocked and then, waited.

The tread he heard approaching the door was much lighter than it had been a few months ago.

The door opened.

“Father Charles!” Tim said. “I actually only got here myself a few minutes ago.”

“Oh?”

“I finally am cleared to go back to work. Only on desk duty and only part time right now, but I’m officially recovered enough to work again.”

Father Charles could see how happy Tim was about it. After months of recovery, Tim was finally looking like his old self again which was wonderful to see. It had taken a very long time after Tim’s brush with death. He had said that he might not have the energy until nearly Christmas. It was getting close to Christmas.

While he couldn’t come every day, Father Charles had begun making weekly visits to Tim, usually telling him stories about various saints. They also just talked, and Father Charles could honestly say that he considered Tim to be a friend.

“Congratulations. Do you feel ready?”

Tim took a breath.

“Most of the time. I have to admit that...there are some days that are...scary for me. I’m still not back to normal, obviously. It’s been such a long time for me to recover that... I don’t know if I could go through that again.”

“I hope you don’t have to,” Father Charles said.

“Me, too. ...but, come in! Ducky would totally lecture me for leaving you standing out here when it’s cold outside.”

He stood aside and Father Charles came in with a smile.

“It’s not that cold out.”

“Cold enough.”

Tim was still using a cane, but he didn’t have to lean on it nearly as heavily as he had before. He was still staying with Ducky, but he wouldn’t need to do that for too much longer, it seemed.

They walked into the study and Tim sat down. He couldn’t quite suppress the sigh of relief at being off his feet. That, more than anything, revealed that he wasn’t quite recovered.

“So does that mean I’ll be seeing you at Mass, too?” Father Charles asked.

Tim took a breath.

“I thought about...going before. I could probably have managed it for a couple of weeks now, but...”

“What?”

“I’ve been having some...other problems. I didn’t want to bring them up because it’s kind of embarrassing.”

“What is it?”

“It’s something I have to work on, and now that I’m going to be back at work, it’ll probably help. My therapist thinks so. Ducky thinks so, too.”

Father Charles smiled.

“I’m not requiring you to tell me anything, Tim, but what is it?”

“I’m scared to go outside. Ducky took me to my appointment today; so that I didn’t have to go by myself. I really don’t want to be held back by something so stupid, but right now, it is.”

“Well, there’s nothing wrong with having some struggles, but I do hope that you won’t let it ruin your life, Tim. After you got your life back, you shouldn’t squander that gift.”

“I don’t want to, Father,” Tim said. He smiled. “I am working on it.”

“I won’t bug you about it.”

“Which saint are you going to tell me about, today?” Tim asked. “I’m going to be a hagiography expert by the time I’m all recovered.”

“I doubt it. I don’t consider myself an expert and I’ve been reading about the saints for years. ...unless you’re reading about them on the sly?” Father Charles asked with a teasing smile. “You’re secretly learning more about the saints so you can show me up?”

Tim laughed. “No. I wouldn’t steal your thunder like that.”

“Good. Have you heard of St. Francis of Assisi?”

“The pope took the name of Francis, didn’t he? Because of devotion to poverty or something like that.”

“Well done. The original Francis is St. Francis of Assisi. He lived in the thirteenth century. The son of a wealthy silk merchant.”

“Are all the saints children of wealth who give it up?” Tim asked with a smile.

“Many are. Not all. One of the things that the stories of the saints is supposed to do is to lead you to live a better life, to inspire you. Giving up one’s worldly wealth is a sign of a willingness to do more. And, from a practical perspective, it’s easier to begin a penitent life when you have the time to think about the merits. If you’re starving to death, it’s hard to think about much more than your empty stomach.”

“But a lot of these saints suffered.”

“After their conversion, after their taking of orders or whatever else they did. I’m the last person who would reject the reality of the saints, Tim, but I’m also practical enough to see that there’s something to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. You have to fill the basic needs before you can expect more.”

“So...what about St. Francis?”

“He defied his father multiple times in his determination to help the poor. In the end, he had to go before a judge and declare that he was rejecting his father’s business and everything he could inherit. The story goes that he even took off his clothing in front of everyone in his desire to have nothing from his father.”

