Sunrise Services



Scene Title Sunrise Services
Synopsis In spite of no sun on Easter Sunday, Mass goes on.
Date Apr 4, 2010

St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, Upper West Side

Sitting in the sanctuary of the church, Elisabeth Harrison does not stand out from the crowds of worshipers who came on this snowy holy day except in that she does not leave her pew when the masses file out. Even nine-foot drifts don't stop the faithful.

She declined to partake of Holy Communion during services today, and the omission was noticed by the two people who would even pay attention to the fact that she showed her face. Jared Harrison slid his arm around his daughter's shoulders when she slipped into the pew next to him, and he merely kisses her temple when she murmurs that she would stay a while. After he takes his leave, the other person who noticed the omission takes his time in approaching her.

The pew creaks when Matthew Wilder settles his old bones in next to the woman he's watched grow from infancy into the troubled woman he now sees. The priesthood is a difficult calling in many ways, but he wonders at times if Elisabeth's own calling is perhaps even more so than his own. "I thought of you quite a lot over the past several weeks," he says quietly. The anniversary of The 35 did not pass by unnoticed in his church.

Elisabeth smiles faintly and replies softly, "I came to services a couple of weeks ago, but one of the younger priests presided." The anniversary did not go unremembered by her either.

"I'm getting too old to stand up there for the whole service," Father Matthew admits easily. He studies his gnarled hands and shrugs. "The younger priests seem to appeal to you younger folk anyway."

There's a soft chuckle from Elisabeth, and she slides her slender hand into his to squeeze gently. "Not me," she offers softly.

He smiles and merely sits quietly with her for a long time. When he finally speaks, Matthew's voice is gentle. "Are you going to tell me about it, child, or do you simply want the company while you think?"

Elisabeth's eyes remain on the purple-draped altar with its attendant crucifix hanging behind it. "I couldn't go today. I haven't been to confession in…. " She trails off. "Years," Liz finally says.

"Ah," the elderly man replies mildly.

She glances at him and says softly, "You don't sound surprised."

Father Matthew smiles. "I've known you your whole life, child. The fact that you don't come to church regularly is not news to me." He studied her. "Is it merely the anniversary that has you seeking your faith?"

"No," Elisabeth admits softly. "I have… done a lot of thing I'm proud of, Father. And a lot that I'm not."

"Easter is a time to remember all that the Lord has given you in your life. To remember that he sent his only Son to us as a savior, Elisabeth." Matthew kept his eyes on the altar. "It is far more difficult for us to forgive ourselves the actions we're not proud of than it is for our Father to forgive them. We are the ones who have to live with the choices we make."

"And what if the choices get people hurt or killed?" Liz asks quietly. "I don't know … what my father's told you, Father Matthew… but things are not… simple."

Matthew laughs at that. "Life is never simple, Elisabeth. I thought you were old enough to know that by now." He grows quiet for a long moment. "Your father has told me about your career change. And — in very general terms — about the situation that you face right now. That a man seeking revenge for something done in the line of duty is hurting others in his quest to get to you."

Elisabeth shakes her head, making sure no one beyond the two of them can hear their conversation in the echoing sanctuary. "I work… with people trying to make things better. And yet I feel like every action I take only makes the situation worse. A man… a friend… gave up everything, barely escaping with his life, in our work. We are… doing the best we can, but it's difficult."

"I wish I could tell you that your chosen path gets easier, child," the elderly man says quietly. "But I cannot. I pray for you every day. Your father worries for you greatly. When I heard that the friend you had me give the service for had survived, I was grateful. And I can only surmise that God has a plan for you both."

There's a snort. "Sure wish he'd share it with me — I'm getting kind of tired of flying blind," Elisabeth admits.

Matthew chuckles. "If God brings you to it, child…. God will bring you through it. You just have to hold on to that."

Taking in a deep breath, Elisabeth lets it out slowly. "It's always so peaceful here."

"It's one of the best parts about this calling," Father Matthew admits. "Being able to sit in here and just… commune." He pats her hand. "I found a passage that might be food for thought for you." He pauses, calling it to mind, and then recites:

"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.**"

The priest leans over to kiss Elisabeth's forehead. "Whenever I hear this verse, you and your friends come to mind. Trust in the fact that you are out there doing what needs doing. But take some time, once in a while, to sit quietly and just exist. We all need those moments of silence."

Resting her forehead against the old man's cheek for a moment, Elisabeth simply nods. "We'll rest when we're through, Father. I promise," she whispers. But she will take his advice to heart and find those moments of peace where she can.

** John 10:11-18

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