|PROLOGUE||PART 1||PART 2||PART 3||PART 4||PART 5||PART 6||PART 7|
Part 7: McCue’s Story
by aka "Jake"
Two weeks ago, I met with Dana and Fox to discuss their wedding. We gathered at Dana’s apartment and I brought up the subject of the vows.
“‘Til death do you part’ hardly applies to us, Father,” Fox said. “Uh...at least, not to me.”
I took his point. “You’re under no obligation to recite conventional vows. The purpose is to declare your consent before the Church. You’re free to choose your own words.”
“Hear that, Scully? How about this: ‘You can knock me down, step on my face, slander my name all over the pl--’”
“But Father McCue said--”
“Trade ya’ one line of ‘All Shook Up’ for an ‘I promise to obey--’”
We decided to move on to the subject of Fox’s faith. Because Fox Mulder is not a Catholic, it’s necessary to send an application of Dispensation to Marry to the Bishop before joining these two in holy matrimony. However, before the application can be sent, Dana and Fox must answer a couple of questions, satisfying the Church that their intentions are earnest and informed.
“Fox, are you aware of the Catholic Church’s attitudes toward marriage?”
“I’ve been briefed.” He smiled at Dana.
“Dana, do you fully understand the obligations you must undertake as the Catholic partner in this marriage, such as your responsibility for the faith of your children?”
“I do, yes.”
I believed her -- she had attended to William’s christening and brought the boy to church whenever she was able to come herself. Those times when she could not come, which unfortunately were quite often, Maggie brought the boy. William’s soul was in good hands. I had no intention of refuting dispensation; I was quite satisfied this couple’s motives were sincere.
“Where would you like to hold the ceremony?” I asked.
“At St. John’s,” Dana answered. “I wouldn’t consider any place else.”
St. John’s. It’s not the church it once was. So much has been lost...
So much has been lost everywhere. Hundreds of thousands of human lives...
We can’t know why God allows bad things to happen. It’s a difficult concept, even for the most devout Catholic. “God has His reasons,” “He works in mysterious ways” -- these are shorthand answers we clergymen offer to those who suffer, while in our hearts we, too, grapple with the impossibility of iniquity as part of God’s Plan. We would prefer to dole out real hope, not mere platitudes, yet sometimes God leaves us with nothing on which to hang our hats. We can only cling to our faith and pray for His divine wisdom.
A difficult thing when facing an inhuman enemy.
Believing God had a purpose for us, individually and collectively, I badgered Him to divulge His reasons: Why allow these terrible attacks on our loved ones? Why allow innocents to suffer and die while evil goes unpunished? Is this invasion part of Your plan? Where are You, God?
Where are You?
Viaticum, Anointing of the Sick, Last Rites. I’ve repeated the psalms and canticles so often in the last sixteen months, the verses lace my dreams at night and sleep has become no respite from the days’ living nightmares. Two wax candles, holy water, and a scrap of communion-cloth have been my constant companions.
Pax huic domui.
Et omnibus habitantibus in ea.
Have mercy on me, O God... Have mercy.
During the conflict, thousands turned their backs on God, certain He had turned His back on them as well. I’m ashamed to admit that my own faith wavered. This crisis tested me as sorely as anyone, and I found I am not immune to doubt and anger.
Who are these aliens? Where did they come from? From Hell? Or from the hand of God? If I am a part of God’s Plan, aren’t they, too?
How am I to reconcile the Scripture with the things I have seen with my own eyes? How am I to believe God is behind this tragedy?
Mankind has fought a terrible war against an unthinkable enemy. Faith shaken, many turned against their own brothers. Lost souls with nothing but despair in their hearts launched their anger against each other and the Church.
Last month, St. John’s was set afire. Not by the alien invaders, but by human men, worn down by war and fueled with their fear of a Godless universe.
“God is a traitor,” the faithless shouted as they lobbed bottles of gasoline at the roof. “You lied to us.” In their eyes, the Church seemed a false prophet, conspiring with an uncaring God while spreading untruths and false hopes.
