Author: Athena Phoenix 144 PM
Can the Light illuminate the darkness?Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Spiritual - Words: 1,368 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 1 - Published: 04-08-05 - Status: Complete - id: 2342458
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
by Athena Phoenix
He drove through the afternoon, following the directions he'd obtained from MapBlast. His usual vehicle had a GPS navigational system, of course, but for this visit he wanted to be anonymous. He had guessed that a location far removed from his usual haunts would be a safer choice.
It had been a long time – a very long time. Supposedly, things had changed. Hopefully, not everything, he thought. He wasn't sure he'd know what to do if things were not as expected. He mentally reviewed the usual words, just for practice, then what he planned to say.
What had prompted him to set out today? Not what his mind corrected, but who. He couldn't deny that her influence on him was growing stronger. Despite his repeated attempts to push her away, she always returned. Fighting alongside him. Supporting him. And most of all, loving him. She'd never said the words, but her actions were clear.
He smiled, a rare expression for him but one that had come more often lately. She'd be surprised to find out where I'm going. And even more surprised to learn why. He checked the directions again. One more turn. Finally, he saw the small, low sign on the right:
"St. Barbara Catholic Church". The patroness of those in danger of sudden death, and soldiers. How apropos.
Bruce had only given his first name when he called to arrange the appointment. The voice had sounded slightly surprised at his request– Do most people meet in his office these days? – but also glad to meet him at three p.m. on Saturday.
He parked the car in the empty lot and opened the heavy door, which creaked loudly in the silence. The click of his heels on the stone echoed as he approached the sanctuary door and pulled it open. He almost passed up the bowl of holy water, but long-disused habit pulled him back. The coolness of the water felt refreshing as he touched it to his forehead, chest, and shoulders in the sign of the cross.
He surveyed the sanctuary: stained glass windows, the faint smell of incense, wooden pews, padded kneelers... Finally, he saw it; a door labeled "Fr. Jeff", with a green light above it, currently dark. This must be the one, he thought as he slowly opened the door to its right.
The room was as he expected, small and dimly lit, with a place to kneel and a screen to speak through. He closed the door and knelt. A younger-than-expected voice – must be fresh out of seminary – greeted him. "Are you Bruce?"
"Yes, Father." He can't be any older than I am, can he?
"Shall we begin? In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." Bruce made the sign of the cross, echoing the motions of the priest he couldn't see.
"Amen. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been many years since my last confession." He took a deep breath and began.
Bruce's knees were sore. He had recited a long list of his sins: pride, anger, envy, lust, and finally, despair. He was careful not to name names, but he included enough of the details for the priest to understand. At times, his words had tumbled over each other as he told the priest what he had never told anyone before, not even Alfred. He spoke of his rage against his parents' murderer, his frustration at the injustice of the world, and his deep loneliness. More than once, he had felt his throat closing up, but he managed to remain in control of his emotions and his identity. Fr. Jeff had said little beyond encouraging tell-me-more noises.
"You've seen a lot of darkness and pain," he finally spoke. "What brought you here today?" His voice was calm, unfazed.
"I felt like my life had become nothing more than power, vengeance, and meaningless sex. And that's not enough anymore. I want…more." This was certainly true, although Bruce knew he couldn't tell him the main reason; that hearing Diana call upon her gods so often had made him reconsider his own beliefs. After his parents' death, Alfred had taken him to Mass a few times, but when Bruce became older he told him not to bother anymore. Why should Bruce worship God when God had taken everything away from him?
Not quite everything, Bruce corrected himself. He'd had Alfred, his second father. He'd had enough money and power to accomplish great things. He had almost everything a man could want, except a heart made of flesh, not stone.
"What do you seek? Do you wish to return to the Church?"
"It's…complicated, Father. My life is unpredictable. Sometimes – all the time – I feel like I'm leading two lives, one in the light and one in the darkness."
"God is with you in both places. When you work for justice, He is there. When you care for the poor and the helpless, He is there. When you look for love in a woman's arms, He is there. Even when you want to tear someone limb from limb, He is there. But like you said, it's not enough. Remember St. Augustine?"
Bruce had to think a moment, recalling his long-ago reading of St. Augustine's Confessions, "'You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.'"
"Exactly," Fr. Jeff continued. "You have already taken a big step today by coming here to be reconciled with God and His Church. Do not deny yourself the Sacraments; they are there to strengthen you in your struggle. The Lord loves you, Bruce, and He wants nothing more than for you to find peace and love Him in return."
Peace, Bruce thought. The Batman is about vengeance, not peace. How can I find peace when there will always be criminals, always be murderers, always be people who take delight in shooting a young boy's parents? His voice tightened again, "And my penance, Father?"
He heard the young priest inhale deeply. "I want you to read the book of Job and the parable of the Prodigal Son – the whole thing, mind you, not just the feel-good part about the father welcoming the son. Read them slowly and pray about them. I also ask you to pray the Rosary every day for two weeks." He thought he heard a smile in Fr. Jeff's voice. "They say that it takes 14 repetitions for a habit to form. Do you have a rosary?"
"I – I'm not sure." Alfred had probably kept it, but it had been years since he'd even thought of looking for it.
"There are some behind you in the basket. Take one, and each day, pray for God to use you for His purposes. You have a strength of spirit and will that is greater than most, and I know that you can do it." Bruce looked behind him and chose a set of plastic beads and a card listing the twenty mysteries of the Rosary. Wait a minute; weren't there only fifteen?
The priest prompted him, "You may now pray the Act of Contrition; there's a copy on the table next to you, or use whatever words you like." Bruce located the copy and began to pray, "O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee…"
Once he had finished, the priest rose – he could hear the chair being pushed back on the other side of the screen – and began the familiar words of absolution, ending with "…and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
Bruce replied, "Amen," and Fr. Jeff dismissed him with "Go in peace, my son." Bruce's palms were sweaty from the stress of having said things he had never told anyone, but somehow he felt different. Freer. Not fully at peace – not yet – but the burden he was carrying had lessened.