Summary: A priest shouldn't be caught doubting.
Disclaimer: MASH isn't mine. Never was, never will be. This is just for fun.
A/N:Written for Hawkeye's Martini's Story Challenge over on LJ. Thanks for the beta again go to Caroline, who rocks my proverbial socks. (Proverbial only because I'm not wearing any.)
When people think of their most embarrassing moments they usually think of moments involving lots of people, and some humiliating event in front of said large number of people. The event is usually shameful but mostly amusing; they think of things such as their pants splitting in public, singing badly in front of others, or maybe they remember that time they had toilet paper stuck to their shoe.
This is not the case for John Mulcahy.
His most shameful moment is much more private, and all the more powerful for it. Mulcahy remembers vividly his most embarrassing moment, as if it is perpetually following him around, pretending to be yesterday. There is no amusing anecdote to be gained from it and he wishes every day for it to be removed from his memory - a feat that is impossible, as it's always with him. Removing this memory from his mind would be like removing a part of his soul. He may not like it, but it's there, and it always will be.
Father Mulcahy sits on his cot - it's late at night - and thinks of it.
Many times when he prays, John is not silent. He receives a certain satisfaction from saying his words out loud, as if it makes them more real, or as if it makes his faith more palpable. Tonight is no different. "Dear God," he starts, "please bless all of the soldiers fighting out there. Please bless their families. Make sure to take care of the people who live here, as well, whose lives we are disrupting as we claim to be 'helping'. Please bless everyone at this MASH unit and everyone at every other MASH unit. Please help all of these people to find peace and love, Lord." He pauses here, wondering if he should continue or stop there. Sighing, he knows he'll never get to sleep otherwise. He continues.
"Sometimes I wonder why we're all here, Lord. I know that I'm supposed to believe that there is a purpose, that you have something in mind, but it's difficult. I see the boys dying, the families destroyed and broken up, and the children without homes. These are your children! How could this be what you want? Are you even there?" Unaware that his voice is raising and continues to, he adds, "It makes me wonder what I've devoted my life to!"
That's when he hears the cough.
Turning around, eyes wide, he sees Hawkeye in the doorway of his tent, looking particularly upset. He wants to say something, and tries to, but he can't. Hawkeye seems to understand; he nods solemnly and leaves.
Mulcahy closes his eyes. He doesn't like to let himself know about his doubts, let alone other people. He's their spiritual guidance! He should be firm and solid in his faith. He has no right to question it, not when so many others need his help. He's the only representative of God and Jesus that most of these kids ever see - how can he waste time thinking that what he's devoted his life to is worthless, or a waste of time? How can he be so selfish?
Opening his eyes again, he knows that everyone doubts and everyone has insecurities and that he's being foolish to expect for the same to never happen to him. Even as he acknowledges this, however, he wishes and wishes that Hawkeye hadn't walked in on him. This is a shame beyond embarrassment - it burns him to his very soul. And the fact that he knows Hawkeye doesn't and couldn't ever blame him for it simply makes him punish himself more severely.
He wonders if he'll ever completely give up this doubt. He hopes so, but after what he's seen, he finds that unlikely. He's resigned himself to the fact that this will be a constant battle within himself, as he struggles with what's right and what's acceptable for a priest. Is he allowed to doubt this much? Is he allowed to doubt at all? When does it become too much? When does it become wrong?
Turning off his light, he lies down in his bed, Hawkeye's words from the day after catching him doubting, swirling around in his mind:
"Father, I know I'm not exactly one to know anything about faith or religion, but let me say this - no matter how many doubts you have about God, or what we're all doing here, or what his plan is, or even if it's all worth it, I think you've got the strongest faith out of everyone I've ever met. You've survived this and you still wear that collar. That's something."
This is what allows him to sleep.