I watched the flames engulf St. John’s, I saw the hopelessness in the dissidents’ eyes, and it was the final straw. I, too, overflowed with despair. For the first time in my life, I felt alone, cut off from God. I was suddenly afraid He had fled like a coward from my heart, leaving us all vulnerable and lost. Anger flared in my breast and burned hotter than the fire that devoured the church roof. Smoke plumed skyward and I choked on the memory of every Blessed Sacrament, every Miserere, every Asperges I had recited over the past year and a half. In my mind’s eye, I saw the hundreds of dying faces, one following the next, friends, neighbors, loved ones, hopeful to the end that my benediction would send them home to God. Was my role a fraud? Had I misled these souls? Had my prayers, all mankind’s prayers, gone forever unheard?
At that moment, I hated God. I hated Him.
Have mercy on me, O God...blot out my transgressions.
Have mercy on me, O God...blot out my transgressions.
Have mercy on me, O God...blot out my transgressions.
Mercy...it started to rain. Not a gentle rain, but a downpour, a sleety deluge that caused the burning roof to hiss and spit. The angry crowd dispersed to search for shelter. In their place stood a phalanx of kind neighbors, armed with buckets of water and an unshakable belief in the munificence of God.
We labored together to dowse the fire at St. John’s, while at the same time heroes around the world fought to save mankind.
Over the next few days, rumors of victory trickled in. We celebrated by hauling rubble from the nave and scrubbing ash from the pews.
“Can I give you a hand with that, Father?” asked one of the many good volunteers. He pointed to the trashcan I wrestled down the side aisle. I nodded and together we hefted the barrel to the front vestibule.
“Messy business,” I said. We were blackened from head to toe with soot. The cold February wind blew ash everywhere through the roofless church.
“Watch your step,” he warned. Slivers of stained glass littered the floor around the door. It crunched loudly beneath our feet no matter how we tried to dodge it.
As I reached for the door handle, a delicate note sounded from the broken pipe organ at the front of the church. Then a second note played, and a third.
“Hear that, Father? Someone’s got the organ working!” His broad smile seemed extraordinarily bright against the black of his face.
It hardly seemed possible the organ could be repaired. But three more notes wafted from the organ’s clogged pipes. I swear it sounded exactly like--
“My heart ever faithful...” my helper said and sang the first line of the familiar hymn.
We abandoned the trashcan to return to the nave. The playing continued and I half expected to see Frannie O’Donnel sitting at the organ, warming up for Sunday’s service, although I knew that was impossible. I had prayed with Frannie in Georgetown Memorial Hospital six months ago, performed the Blessed Sacrament, and watched her die -- another victim of the alien virus.
I can’t put into words the surprise I felt when I came to the organ, where no one sat, yet music vibrated from the pipes.
“Must be the wind causing it,” one of the volunteers suggested.
It was true, the wind gusted through the roofless church, across the organ, but... The tune was unmistakable.
The volunteers put down their mops and dust-cloths and began to sing along, never doubting the miracle in front of us.
“My heart ever faithful, Sing praises, be joyful, Sing praises, be joyful, Thy Jesus is here...”
God was speaking to us, and my frozen heart thawed.
Many might say the pattern of notes was coincidental. Others might claim we heard only what we wanted to hear. Those are logical arguments.
Yet, that was the last time the pipe organ in St. John’s played. And that was the last time I doubted God’s benevolence.
As I listened to God that day, I realized we are in His care every hour of every day. We live, we die, we suffer, we exult at His behest. His reasons elude us, but we can be certain He stands with us. He directs our purpose, He divines our meaning, He watches over us at all times. From the moment we are conceived until the hour we return to His bosom, He guides our lives and sanctifies us with His love.
St. John’s vaulted ceiling is gone, but a roof is only shingles and nails, and has little to do with the human spirit.
God's grace is sufficient to shelter us.
I stand here today in St. John’s Church to celebrate Fox and Dana’s wedding day, a day of hope, a day of love, a miraculous day. The enemy has fled. Our heroes are returned to us. We mourn those who have died and hold close those who are still here.
Our gathering is small -- no more than thirty people or so. There are many who would want to be here who are not. They are missing and we pray they are not dead.
"As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more."
