It's been almost 17 months to the day since we were astonished when Fr. Mike came into St. Jude’s on that glorious morning, vested and ready for Mass while we were giving thanks to God for the amazing transformation from a time of disillusionment, fear, and almost hopelessness from enemy forces taking over the United States. Their mantra of “down with the Catholic Church, God, and all that adhere to everything they stand for” became a reason to cower-in-place every-waking moment.
As I think back to those moments when revelry filled the streets, not only during the day, but late at night when my wife and I would be awakened by shouts of anti-catholic bellows that sent cold chills up and down our spines, without knowing if someone, at any moment, would break in and do us untold harm.
That year, 2155 AD, was a time when all the predictions of the late 21st century were looming before us and the Church was preparing for an assault on our freedom of worship, education, and the democratic type of government, once so judiciously protected, was now at risk of being overthrown. It was a time of gross mistrust in the officials who were sworn to uphold our rights as citizens, respect our God-given freedom to worship as we pleased, and the dedication of the community to ensure a sound education for our children. Those in charge had become corrupted to the point that only their personal needs were protected; not those of their constituents’.
When Fr. Mike came into the Sanctuary and said he’d been awakened by a loud noise and viewed the figure of a man in white with a glow behind him telling Fr. Mike; “we could no longer live in fear” he quickly got dressed into his vestments and hurried to the church. I remember that moment when the church was filled with people, some of whom were part of the revelry, now on their knees praying.
But now, as the sense of a quiet and tranquil existence seemed to be the norm, a new storm was brewing, yet to become visible and admonishing which would again uproot our style and place of living.
It was a bright and already warm summer day with my wife and I looking ahead to a trip into the mountains, something we occasionally ventured while there were no pressing matters within our very peaceful community. Our ministry of late consisted of sharing with neighbors, and especially the Simpsons, our strong faith-filled lives by working with those who were somewhat on the needy side of their existence, to which we adhered in Matthew’s Gospel of caring for those who were Christ.
We hadn’t turned the radio on that morning due to the business of preparing to leave and making sure we had everything in place for the trip, locked the house, and checked the surroundings, although there never appeared to be any concern these days.
As we were about to drive away Mr. Simpson came running out of his house, fear showed in his demeanor and excitement beamed in his eyes, unlike that of a person with good news. He stopped us and said; “did you hear? It’s starting all over again!” Whatever occurred 17 months ago with a flavor of peacefulness and no reason to fear has changed. “Turmoil has erupted in the larger cities, bombing and people being arrested, especially those in churches.” “What are we to do?” Our trip certainly was off, but what we would need to do now became a problem resurrected from the past.
My suggestion was to first go to Fr. Mike and get his thoughts and see if the local church was going to be affected, one more time. Then, we would need to check with the local governing body and find out how they were going to react. Where was the peace that covered us for the past year and a half? Where was God, now?
Our visit with Fr. Mike was refreshing, but the news wasn’t positive. He had already received an
e-mail from the Chancery stating that they were under strict orders to curtail all religious ceremonies in all parishes throughout the diocese, beginning immediately. How, we wondered, would anyone know what was going on here, unless like before the local officials reinstated the watchers who spied on everything that went on in our church. Thoughts of the previous watcher program veered up within my mind as the memory of who can we trust was resurrected? Fr. Mike told us this go-around wouldn’t be easy and perhaps the struggle of having Mass underground might be more precarious than it was 17 months ago. Many of the same watchers still lived in our small community and it appears they may have been waiting like silent cells who would become adversaries to our way of life. He was going to move to an unknown location where he could still function as a priest without the possibility of being killed. “This town is small and you should consider moving on as well”, he said.
The Simpsons came over for one last evening of prayer with us and we decided to quietly leave before any suspicions could be aroused in the local officials’ scrutiny. Since we already had our car loaded for several weeks in the mountains it would be simple to pick up the last remaining necessities and leave. Everyone knew we always took these little trips this time of the year and there would be no suspicions raised this time.
