Friday, July 28, 2017


On July 27th, 1928 the Catholic Universe Bulletin, the newspaper for the Diocese of Cleveland, ran a headline that read, “NEW PARISH FOR AKRON ANNOUNCED – NAMED TO ORGANIZE NEW PARISH REV. HILARY ZWISLER.”  The Reverend Hilary A. Zwisler, born on November 15, 1885, was a native of Akron having attended St. Bernard Parish School.  There he would be in class with a young Robert Kraus with whom he would have a life long friendship and who would also come to play a significant role in the history of St. Sebastian Parish.  

Eventually, studies for the priesthood led Hilary to St. Charles College in Ellicot City Maryland, then to the old St. Mary, Our Lady of the Lake Major Seminary on Cleveland’s Lakeshore Avenue for two years before being sent to the American College in Rome.  He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Cleveland at the Lateran Basilica in Rome by Cardinal Pompili, the vicar general of Rome, on May 17th, 1913.  His first Mass was held the next day at the Tomb of Saint Peter.

Before becoming pastor of St. Sebastian Parish, Fr. Zwisler served as parochial vicar at St. Michael Parish in Cleveland (13 August 1913 to 15 August 1918), as army chaplain (until August 1919) then as parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish in Akron (6 October 1919 to 5 April 1922) and finally pastor of St. Barbara in West Brookfield, a municipality later annexed to Massillon (5 April 1922 to 6 July 1928).  While there he took on the building of a school which was staffed with teachers sisters from the order of the Holy Humility of Mary, the religious community that would later staff the new parish school in Akron.

On the 6th of July 1928 with just fifteen years of priesthood under his belt, Fr. Zwisler became the founding pastor of St. Sebastian Parish.  Not until the priest shortages of the early twenty first century were such young men made pastors in this diocese, let alone founding pastors.

Father Zwisler arrived back in Akron on the 7th of July and took up residence in the newly constructed St. Thomas Hospital named after Fr. Thomas F. Mahar who was pastor of St. Vincent Parish for 34 years.  His first order of business was determining exactly what his parish boundaries would be.  Fr. Zwilser met with the pastor of St. Vincent Parish, Fr. John J. Scullen, from whose territory the new parish was to be formed.  The dividing line between the two parishes would be Portage Path and Diagonal Road from Botzum to Wooster Avenue.  The Southern boundary would be Wooster Avenue, the Cuyahoga River to the north, and finally to to the west it would extend out toward Peninsula, Medina, and Wadsworth.  At the time the area known as Wallhaven was considered the very edge of the city and the roads from that point out to these towns were little more than dirt and the only civilization farms.

The priests sent a joint letter to Bishop Schrembs who approved of the new territory in a letter of 28 July.  The bishop placed the parish under the patronage of Saint Sebastian who was, “one of the outstanding martyrs of the early Church.  He is neither Celt, nor Teuten, not Latin, nor Slav, but a universal patron.”  A couple of days later on August 1st, a letter was written to all those who now lived in the new parish boundaries advising them that they now belonged to St. Sebastian Parish and that the first Mass would be held on August 5th in the gymnasium at Rankin School, where, as it turns out, Mass would continue to be celebrated for the next 16 months.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


It was was late and I was still fully vested and noticed that one of the doors of the church was still propped open and so went to close it before I took off my robes and put everything away.  Just I was about to close the door two gentlemen walked in.

“You are welcome into the church,” I told them, “Just make sure that the doors are closed when you leave.”

One was dressed like a priest whom I have never seen before.  “Oh no Father, we are here to see you.”

“Oh.”  Alarms are going off in my head.  Weird time.  Weird place.  Weird situation.  “What can I do for you?”

“We are here to tell you that Jesus loves you and died for you.”  Then for the next fifteen minutes or so the priest gave me his witness about what a rough life he lead until he started taking Jesus seriously, while I stood against the door holding it open, fully dressed, with a candle snuffer in my hands.  In my mind, I am wondering how I can shake these guys.  I’ve got a church to close up, it’s close to my bedtime, and I just wanted a little time to unwind.  But being late, I had no excuse.  “I have another appointment to get to,” would not only be a lie, it would be an improbable one.