I look past the charred beams of the church’s upper stories to the tree branches beyond -- bare ruin’d choirs, obsequious in the March wind.
Budding leaves dot the branches. A scattering of warblers perches in the treetops, celebrating this fine spring morning with a clear, hopeful song.
Scully’s hand rests in Mulder’s palm. The guests are quiet and Mulder softly clears his throat, ready to recite his vows.
“Dana Katherine Scully,” -- he pauses to fold her hand between his -- “You bring orderliness and certainty to my life; you fix my feet to the ground; you are the refuge I return to again and again. I balance my heart upon the cornerstones of your spirit: Trust, Loyalty, Honesty, Faith. You prop me up. You make me a better person. With you, I am able to forge ahead; with you, I am strong and confident. Today, in front of these witnesses, I promise to stand beside you always, and if you are somehow lost despite my diligence, I will climb mountains or travel to the ends of the earth to find you. My love for you is as far-reaching as the stars and as eternal as their celestial glow. You are my Truth and the miracle of our love lies in the path we have chosen together. I ask that you continue to walk this path with me. Be my partner, my friend, and my lover, as I am forever yours.”
All of Scully’s nervousness melts away at Mulder’s words and she smiles back at him. Respect and love shine in her eyes. She grips his hand and offers him her vows.
“Fox William Mulder, you bring surprise, wonder and awe to my life; you open my eyes to broader possibilities; you help me accept what I cannot see and understand what I cannot prove. You show me the meaning of Belief while you lead me to Truth. Today, in front of these witnesses, I promise to walk with you on the path we have chosen. Come health, happiness, and success, I will be with you; come illness, trouble, or failure, I will be with you. I will join my life to yours as your partner, your friend, and your lover. I will be the shoulder you lean on, the rock on which you rest, the companion of your life -- as you are mine. Whatever we encounter, you are my love, and I will make my home in your heart for as long as we both shall live.”
Sniffles from the congregation punctuate Scully’s promises. The priest takes a deep breath and smiles broadly.
“You have declared your consent before the Church. May the Lord in His goodness strengthen your consent and fill you both with His blessings. What God has joined, men must not divide. Amen."
“Amen,” the congregation repeats.
Bill Jr. digs into his pocket and removes twin wedding bands, which he places on Father McCue’s prayer book.
McCue makes the sign of the cross over them. “May the Lord bless these rings which you give to each other as the sign of your love and fidelity. Amen.”
Mulder selects the smaller of the two rings. Scully raises her hand and he slips the ring over her finger. “Take this ring as a symbol of my love and fidelity.” His voice is soft and weighted with his love.
Scully picks up the second ring. Mulder offers his hand and she slides the band onto his finger. “Take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit. Amen.”
McCue tilts his head toward the Unity candle. Mulder takes his cue and steers Scully to the side table with one palm. He watches his feet, careful not to tread on her gown.
At the table, he chooses one of the burning side candles and lifts it from its holder. Scully takes the other and they bring the two flames together over the Unity candle’s unlit wick. Wax drips from the tapers, and the two separate flames join as one, glowing bigger and brighter when the third candle ignites. Once they are certain the candle will remain burning, they fit the tapers back into their original positions.
McCue gestures to them to return to their places for the final Bidding Prayer. When they stand in front of him, he begins. “To guide our steps into the paths of peace, let us beseech the Lord.
“Lord, have mercy.”
“To dispel from our midst all thoughts of evil, let us beseech the Lord.”
“Lord, have mercy.”
“To keep us under the shelter of His Almighty hand, let us beseech the Lord.”
“Lord, have mercy.”
“Let us commit ourselves to the Lord God Almighty. Amen.”
William has had enough. He wriggles in Frohike’s arms, wanting to be released. “Amen-amen-amen-amen,” he chants.
Mulder catches his son’s eye and holds a finger of warning to his lips. William mimics the gesture and whispers, “Shhhhhh.”
“We’re nearly through,” McCue assures William and the others. “Fox, Dana, in consideration of these solemn and sacred pledges, I am authorized by the laws of the state of Virginia and by the laws of God in His Holy Word, to pronounce you husband and wife. As I do, let me remind you that henceforth you are one: one in interest, one in reputation and above all else, one in affection.” McCue pauses for effect before he announces, “Fox Mulder, you may kiss your bride.”