Where we would actually end up was going to be a mystery to us as our usual vacation spot was known to several townspeople, some of whom might be watchers. Already, the cloak and dagger experience we were about to venture out on was the same back when we left the large city several years ago, ending here in this little town. As we drove away our prayer was; “Lord, be with us as we begin this journey into a wilderness seeking your protection and your Holy Spirit guiding our direction as Moses did before leading your people out of Egypt”.
Fortunately the drive was peaceful and there were no signs of violent upheavals like those we experienced three and a half years ago after leaving our home of almost 40 years to escape what was to become more than a nightmare; it was as if Armageddon had arrived and there was anarchy everywhere. Even our children, now grown adults, were convinced to follow a new-age philosophy, but with a deeper intensity that went against all we taught them as adolescents, raising them as Roman Catholics, and instilling the Sacraments into their persona. What happens now becomes our inquisitiveness? Where did we go wrong or who can we blame for the turning away from the Catholic Church; or worse turning away from a God who loves them and still seeks their return. “The Hound of Heaven” will still be chasing them.
After about two hours into our journey we noticed smoke rising over a distant hillside and as we got closer the sound of bombs could be heard, even though we were several miles away from that area. It brought to mind a dream I had some years ago wherein several people were with me and bombs could be heard beyond a hill and the billows of smoke rising could be seen from where we were standing. My comments were; “They’re getting closer!” When I awoke following that dream I felt as though it was a premonition of something that might occur in the future. Was this providential? My foot pressed a little harder on the accelerator and the car sped away from this latest sign of attacks even way out here, miles from our little town we had just vacated.
With the full moon, bright and gleaming with hope lighting the way, we arrived at a wooded section of a remote country-side where we could see trailers and some camp-sights. From a distance could be seen camp-fires and getting closer the sound of children and the aroma of outdoor cooking gave some hope that maybe, just maybe we had arrived at a safe-haven away from all the tyranny and watchers we had escaped from several hours ago.
Once we parked and started to explore our new surroundings friendly voices began to reach our ears and for a moment we let our guard down and joined in with conversation that lifted our spirits. Many of those had also left their own small communities and had similar stories relating to our very circumstances which appeared like a small army of God-fearing and loving people who would ban together and create a community of our own.
Of course, we would need to select from among ourselves leaders who could hold things together in the event that watchers might infiltrate our surroundings. We all wanted and needed fellowship and would attempt to establish some type of rule, without becoming what we all had just left.
Questions arose as to worship; obviously we were not all Catholic, but it appeared that most had a strong affiliation with Christian living and church attendance was primary to all. Since I was a deacon the position, if even temporarily, was given to me as a spiritual leader. O, How I wish Fr. Mike was here so we could celebrate Mass.
The group began searching for a more secluded area to live and found an old mine that would accommodate the approximately 40 people in our new community. It worked out well and with some industrious men in the group we were able to tap into electric lines close by that were never shutdown by the local power company. We now had lights, heat from abandoned electric heaters in the mine, and found fresh water from a stream that appeared to be clear of anything detrimental.
I set up a make-shift altar for prayer services and the entire community welcomed the opportunity to attend a daily service with many members contributing their reading and singing abilities. Luckily I brought a bible and other resources for teaching as well as creating as close as possible a Christian environment.
One day a couple of our members located a farm nearby where the owners were willing to assist us in whatever way they could. They offered us free eggs, milk directly from their cows, and vegetables grown on the farm. Since they had ample amounts of bacon from a good size herd of pigs we also got pork. The farmers family were privy to some news they got via short-wave radio and prayed constantly that the terrible events going on in the large cities and even smaller towns did not spread to this seemingly oasis we all shared.
Then one evening Lloyd, one of our new acquaintances came to me and asked my name. I told him Jonathan and my wife’s name was Angela. When I asked why he was inquiring he said; “someone asked for you, not one of our community and somehow knew you were here.” My heart suddenly felt heavy; who could know we were here and what does this mean?
I waited and then a voice from the past said; “How are you and what has you brought you to this place”?
To be continued!