But then he was winding up and I though that I could still salvage a little of my evening.  Nay, nay.  Then the other gentleman started in on his self humiliating witness.  

The night went on from there.  It is a much more involved (and mildly humorous) story.  Eventually we (Fr. Simone is there by now) fed them and found them a place to stay.  Afterward time was given to analyzing how effective their witness was.

I suppose on the one hand I an grateful for being given the opportunity to minister to them.  (And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.  Mt 10:42.)  But was their witness effective?  I found myself more annoyed than anything else.

It reminded me of riding the Metro to downtown Akron from Barberton when I was a kid.  There was a guy who got on and started asking people, “Are you saved?  Are you going to heaven?”  He worked his way down the aisle of the bus and before long people would not even look at him.  

In both of these cases there was a person who presumed they had something to give you without even bothering to know you (or being asked.)  Is that it?  It is like someone handing out unsolicited medical advice?  A person leans over from their table at the restaurant and taps another patron on the shoulder, “Are you really going to eat that?  Do you know what that does to your arteries?”  

The lesson for me here is that evangelization doesn’t seem to work well in guerrilla mode.  I know my defenses went immediately go up.  (Who are you?  What is that you really want?  Do you even know me or what I might need?)  But the best path is always through familiarity and invitation.  

Maybe not the best example is my father.  When he was nearing the end of his life, not a lifelong friend of the church, he started asking me for “help.”  “All I have Dad is sacraments and prayer,” to which he offered a, “Bah!”  Then one day he begrudgingly said, “Okay.”  It was such a shock that it took me a few seconds to believe him.  There were no commands, “You need to pray and be anointed!”  There was no ambush, “I’m going to anoint you whether you like it or not.”  There was an invitation from his son and eventually he said yes.  I believe, handled any other way, he would never have been anointed - just annoyed.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  ". . . 'Secular space' does not imply or require secularism."  from Archbishop Chaput's, "Render unto Caesar"

QUOTE II:  "Government is limited because politics by nature is limited, just as life in this world is limited.  Politics does not exhaust our humanness.  In fact, it's absent from the most important dimensions of life.  Anyone who doubts these merely needs to think about his or her relationship with a child, spouse, or parent, a valued friend or colleague.  We are much more than political animals."  same source


Adam sent this in.  I found it EXCELLENT and wanted to share it with you.
I gave a talk to the ITE project here at St. Sebastian this past week.  (Find out more about it HERE.) The subject was Baconmas Day and its implications in salvation.  (Baconmas Day is the fourth Monday after Easter.)  There's more there than you might think.
Even though we were celebrating Baconmas in July, Rocco and I sang a traditional Baconmas Day carol.  I hate singing these things out of season (it seems to secularize the day) but I post it here for you today so that you can practice it and be ready to sing it on someone's doorstep this coming year.  It is to the tune of, "Good King Wenceslaus"  

Good St. Peter had a sight,
on a Jappa rooftop,
when the cloth revealed aright
the Creator's workshop.
"Take and slaughter all is clean
and is good for eating!"
No man is too lost or mean,
on the bacon evening!

Bring me bacon.  Bring me wine.
Gather all His people.
Let us pray and let us dine
'neath the church's steeple.
Page and monarch; are all called.
Let His grace none bypass!
Our redemption to recall
on the bacon day Mass!

Here is a video on Pornography addiction.  8.5 minutes.

Monday, July 24, 2017


Today is our annual staff day.  Hopefully be back to you tomorrow!

Friday, July 21, 2017


This will conclude the prehistory.  Next week we begin with the founding of the parish.

The houses being built west of St. Vincent were largely for middle class and wealthier people of Akron owing to the fact that the stench, from the factories that brought people to the area in the first place, tended to be carried east by the winds.  Some notable residences within the current parish boundaries include Stan Hywet Hall built between the years 1912 and 1915 by the Siberling Family and  Elm Court, the estate of Arthur Hudson Marks built in 1912, which is just a few blocks from the church. 

