One man from Maine reported outbreaks of the plague in Chicago, NYC, and Los Angeles. He said it was planned. Millions of people had died in those cities.
Another amateur radio operator from Pennsylvania said that the darkness lasted four weeks exactly, subsided, but was covering parts of America again. A third noted that looting and stealing flowed across New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois to the point where anarchy "ruled" in many medium sized towns.
The group had a meeting after Mass and breakfast on the seventh Sunday in exile. Father James led the meeting.
"We all thought, except for Joe, that our exile here would be temporary. It seems by these random reports that the infrastructure and moral structures of America have unraveled. It is time to decide on two things. First of all, can we and should we stay here? Second, if we go back, what are our group and individual plans?"
Jamie spoke first. "I do not intend to go back. My ancestors were pioneers in Kansas and I want to learn to live as they did. I think I can do this. But, I know it will be very hard."
Tammy spoke up next. She was sitting with the children, who were now considered old enough to hear the truth of where their lives may go. "If the children can handle this situation, I, also will stay here with them. My entire life will be dedicated to their and needs. I promised them this." Thomas looked relieved, and Mary came over and sat next to Tammy.
Father looked at Casey? "Well?"
Casey looked at the floor. "To be honest, I have nothing to go back to....my job was with the newspapers, which by now, are either completely in the hands of the tyrants, or shut down. I honestly believe that my role as a journalist in this world is over. However, I want to do something else. I do not know how to do this, Father, but I want to join a religious order, like be a monk."
Father James smiled. He had suspected that Casey had a religious vocation, but had said nothing. Both women looked at each other. They had known this for a long time. Casey lived with his rosary in his hand. Tammy was so proud of her younger brother.
Father turned to Joe. "Joe?" Joe surveyed the group. He was very quiet. "My sister has decided to take the children under her wing. I guess that makes me the adopted uncle. I stay here."
Mary burst out. "Father, are you staying with us, please?" Father smiled. "Of course, this is my little parish, my little church."
From that day, the group decided to organize themselves into a religious group of some sort. Father wrote a little rule. There would be three levels-Casey would be the first "monk", the first one to set himself aside for God. Father James said that as soon as he possible, he would find a bishop to bless the little church. He smiled when he said this and turned away to get a cup of coffee. Joe noticed that Father James was happier than he had ever seen him.
Food was no problem, but plants were beginning to die under the darkness. Occasionally, the sun would shine and plants, including trees, would "perk up". But, the darkness came back, although less intense than in that first month. Tammy was experimenting growing edible things with lamps, but she had to learn how to make alternatives to the oil, which was fast disappearing. She worked with animal fat, but all understood that if the plants died, animals would die as well.
Adjusting to "pioneer life"in a strange twilight was easy for some and harder for others, but all pitched in to learn new, basic, ancient skills. Tammy proved to be a whiz at sewing, canning, cooking, making soap and basically doing most of the cleaning and organizing of the daily chore-schedule for the entire household. Jamie taught the children daily, and Casey worked and prayed in the true Benedictine rhythm of the day under the direction of Father James.
The day was no longer marked by day and night, light and dark, so Casey worked on the hours of the day as if the sun could be seen. All had to follow the same schedule. All did. The darkness lasted most of the winter, but as the plants were covered in deep Vermont snow, Tammy thought some plants would survive, if the sun shone again.
Time passed quickly. Then, before Christmas, is was clear to all that some new type of bond between Joe and Jamie. In the New Year, Father James performed an unexpected sacrament, as Jamie and Joe married. The little church would grow, and a remnant of the Faith would pass down the Truth to the next generations.
No one knew for sure how long the little church could sustain life, but Joe thought the darkness was temporary, and he proved to be correct. By the end of January, it finally disappeared and the normal day and night rhythm returned. It fell away like a curtain, and Jamie imagined even the pines and firs sighed with relief.
Father James organized, with Casey, a semi-monastic day. Thankfully, these urbanites seemed immune to cabin-fever.
Then, one day in early March, Father asked for a meeting of the entire group. He said Mass first, and then remained standing in front of the small assembly. He was playing with a ring on his left hand.
"I have a secret which I can now share. I had been consecrated a bishop before we left, but could not share this information until six months had passed. These six months were a necessary delay, just in case life returned to as it was before the chaos began. My archbishop asked me to wait for six months before sharing this knowledge. Now, I know that my work is here, and that we shall continue here. My instructions were to carry on the apostolic succession in hiding, if the land remained under tyranny. It has. I do. I am free to train Casey as a priest, who will carry on work either here or elsewhere."
The group was stunned. They understood the importance of Father's announcement. Now, for the first time, they understood that they were, indeed, a remnant Church.
Joe asked Bishop James to bless everyone. They small church fell into a deep silence. They felt as though they were surrounded by angels. Even the children sensed the importance, the sublimity of the moment.
As the darkness had covered the earth, so it did not last. One day, in the early spring, at Mass, Bishop James read from the Missal he had brought with him. With an ancient authority in his voice, Bishop James read this from Romans 11:5; 33-36--"Even so then at this present time also, there is a remnant saved according to the election of grace.... O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and recompense shall be made him?
For of him, and by him, and in him, are all things: to him be glory for ever. Amen.