“’Bout time.” Mulder grins and laces his fingers with Scully’s. He leans close and, under the watchful eyes of their friends, their family and the smiling priest, he presses his lips to hers in a gentle kiss.
“’Bout time,” little William repeats, his voice loud and matter-of-fact. “Look!” He claps his hands, and then points and giggles. “Mumma an’ Daddy is mee-goes!”
Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up"
(requires RealAudio player)
ooh, wait a minute, you didn't let me carry you over the threshold."
Bonetree: To Brandon, Jacquie, Jake, David, Lara and mimic.... Thanks for welcoming me into the nest with such open arms. I’ve always been nervous about collaborative projects, and now I’m not anymore after working with such funny, smart, caring people. The world of fic has the potential to be a place where egos could grate, and it’s been wonderful being in on a project where seven people didn’t care about such petty things and just wanted to tell a story -- together -- for the fun of it and for the sake of the readers. Thanks for a good time. It’s been great getting to know you all through this experience.
Brandon D. Ray: I want to agree with everything everyone else has said. I mean -- *everything*. These people are just so incredibly helpful and friendly. For example, when Jake said we should all do an author's note, and I observed how much I hated doing that, and asked if anyone wanted to write mine for me, you know what response I got? Jake offered to beta read my author's note -- and you have to have received beta notes from Jake to really understand what it was she was, er, offering. Mimic said I could, well, mimic one of her old author's notes (notice the thrift factor there!), and Bonetree made a suggestion that is probably best not repeated in polite company. You see the pattern developing here? You just can't buy loyalty like that! ;)
Jacquie LaVa: As soon as we started working on Choirs, I knew it was going to be a very special project for all of us. Each one of us brought something to the collaboration that everyone else could relate to and even with seven different writing styles I was amazed at how wonderfully it blended.
My co-writers are six of the finest writers in X-fandom. To be asked to join them on this project meant a great deal to me, and I am so proud to be called Fellow Squirrel amongst them! Thank you Jake, Bone, Brandon, Lara, David, and my darling Mims -- for thinking enough of me to include me!
aka "Jake": Squirrels, to say it’s been a pleasure working with you is an understatement of gargantuan proportions. You have provided me with support, inspiration and friendship. You are talented, classy and caring, and I’m honored to know you all. Virtual hugs to each of you.
To anyone of Catholic faith, please accept my apologies for any errors in my representation of Father McCue or this wedding ceremony. I did my homework, but I am not Catholic. Please, let me know where I have erred so that I might learn.
David Hearne: I’ve seen how collaborative projects have gone wrong. This one went right. It was done in an atmosphere of mutual respect where each participant was equally valued. I was glad to join it.
Lara Means: Working with these incredible writers has been an amazing, delightful experience. The camaraderie between us, the easy friendships that have developed, the simple chemistry I've felt as we developed the story... This has been one of the most positive, uplifting writing experiences I've ever had. Thanks, guys.
mimic117: This has been the most incredible project I’ve ever done. Just having the chance to work with a group of authors who represent the best in fanfic writing has been a worthwhile experience. Thank you so much for allowing the new kid to play in your sandbox. The fact that you didn’t steal my shovel or kick sand in my face was greatly appreciated. I’ve learned so many things from working with you, but mostly I’ve learned what a classy bunch you are. Everyone should have a chance to stretch their writer’s wings under the nurturing gaze and support of a group like this. I’m so glad I got that chance.
READERS: Please send feedback to Secret-Squirrels@yahoogroups.com. We’d love to know if you enjoyed “Bare Ruin’d Choirs.”
Ruin'd Choirs" is also available
Thanks go to Tomo for generously translating our story and to Hisayo for giving it a Japanese home.
Don't miss the sequel to "Bare Ruin'd Choirs"
Newlyweds Mulder and Scully have a mere 48 hours to enjoy their honeymoon before they must return to real life. With little William at grandma’s, our heroes lock themselves away for two days of connubial bliss.
Rated NC-17 (Adults Only)