As the city extended westward so did the need for Catholic institutions.  In 1923 the Akron Dominican Sisters purchased Elm Court to become their provincial house.  It was dedicated on October 14th, 1923 and the very next day the sisters opened an academy for elementary and high school girls.

As of yet however, there were no parishes west of Saint Vincent.  But then on July 1st, 1928, (this was the same year the first regular television programming is broadcasted and at the Democratic National Convention in Houston, New York Governor Alfred E. Smith becomes the first Catholic nominated by a major political party for President of the United States) a letter was sent to The Rev. Hilary Zwisler, at the time pastor of St. Barbara Parish in Massillon, from Bishop Joseph Schrembs, informing him that the Diocese of Cleveland was establishing a new parish in the West Hill area of Akron and that he was to be the man to carry the project out.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017


What does one do with parishioners who really don’t fit in?

I was getting out of the shower in the morning and my phone rang.  Not a good sign.  Somebody is sick or something big is broken.  The call came from the church.  A visitor was there who was demanding to read (even though we had someone already), refused to leave the sacristy, and was calling out quite loudly.

When I arrived we were able to ease our way outside to talk.  She was on a mission that God sent her on and everybody that was in her way was possessed (particularly me.)  There was no progress or grounds on which we could meet talking so I just started praying Hail Marys out loud.  That seemed to defuse the situation after a while and then it was possible to invite her in to attend Mass. 

Then the police showed up in droves.  They were very kind and responsive and understood the situation and that any further action might just escalate things again.  So they promised to stay in our area for a little while just to make sure nothing happened again after Mass.  (Thank you SO much!)

So our houses of God are to be open to all of God’s children.  What do you do when one of His children can’t get along with others?  Volunteers are not trained to help extraordinary persons of every stripe though we try to train as much as possible.  Someone can say that everyone should just get over it and learn to live different people around us and I am an advocate for this most of the time.  But I also understand people who are afraid for their children or for themselves.  Imagine you are alone in the church cleaning or decorating or practicing . . . 

It would be easiest if A) such person stayed on their meds or B) we just kept them out legally.  But we have no right to demand A and spiritually does B work?  And thank goodness God does not give up on me when I am not easy.  It would be nice to spend all the time needed to care for such a person but time is limited when you have a church full of people and a Mass to start, or a couple waiting for you in the rectory, or, or, or . . . 

Fortunately this morning there was time and we had what was needed to deescalate the situation and all was fine.  What is the policy in your parish?  What do you do when you have a pickle in the Maraschino cherry jar?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


TUESDAY QUOTE OF THE WEEK:  "Unfortunately, many American Catholics tend to forget the role the church has played throughout history in shaping the public square." from Archbishop Chaput's, "Render unto Caesar


So as some of you know I have a former Methodist church building that I am trying to make Catholic on no budget to serve a Catholic school for children with learning challenges.  It is SLOWLY coming along with the help of friends but a slight panic is setting in as I realize that the school is opening NEXT MONTH.  Here are some of the advances:
I found a Stations of the Cross set that would fit the space about as well as I could hope yard saling it.    But they cost $625.  That is just about six hundred and twenty five dollars outside of my budget.  Any kind hearted donors out there?
I was given these for the school but they need $200 a piece to have the bowls redone (or $400 a piece to have the whole thing done but I am not picky.)  Anyone interest in helping out?
I went to bless some young men's house and saw this over the bar and it reminded me of the Catholic saying, "One of the good things about being Catholic is knowing the difference between an indecency and an indelicacy. 
 (If you didn't get it - it's Father [Valencheck], Son, and Spirits)

We had two missionaries visiting us this past weekend.  It was an interesting time hearing about India.  Fr. Emil told how his family lives close to the jungle and how elephants and monkeys sometime come and destroy their garden.  And you thought rabbits and deer were a problem.
Terry Heckman gave the last Theology on the Rocks.  Hope to see you there next time too!

