Searching For Serenity



Scene Title Searching for Serenity
Synopsis Before heading for her apartment following 36, Elisabeth makes a stop perhaps long overdue.
Date March 15, 2009

St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, Upper West Side

It's rare that she comes here. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is where the counseling circle for cops that Elisabeth attended and still attends sometimes is held, and she's been perfectly content for years to randomly attend services there whenever it suits her. But as a young woman raised Catholic… there are times in life when even lapsed Catholics come home. The reality for her is that whatever they may do wrong, whatever she may not agree with in the Catholic doctrine… they are the only ones that have 'hallowed ground,' and that has very real connotations. Catholic churches are the only ones that, for her, have that sense of sacred space. She's found it in European churches… she even felt it in Mayan ruins in Mexico when she took Spring Break in Cancun and visited some. But the only places she knows for sure that the sense takes hold in Manhattan after the destruction of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Midtown are Blessed Sacrament (where she herself was baptized, received First Communion, and was confirmed) and St. Paul's. St. Paul's survived the Bomb by the grace of God, if you ask the ministers here — bordering on Midtown, it was just far enough out of the blast radius to remain intact.

And so here Elisabeth sits, in this church that was so blessed as to not be damaged, in a pew halfway down the aisle. The ache in her chest just is not easing, though. Nothing is making it okay. She is not alone in the church's sanctuary, there are a number of older women praying on their knees. The officer is, however, probably the only one under the age of 50.

The soft sound of padding footsteps reaches her ears, and the blonde looks over her shoulders to see an elderly man with the crazy priest collar coming down the aisle toward her. He moves to settle into the pew behind the one Elisabeth is occupying, one hand on the back of the seat near her shoulder. "Elisabeth Maureen," he says quietly. "It's been too long, child."

She wants to apologize, but …. for what? For not coming to Mass when she can't reconcile her lifestyle with the teachings of the church? She can't speak a falsehood to this man who baptized and confirmed her in the Catholic faith so many years ago before he moved to this congregation, so she doesn't apologize. Instead, she looks at the crucifix on the altar and asks softly, "Does God ever wonder if he made a mistake, giving the lot of us free will? I mean…. I think humans must be far more stupid than God intended."

The old man chuckles softly. "Well… I suppose that's entirely possible." He puts a gnarled hand on her shoulder. "You haven't come to see me since your mother died. What is it that weighs on you tonight?"

Elisabeth drops her eyes to her lap. "Thirty-five teenagers…. stupid, stupid children… killed themselves this weekend. To try to make a point." Her voice chokes. "Don't they get that there isn't any coming back from that? Life in this city sucks right now, Father. I know that as well as anyone. But … Death is forever! What on earth would make them think this was the only way? I just can't… I need an answer. And there just isn't one."

The old man breathes out an agonized "ahhh, child," his hand moving to stroke her hair. Father Matthew Wilder has seen much in his seventy-two years on this planet, but that one? That turns his soul to ice.

"What am I doing out there? I'm a mutant freak too, and yet… I go out there every day, as a civil servant in a city of people who seem to HATE what I am. I get shot at and worse, I risk my life. I have tried to be a good role model… and even when I do things that are … ill-advised… in my pursuit of doing the 'right thing', I am still always doing what I do to keep the innocent people safe. And then this." Elisabeth looks at him. "WHY?"

He shakes his head. "I can't know the ways of God, Elisabeth. I can only pray for their souls and hope that they have not been lost in vain." His hand continues to stroke her hair, and he sighs heavily. "You can only do the best you can. You cannot save everyone."

She sits there for a long time, silent.

Father Wilder says quietly, "Pray with me, Elisabeth."

There's a negative shake of her head. "I can't," she whispers. "I don't think God listens to me anymore." The admission is difficult — Liz is not a particularly religious person at all, though she has far more faith than most might credit her with.

"It is not God who doesn't listen. It is only we who forget how to hear," the old man says. Painfully, he lowers himself to his knees on the padded bench meant for such prayers. Crossing himself, he lowers his head and begins to murmur prayers.

She bows her head and she sits for a long time, letting the cadence of prayers long unused seep into her psyche. For a time, she steps out of her own head, finally able to let go of the tears that she's held since she and Kat Marks walked onto the scene in the brownstone. They're silent trickles, no sobs for this. Just… hurt, slowly easing.

When the priest finishes and heaves himself back onto the pew, Elisabeth smiles at him some. "You know, no one says those things in Latin anymore, Father."

"And a great shame it is, too," he retorts with a gentle smile, placing his hand on her shoulder to squeeze it. "Cheeky."

Elisabeth sucks in a deep breath, letting it out slowly, and reaches up to take his arthritis-ridden hand carefully. She cradles it against her cheek, and he strokes her face with the back of his fingers as he did when she was a girl. And then she pushes herself forward to stand, their connection drifting to the last moment. As she slides out of the pew, Elisabeth crosses herself, bowing her head to the altar with a silent prayer for the souls of the children…. damn idiots that they are, stupidity should not come with a death sentence. And then she turns to face the old man. "Be well, Father," she murmurs softly, kissing him on both cheeks.

"I'll tell your father you came by. He'll be pleased, Elisabeth," he replies with one last grandfatherly pat of her cheek. "I'll pray for you out there. Go with God."

She nods slightly. Once more, the church has loaned her a semblance of peace, in spite of offering no answers to the questions that plague her. She'll lose it once more, when she reaches home… poor Abby will get the brunt of those tears. But at least for this one moment, there is something not-agony to it.

O God and Heavenly Father,
Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed;courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr, ca. 1934

March 14th: Suicide By Cop
March 15th: Fear and Loathing
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