Tim laughed. “You’re kidding.”

“Not a bit. He was determined.”

“So...what did he do next?”

“He was the founder of two orders for men and an order for women. He refused to become a priest, choosing to teach without orders. He went before Pope Innocent to request permission to make his order official. He spent time as a beggar and as a penitent. He went to the Holy Lands and apparently preached to the Saracens.”

“Wow. He survived it?”

“Absolutely.”

“Wow.”

“He also believed that nature was a reflection of God. Because God created the world, it was important to protect it, care for it, and to take care of the creatures God also created. He even preached to them. He has a lovely sermon to the birds.”

“Did they listen?” Tim asked.

“Hard to say, but in the end, his words are as applicable to human beings as they are to birds.”

“What did he say?”

Father Charles pulled out his book and read.

“‘My little sisters, the birds, much bounden are ye unto God, your Creator, and always in every place ought ye to praise Him, for that He hath given you liberty to fly about everywhere, and hath also given you double and triple rainment; moreover He preserved your seed in the ark of Noah, that your race might not perish out of the world; still more are ye beholden to Him for the element of the air which He hath appointed for you; beyond all this, ye sow not, neither do you reap; and God feedeth you, and giveth you the streams and fountains for your drink; the mountains and valleys for your refuge and the high trees whereon to make your nests; and because ye know not how to spin or sow, God clotheth you, you and your children; wherefore your Creator loveth you much, seeing that He hath bestowed on you so many benefits; and therefore, my little sisters, beware of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praises unto God.’”

Tim thought about it.

“I can see why it’s applicable. It wasn’t only birds that were on the ark.”

“Exactly.”

“So...are there any prayers St. Francis wrote? I really like hearing the prayers the saints said themselves.”

“A few. One, he prayed before the crucifix at San Damiano.

‘Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart
and give me true faith,
certain hope and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge, Lord,
that I may carry out
Your holy and true command.’”

Tim leaned back in the chair and listened. One of the things that Father Charles had always appreciated about Tim was his willingness to listen, even if he wasn’t sure about everything. Too many people in the world were determined not to hear anything that didn’t fit exactly with their point of view. Tim wasn’t like that.

They talked about St. Francis for a while longer and then, Father Charles knew he had to get back to the church. He needed to meet with the choir director about the Christmas Mass. So he packed his book away and began to leave.

“Father Charles? Could I ask you a... a random Christmas question?”

Father Charles laughed.

“How could I possibly say no?”

“Okay. Why three wise men?”

“What do you mean?”

Tim leaned forward. “I mean... It doesn’t actually say a number in the Bible, does it? It’s just wise men. So why three?”

“The short answer is tradition. They brought three gifts; so we’ve assumed there were three of them. We have names traditionally assigned to them. Melchior, a Persian, Caspar, an Indian, and Balthazar, an Arabian. Really, though, the only reason we say three is because of tradition. The Bible never specifies. They came from the east, although the Greek actually says ‘from the rising of the sun.’”

“Meaning east,” Tim said.

“I don’t see how else one could interpret that.”

“And they weren’t there with the shepherds, were they?”

“No. Likely not. Again, the Greek says they saw the Christ child in a house, not in the stable. It’s just convenient to have them all together in the Nativity. Any reason for the questions?”

“No. Just curious. I always liked ‘We Three Kings’ when I was younger. You seem like a good source for information.”

Father Charles gave a slight bow.

“I hope I’ll see you at the Christmas Mass, Tim.”

“I’m... I’m going to make it there,” he said, firmly.

“Good.”

Father Charles headed back to his church. It was only when he was about halfway back that he thought more about the questions Tim had asked. Tim had always claimed to be basically nonreligious, although he believed in God. That included any of the trappings of religion, like reading the Bible, Father Charles would have thought.

Now, he started to wonder. Was Tim doing some personal study?

If so, the more power to him. Father Charles smiled to himself and focused on his own preparations.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Christmas Eve night...

Father Charles was happy to see the church full as he conducted the midnight mass. Of course, he’d prefer that these people who only came once or twice a year would come more often, but once or twice was better than never.