Can we know Truth without the Church?  2:19 minutes.

Monday, July 17, 2017


Sebastian (the dog) has been slowing down.  Time was, when we went for a walk, he dragged me through the neighborhood.  As the years passed, his position went from pulling me, to just being ahead of me, to at my side and, more recently and sadly, being far behind me.  Such is old age.

As the heat of summer kicked in things got a little worse.  When we go outside sometimes he is just content to sit in the sun soaking in the rays.  This is highly unusual for this dog.

We went to the vet last week and discovered that he had a few issues not the least of which was arthritis.  The doctor prescribed some pills.  Apparently the work.

This weekend we had a couple of missionaries staying at St. Sebastian.  They called on my cell phone in order to tell me that they were going to be late.  The priest on the line had a thick accent and with my decreasing hearing ability (apparently Sebastian and I are suffering from similar fates) I found it difficult to understand what he was trying to say.  Knowing Sebastian was keen on just laying in the sun in our yard, I let him off of the leash in order to pay more attention to the phone.  And then the murders began.  
I heard a woman call out.  Pandemonium ensued.  Sebastian hasn't so much as looked at a squirrel in a couple of years and now he chased one down and caught it!!!  Phone in hand, I tried to explain to the priest why I needed to stop talking to them and with other hand I tried to both bring the dog/squirrel battle to an end AND signal to the people walking down the walk that all was under control.

Leashing the dog with the now deceased remains, I had to face the lady and the gentleman and wait for the reprimand for allowing my dog to take down and innocent squirrel.  So I turned to them.
Okay.  That was a freebee.

Of course there was still the problem of having the dog with a squirrel in his mouth.  He was SO proud, prancing and showing off his prize.  We couldn't go in the house - not with the squirrel in his mouth.  So we tried to sneak around until he burried it somewhere.  Of course we ran into someone else who said, "Look how cute!  That almost looks like a real squirrel!"  

What do you know?  Two freebees in one day.

Finally he buried it under a bush.  (I'll deal with that some other day.)  But - wow - life through pharmaceuticals.  It seems I have a brand new dog.

Friday, July 14, 2017


One more installment after this and we get to the founding of St. Sebastian Parish!

1907 saw Akron’s next Catholic parish established.  Annunciation formed and The Rev. R. A. Dowed had the first Mass in a frame building at the southeast corner of East Exchange and North Arlington Streets.

Akron continued to grow and prosper and was expanding outward toward the infirmary and began to surround it.  In 1915 the county asked the voters of Summit County to allow funds that were set aside for the upkeep of the infirmary to be used to move the infirmary elsewhere.  The measure was passed and in 1916 new property was purchased in Munroe Falls.  The land of the old infirmary was sold to Philip H. Schnieder of the Central Reality Company for just over $300,000 that same year.

In 1919, a year after the end of the First World War, St. Martha’s Parish was established as a division of the parish of St. Vincent.  That same year St. Paul’s was established, the first pastor being The Rev. James A. Hanley who was chaplain of the 165th Infantry during the World War.

St. Peter’s Lithuanian came next whose tabernacle is now in chapel of the St. Julie Blliart School at St. Sebastian.  The Syrians organized their parish of St. Joseph in 1904.  St. John Slovak Parish was established in 1907 in St. Bernard’s chapel.  The Polish who began worshiping with the Slovaks at St. John Parish established the parish of St. Hedwig in 1910 with a Mass at St. Vincent, their last pastor, the Rev, Thaddeus Swirski, taking up residence at St. Sebastian when the parish closed.  Then a community of Hungarian Catholics met in the basement chapel of St. Bernard and established the parish of Sacred Heart in 1915.  It would be another 13 years before the next and final parish was founded in Akron.  

