The Shadow of the Cross

Readers of my blog are familiar with my sharing, on occasion, something of my own spiritual journey as a young Jesuit. There have been times that I offer reflections on the consolation of ministry and prayer and, to be sure, there are times I give a glimpse into my own struggles. Of late I have been wrestling with a particularly dark and weighty issue that has occupied an enormous amount of my spiritual energy.

Each year during Advent, our eyes turn toward the coming of the Savior with with hope and eager anticipation. Children scamper about and write Christmas list and adults shop and clean frantically. In our good moments, we have a chance to gather with one another and share memories of holidays past - old friends and loved ones now dead - and create memories we will treasure into the future. I, for one, am very excited to spend Christmas this year with my new niece Emma and it brings me great joy to imagine her wonder at the holiday seasons to come.

So it is with great difficulty that I write of an icy hand that has gripped my heart these past few weeks. In fact, sometimes when I think of Christmas it makes me want to cry out in pain and in great anguish. I grit my teeth and pray for greater strength, but it seems to be of no avail. The darkness has spread itself wider and more thoroughly than anything I could ever have imagined. Were I a poet I would write verse to rival even St. John of the Cross.

It is not that I doubt the existence of God or that I have difficulty with my life as a Jesuit. It is not the poignant memories of deceased loved ones or friends that I've not spoken with in many years. It's not even the fact that December 11th is the last airing of Emeril's show on FoodTV before it gets canceled.

No, the shadow of the cross is thrown much longer and far darker than any of these.

You see, my room at La Casa Hagan has been taken over my the O'Malley family.

Several weeks ago, you may recall, I was visited by my aunt and uncle Cheryl and Terry O'Malley. The first members of my family to visit me in New York, they stayed here for two nights and we did have a lovely weekend together. Apart from Cheryl's mind-numbingly embarrassing stunt at the Fordham bookstore where she feigned tripping in order to get a discount on a hooded sweatshirt, it was a great visit.

What I did not report is that for several weeks they have been living in MY ROOM at my Grandma Hagan's house. Yes, MY ROOM. Sleeping in my bed, watching my tv, and putting their books in my closet. Their children have also colonized the other bedrooms, leaving me with few options for where I'll stay this Christmas.

So my struggle? I'm going to be bloody homeless for the holidays.

"Ryan," you might say, "why don't you stay at your ancestral family home in North Olmsted?"

Well, let me provide some reasons:

1. Hagan painted my old room pink when she moved in. I could do with a light chartreuse, Pepto-Bismal pink is not to my liking.

2. Who will do my laundry? True, Grandma Hagan obsessively unplugs every electrical appliance in the house in order to save energy and hasn't used the furnace in seven years but she does one great load of laundry - it goes down dirty and appears several hours later clean and freshly ironed. At my house, I'd probably get a bill for laundry service before I saw my clothes again.

3. What car would I use? To stay at my house means fighting for someone's vehicle. Apart from the Coumadin Clinic and the occasional run to someone's wake or funeral, my Grandma's car is pretty much free for me to use. And its new. And it has a rear spoiler, which is pretty snazzy.

The list could go on and on, but I'll stop with these three (for now).

So it has appeared that, with no space at the Inn, I'd either stay at my house or I'd check into the West Side Catholic Center for two weeks.

Fortunately, the dark night has been pierced by a growing ray of hope: their bid for a new house has been accepted and with the paperwork moving quickly, it appears that the O'Malleys will vacate the premises just in time for my arrival. This is, of course, Advent and not Lent and I can't really endure TWO penitential seasons in one year and without my regular room at Grandma's house, I don't know how I'd face the coming weeks.
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