Best of all, there were a lot of families. He loved seeing children here, especially on Christmas night. He had spoken with a number of parents about how to keep their children in the church when religion wasn’t looked on with much favor by much of the modern world. He made suggestions, but he knew it had to be a matter of faith. It couldn’t be forced. When someone believed, he would live that belief, but if he didn’t, it was a lot harder to keep him in the fold.

As the mass continued, he thought of the sermon he’d prepared, of what he wanted to say to help his congregation turn their hearts and minds to what Christmas was really about.

When his time came, he stood to deliver his sermon.

“Pope Saint Leo the Great told us that, ‘Although Jesus shared in our infirmities, He was not a partaker of our sins. He took the form of a servant without the baseness of sin, raising up what was human, but not lessening what was divine. Emptying Himself, the Invisible made Himself Visible. He came down to us, to Whom we could not on our own ascend, that we might be brought back from our former bondage and from worldly errors to His eternal blessedness.’ Let us not forget the reality of what happened on that night so long ago.”

As he continued his message, he looked out over his congregation, making eye contact with various members, letting them know that he had seen them, that he knew them. It was important to show that connection.

He saw Tim there. He still looked a little brittle, and Father Charles could see that he had his cane, but he was there. He had conquered his fear long enough to come here. When he made eye contact, Tim smiled and nodded a little. Father Charles just smiled in return and continued speaking.

After he pronounced the final blessing, the congregation began to mill about a little, talking to each other, enjoying the feeling in the church, the unity in celebrating the birth of the Savior. Father Charles spoke to many of the congregation and then, went back to remove the vestments. He returned to the church and the crowds had not thinned much at all. That was all right. The parents with young children had mostly left to get their kids to bed before Santa came. Others had left, too, but there were still a lot of people talking. In fact, Father Charles thought he saw Tim talking to someone. Tim had mostly held himself back from making any other connections in the congregation when he came before. It was good to see him opening up a little bit.

Almost an hour later, the last members were leaving. Father Charles was ready to get some sleep before the Shepherd’s Mass. He looked around the church and was unsurprised to see Tim at the candles. He seemed to be leaning on his cane more heavily. He was probably tired as well, but he was still here.

“Tim, I’m glad you made it.”

Tim turned around and smiled. He did look very tired.

“Do you want to sit?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t have to sit vigil, here, you know.”

“I know. I’m not staying. Actually...I wanted to talk to you.”

“Really? No prevaricating?” Father Charles asked, with a smile.

“No. I...I’ve been trying to get the courage to talk to you about this for...weeks.”

“Really.” All thought of sleep was gone. Father Charles was intrigued by what Tim might mean.

Tim walked to a pew and sank down.

“It was a beautiful mass. I really enjoyed it.”

“I’m glad you made it out here.”

“I vacillated for days. Ducky finally told me that I had to come, no matter what, and that he’d drag me out here if I said no.”

Father Charles laughed.

“Are you feeling any better about it?”

“A little. It’s been good to be back at work, even though it’s more draining than I thought it would be. I was hoping to be half days, but I’m at about a quarter of a day before I just run out of energy.”

“You have time.”

“I know. I’m just being impatient.”

“So...what is it that you wanted to talk to me about?”

Tim took a breath and looked up at the altar.

“It’s been two full years since I first came here. I never thought I’d be a guy who likes going to church. Not because I’m too good for it, but just because...it never seemed like the thing for me.”

“You’re far from the only person to feel that way.”

“I know.” Tim took another deep breath. “You’ve taught me a lot about...about God, about...life. I don’t know how it happened, but...this place means a lot to me, now.”

“I’m glad.”

Tim looked at Father Charles. “I was talking to Gibbs and Tony the other day. Tony was teasing me a little bit about becoming a church man. It wasn’t mean or anything, just fun. I said that there was nothing wrong with it...and Gibbs asked me a question, one that surprised me.”

“What?”

“He asked me why I wasn’t becoming one if I liked it so much.” Tim smiled awkwardly. “I...couldn’t give him one good reason why not.”

Father Charles felt his eyes widen. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

Tim laughed a little and ran his hand over his head.