For a time, Akron was the fastest-growing city in America.  Its population exploded from 69,000 in 1910 to 208,000 in 1920. People came for jobs in the rubber factories from many places, especially from West Virginia and various parts of Europe thus explaining the number of nationality parishes. Almost one-third of those residents were immigrants and their children.  (Among the factory workers in the early 1920s was a young Clark Gable.)  Space was needed for this explosion of people and developers looked for land to develop.

The burgeoning city pushed westward and soon those areas once thought to be country became developed neighborhoods.   A trolley brought city folks out to homes at the fringes of the city.  The turnaround for the trolley heading west is what is now called Will Christy Park located in the eastern area of the present parish boundaries.  The land that was formally the County Infirmary was purchased by the Central Reality Company and began to be developed in earnest.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


I remember the first time I had the courage to eat at a restaurant alone.  It was a Taco Bell.  I was in junior high school.  I went in, ordered, ate, and then went home.  This was a huge breakthrough for me.  Telling my parents excitedly about it one could see in their faces a mild mixture of amusement and befuddlement.  But being a lone in public was difficult for me (other than bike rides and hikes and the like) and a taco changed my world.

To varying degrees each of us needs alone time and people time.  Difficulties in life begin when we get too much of either.  Too much community can lead to depression just as much as too much alone time.  As an introvert, I often get “peopled out.”  But as a nation, there is a trend to be alone in a crowd.  We are becoming disconnected, fragmented, and largely left alone behind the walls of self.

In a recent article entitled, “Dying of Despair” in “First Things,” Aaron Kheriaty writes about the growing suicide epidemic in the United States.  “Depression is now the most common serious medical or mental health disorder in the United States,” he reports.  And it isn’t just the dispossessed, the addicts, the “failers" and the victims.  It is skyrocketing among those we think as privileged, successful and should have every worldly reason to live.  (We don’t hear about that much though.)  If you want more on this you can read the article in the August/September 2017 issue.

Kheriaty attributes this culture of death to the increasing isolation of the individual from a cohesive and supportive social structure.  (Read family and religion)  The continuing fractioning of marriage and family and the growing number of “nones” religiously set people adrift where they have to create their own world of meaning, of dignity, of self worth, of purpose and of love.  The problem is that when you have this idea alone on an island, it is difficult to maintain it with any sense of belief or joy.

From Freud to Jung, there seems to be a recognition that there are aspects of Catholic culture (particularly confession of all things) that are very beneficial for the human person.  Emile Durkheim (1897) suggests that, “Catholic societies helped reduce suicide while greater individual autonomy and social isolation in Protestant societies tended to increase it.”  (See above article.)

I see this as an example in my own life.  I was enveloped and supported in the life of my home parish growing up.  I was encouraged in a faith life that gave meaning and hope to my existence from a source far bigger than mere human concepts.  I was brought together in a community of believers at least once a week.  We volunteered together.  This was encouraging even in life’s more common moments.  I remember when I was quite young and the men of the parish were together working on some project, and they told one an older boy to flex his arm.  The men laughed an patted him on the back.  Next was me.  I was a scrawny kid but they supported me just the same.  It was an introduction to Christian acceptance and manhood from a source far greater than just what I came up with as an individual. 

That is Christianity at its best: forming community and family - that we may all be one.  It is possible to enter into our churches and still be alone and we need to work at that.  And it is not as though if we put prayer in schools and everybody went to church that all of our problems would be solved.  It’s more complicated than that.  But there is no denying that the death of faith runs tangentially with the increasing death of individuals by their own hands.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


FINDING TRUTH WHEREVER IT MAY BE FOUND:  "Chekhov said, "Let's put God - and all these grand progressive ideas - to one side. Let's begin with man; let's be kind and attentive to the individual man - whether he's a bishop, a peasant, an industrial magnate, a convict in the Sakhalin Islands, or a waiter in a restaurant. Let's begin with respect, compassion, and love for the individual - or we'll never get anywhere.'"  Vasily Grossma


This morning there was a press conference to announce the new bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland.  The clergy of St. Sebastian congregated in front of the T.V. to watch and offered up a prayer beforehand.
As you may already be aware, The Most Reverend Nelson J. Perez has been named the 11th bishop of the diocese.  Please keep him in your prayers.  Woohoo!
See more HERE.

Sebastian hanging out with the boys on a lazy summer Sunday afternoon.

What a good looking dog!
 The new chapel continues to come along with some donations of candlesticks and a tabernacle!

OWednesday, July 12th at 7:00pm at On Tap at the Harbor, Theology on Tap Akron will take place with the Honorable Gerard Neugebauer, Mayor of the City of Green, speaking on the topic of "The Public Life." Please share the invite with friends on facebook with this link for the event: 

Want to see a video about what they discovered at Schneider Park?  Go HERE.

Here is the video presentation of the announcement of our new bishop:

Monday, July 10, 2017


In certain circles, St. Sebastian Parish rectory has the name, "The St. Sebastian Arms."  It often serves as a sort of bed and breakfast for priests and seminarians.  Monsignor Zwisler, our founder, built a rectory with four suites and two guest rooms for priests.  Later, an addition of two suites were added on to the rectory to house his sister who acted as caretaker of the house.  (And this does not include the rooms for what was once live-on help.)  Many of the rooms have been converted into other purposes, not the least reason for which is the extreme lack of office space.  But there are still some extra rooms and rather them becoming storage spaces for junk as happens in many places, they are put to good use helping priests and seminarians having a place to lay their weary heads when needed.

There are any number of reasons that a priest might need a place to stay.  This weekend we will have two missionaries.  We've had priests in town for "business" and needed a place to stay.  Sometimes a guy just needs to get away and we provide a room or they live way north and will be catching an early plane from Akron Canton Airport and this is much closer.  You get the idea.
I was particularly glad of this situation this year.  Fr. Simone is a newly ordained priest assigned to St. Sebastian.  Imagine having spent the last number of years at the seminary surrounded by your brothers, always having any number of guys to talk to or do something with, and then finding yourself in a rectory where it is just you and the old pastor.  It might be tough.

Having all these people around and activities going on might make the transition easier.  At least I imagine having a number of guys around the dinner table in the evening would fulfill a need for priestly fraternity.
Then again, maybe I am the one really who wants it.  HA!

Friday, July 7, 2017


Here is the second installment.  If you have any corrections/additions, I would be most grateful. 

Due to the construction of the Ohio Erie Canal which was completed in the early 1830s, Akron became a boom town growing by leaps and bounds.  As the city of Akron grew, so did the number of Catholics and St. Vincent, the mother church of Akron, gave birth to a number of daughter parishes mostly to its east and south.  St. Bernard parish was the first in a line of parishes.  It was organized in 1861.  At their first meeting they raised $2.75.  So a request for a donation was made to King Louis of Bavaria since most of those in the new parish were from his nation.  He responded with a gift of $500 and from there the history of that parish took off.

St. Mary Parish was founded next.  It began its existence as a mission parish of St. Vincent in 1887 by The Rev. Dr. T. F. Mahar.

That same year the County of Summit constructed an infirmary near the intersection of West Exchange and Rose Boulevard, currently the heart of St. Sebastian Parish.  This area was largely un-peopled.  Though the city of Akron was considered a bustling city, what would later be the St. Sebastian area was still far out in the country.  

The infirmary was a place for people with no means, family or friends.  The sick, the elderly, the abandoned, those addicted to alcohol and the like found a home at the infirmary.  Not that life was easy.  It was also a large working farm and those who lived there had to work hard.  Death was a regular visitor and so the infirmary had its own potter’s field.  In the area where Schneider Park is now located (one block east of the current church) there are reports that the city asked contractors to be on the lookout for human remains when doing work on the park as late as September 9th, 2009.  Though there was no report of having found anything (the cemetery was presumably removed at county expense between  the years 1912 and 1916) if one looks at arial images of the park, green rectangles the size of graves in perfect rows can be seen in the northwest section of the park.