“I’ve been reading the Bible, Father. I...I figured I should know what was in it. Ducky had an old King James translation. Some of it was hard to understand.”

“The King James version is very old. Beautiful in its way, but hard to understand if you’re not used to the language. It takes practice.”

“Yeah. I haven’t finished yet. I did skip ahead to read the Christmas story. Isaiah is pretty hard to get.”

“He tends to be a stumbling block for a lot of people,” Father Charles said. He was trying not to be too excited. He wanted to let Tim get the words out on his own, in his own way, but he would be lying if he said he was at all blasé about the conversation.

“But I’ve had the time...and I’ve...” Tim paused again. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot, making sure that I really wanted it. I don’t want to commit to something that isn’t real to me.”

“You can say the words, Tim,” Father Charles said. “I can tell you have them to say. I’m waiting.”

Tim smiled again. “I want to...to convert, Father. I want to become a Catholic.” Then, he let out another breath of air and looked back at the altar. “I know it takes time.”

“About a year of preparation. We don’t want to rush you into anything anymore than you want to rush into anything.”

“I’m okay with that.”

Father Charles patted Tim on the shoulder.

“I figured you would be.”

“It’s what I want, but I’m still a little scared of doing it.”

“That’s because you’re taking it seriously, and that’s a good thing, but don’t worry so much because you’ll have people helping you the whole way along.”

“I’ve already had that,” Tim said softly. “That’s what led me here.”

“God led you here.”

“Maybe so, but if He led me, someone else had to keep me here long enough, to show me what I could have.”

Father Charles smiled, but he was touched by what Tim was saying.

“I don’t know how it all works.”

“That’s all right. You don’t have to. If you don’t mind waiting until the new year, we’ll have a class for people who are preparing.”

“I don’t mind.”

“Tim, for all that I’ve teased you about converting, words really can’t convey how happy I am that you want to join with us, here. I told you before that we could only be better with you as part of the congregation.”

Tim hitched his shoulder.

“I won’t always be able to come.”

“I know that. You have a job that requires some Sundays.”

“I’m far from perfect.”

“So am I. Thankfully, perfection isn’t one of the requirements for becoming Catholic.”

“I’ll make a lot of mistakes.”

“That’s why we celebrate Christmas and Easter.”

“You always have the answers.”

“Except when I need to hear them from others.”

Tim leaned back against the pew.

“I’ve thought back to that first night a lot in the last week. I don’t really remember deciding to come in to this building. I left the hospital and started to walk. I was tired, but something kept me moving. I actually slept the first few hours I was in here, but I never wanted to leave. This place saved me...in more ways than one. I think it would be wrong for me to pretend that it meant nothing. And if it means something to me, and it does, then, I have to do something about it. So I am.”

“Good for you.”

One more deep breath and Tim looked at Father Charles.

“So now what?”

“Well, first, I say that I told you so.”

Tim laughed and relaxed a little.

“Then, you go home and sleep since I can tell you really need it. You have a great Christmas. If you can make it to any of the masses tomorrow...or rather, later today, please, do. If not, I understand. You keep reading the Bible. If you want a more modern translation, I can give you suggestions. We have a standard translation, but that doesn’t mean the others are terrible. After the holidays, I’ll have a formal meeting with you to help you plan out everything you need to do. ...and one thing more...”

“What?”

“Be happy, Tim. While we are supposed to acknowledge our sinful state, that doesn’t mean we have to dwell on it all the time. There is so much joy to be had in life. Remember that.”

Tim pushed himself to his feet and wobbled a little but grasped his cane tightly.

“Father?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Always.”

Tim hugged Father Charles and then, he pulled out his phone and called for a taxi. Father Charles watched him leave and felt as though he had just seen the culmination of a miracle two years in the making.

As he walked through the now-empty church, he felt more joy than he’d had in a long time...and sometimes, joy could only be expressed in music. Father Charles didn’t have a good voice. He knew it, and everyone who heard him knew it, too.

...but right now, only God would hear and He would know why he sang. Still, he kept his voice low.

“Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n, and heav'n and nature sing.”


Then, he went back to get a little bit of sleep before the mass at dawn.

FINIS!

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