In the summer of 2017, the city of Akron and the University of Akron teamed up to investigate the possibility that graves were still present in the park.  For two weeks, university students researched, examined, and mapped the area.  In their early estimations, they surmised that there may be somewhere between 200 and 500 graves still in the park.  They found evidence of an old “cemetery trail” and of an old care taker’s shed.  It is also thought that the grave area may be larger than originally suspected.  All this evidence coincides with stories that Ralph Witt, who went to St. Sebastian Parish School when it opened, told.  He spoke of walking though the park on his way to school and he and his friends would occasionally find a bone sticking up through the ground.

When the workers were asked if this project would include using imaging to see if the green rectangles still contained human remains (as opposed to really good back fill that just produced good patches of grass) the workers responded that the ground had too much clay in it to make taking such images possible.  Eventually someone will have to take shovel to dirt to make absolutely certain.

On a similar note, according to R. J. Brownfield there is a small hill in Hardesty Park, a park located a few blocks north and west of the parish.  This is reported to be an Indian burial mound.  

The information on Schneider Park is subject to change and soon!  There is a town hall meeting coming up at which they will report their findings.  There is also the possibility that they will return to do more work after discovering that the scope of the project was larger than originally anticipated.  

Thursday, July 6, 2017


To start, let’s acknowledge that some people have Maria Goretti lives.  Forces over which they have no control but which have considerable control over them make life miserable.  Additionally, a person may have a Maria Goretti aspect to their lives.  That is, there is a part of their life that is challenging, over which there is little or no control.  So if you are in a Turkish prison and experiencing daily beatings, there is not much you can do to improve your lot before lunch.

But outside of those types of situations, most people (way including myself) know what they can do to make room in their lives for more joy.  It could be spiritual, like going to confession.  It could be physical like getting some exercise, seeing your doctor, or finishing a long put off and complicated chore.  It might be mental, like changing your attitude or getting away from a negative influence.

It’s nice to go for the quick fix.  But quick fixes rarely have any lasting power and most of them involve escapism.  And while you are on vacation from your problem, it often just grows worse (or at least appears worse.)  A computer game, a smoke, the fifth time through a TV rerun, the  whole bag of Valuetime Cheese Curls (may they rest in peace) simply give the temporary appearance of the disappearance of the problem.  Like Anbosol on a toothache: It may take the pain away, but the tooth continues to decay and when the medication wears off, watch out.

Why put off being happier until tomorrow?  Fix something today.  You’ll be happier tomorrow.  Maybe the victory and the (hopefully) positive feeling will give you the power to fix one more thing.  Set little achievable goals.  Give yourself a victory pat on the back.  If talking on the whole mountain immobilizes you because it seems impossible, then attack it one stone at a time, one day at a time.  After a month, you’ll be surprised at the pile of rocks that have been removed and how much better you feel at the exercise.

When I was a kid my mother wanted a rock garden around the front tree.  There was a huge pile of discarded rocks up the street in a field.  She didn’t drive and I was little and she was not very strong.  So one day we each picked up two rocks.  We brought them to the yard and placed them at the base of the tree.  It looked pathetic and felt like painting a house with a piece of dental floss.  But every day we would go for a walk.  At the end of two weeks things started to look promising.  Half way through the summer there was a promising wall.  By August, we were sitting on the low wall drinking lemonade. 

There is a Chinese (I believe) proverb that asks the question, “When is the best time to plant a tree?”  The answer is, “Yesterday.”  So get started.

And as for the Maria Goretti aspects: The necessary as opposed to the necessary suffering in your life?  This is where sainthood comes in.  You can choose to wallow in misery, or you can use it.  It doesn’t make it better, but it makes it useful.  You can suffer.  Or you can suffer and have some good come from it.  Offer up your forbearance in pain as penance, or for reparation for someone else or our nation or for vocation.  Give God your tears to rain on the graves of faithfully departed to quicken their journey to heaven.  In other words, give this unwelcome visitor purpose.  Use it.  Don’t merely be used by it.

And for those who cannot muster any of this:  KNOW that I prayed for you today.