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In Between Heaven and Mirth, James Martin, SJ, assures us that God wants us to experience joy, to cultivate a sense of holy humor, and to laugh at life's absurdities - not to mention our own humanity. Father Martin invites believers to rediscover the importance of humor and laughter in our daily lives and to embrace an essential truth: faith leads to joy.
Holy people are joyful people, says Father Martin, offering countless examples of healthy humor and purposeful levity in the stories of biblical heroes and heroines, and in the lives of the saints and the world's great spiritual masters. He shows us how the parables are often the stuff of comedy, and how the gospels reveal Jesus to be a man with a palpable sense of joy and even playfulness. In fact, Father Martin argues compellingly, thinking about a Jesus without a sense of humor may be close to heretical.
Drawing on Scripture, sharing anecdotes from his experiences as a lifelong Catholic, a Jesuit for over twenty years, and a priest for more than ten, and including amusing and insightful sidebars, footnotes, and jokes, Father Martin illustrates how joy, humor, and laughter help us to live more spiritual lives, understand ourselves and others better, and more fully appreciate God's presence among us. Practical how-to advice helps us use humor to show our faith, embrace our humanity, put things into perspective, open our minds, speak truth, demonstrate courage, challenge power, learn hospitality, foster effective human relations, deepen our relationship with God, and ... enjoy ourselves. Inviting God to lighten our hearts, we can enjoy a little heaven on earth.
The MostInfallible Sign
Joy andthe Spiritual Life Many of myfavorite jokes are about Catholics, priests, and Jesuits. TheJesuits, by the way, are a Catholic religious order for men (a group ofmen who take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and live incommunity) founded in 1540 by St. Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish soldierturned priest. Its easyfor me to tell jokes about Catholics, priests, and Jesuits, since Imall three. And a self-deprecating joke may be the healthiest brand ofhumor, since the only target is yourself. The standard Jesuit joke playson the stereotype that were (a) overly practical, (b) overly worldly, or(c) not as concerned with spiritual matters as we should be. Let meshare with you one of my favorites. (Dont worry if youre notCatholic or youve never met a Jesuit in your life. As with most good jokes,you can easily change the details or particulars to suit your owncomic purposes.) Theres abarber in a small town. One day hes sitting in his shop, and a manwalks in wearing a pair of sandals and a long brown robe with ahood. The man, very thin and quite ascetic looking, sports a shortbeard. He sits down in the barbers chair. Excuseme, says the barber. I was wondering, why are you dressedlike that? Well,says the man, Im a Franciscan friar. Im here to help my brotherFranciscans start a soup kitchen. The barber says,Oh, I love the Franciscans! I love the story of St. Francisof Assisi, who loved the animals so much. And I love the work you dofor the poor, for peace, and for the environment. The Franciscansare wonderful. This haircut is free. And theFranciscan says, Oh no, no, no. We live simply, and we take a vowof poverty, but I do have enough money for a haircut. Please letme pay you. Oh no,says the barber. I insist. This haircut is free! So the Franciscangets his haircut, thanks the barber, gives him a blessing, and leaves. The nextday the barber comes to his shop and finds a surprise waiting forhim. On the doorstep is a big wicker basket filled withbeautiful wildflowers along with a thank you note from the Franciscan. That sameday another man walks into the barbers shop wearing a longwhite robe and a leather belt tied around his waist. When he sitsdown in the chair, the barber asks, Excuse me, but why are you dressedlike that? And the mansays, Well, Im a Trappist monk. Im in town to visit adoctor, and I thought I would come in for a haircut. And thebarber says, Oh I love the Trappists! I admire the way your livesare so contemplative and how you all pray for the rest of the world.This haircut is free. TheTrappist monk says, Oh no. Even though we live simply, I have moneyfor a haircut. Please let me pay you. Oh no,says the barber. This haircut is free! So the Trappist gets hishaircut, thanks him, gives him a blessing, and leaves. The nextday the barber comes to his shop, and on his doorstep there is asurprise awaiting him: a big basket filled with delicious homemadecheeses and jams from the Trappist monastery along with athank you note from the monk. That sameday another man walks into the barber shop wearing a blacksuit and a clerical collar. After he sits down, the barber says, Excuse me,but why are you dressed like that? And the mansays, Im a Jesuit priest. Im in town for a theology conference. And thebarber says, Oh, I love the Jesuits! My son went to a Jesuit highschool, and my daughter went to a Jesuit college. Ive even been to theretreat house that the Jesuits run in town. This haircut is free. The SilentMonk A manenters a strict monastery. On his first day the abbot says,Youll be able to speak only two words every five years.Do you understand? The novice nods and goes away. Five yearslater the abbot calls him into his office. Brother, he says,Youve done well these last five years. What would you like to say? And themonk says, Food cold! Oh, Imsorry, says the abbot. Well fix that immediately. Five yearslater the monk returns to the abbot. Welcome,Brother, says the abbot. What would you like to tell meafter ten years? And themonk says, Bed hard! And theabbot says, Oh, Im so sorry. Well fix that right away. Then afteranother five years the two meet. The abbot says, Well,Brother youve been here fifteen years. What two words would youlike to say? Imleaving, he says. And theabbot says, Well, Im not surprised. Youve done nothing butcomplain since you got here! And theJesuit says, Oh no. I take a vow of poverty, but I have enoughmoney for a haircut. The barbersays, Oh no. This haircut is free! After the haircut, the Jesuitthanks him, gives him a blessing, and goes on his way. The nextday the barber comes to his shop, and on his doorstep there is asurprise waiting for him: ten more Jesuits. Now, if Irecounted a second joke or a third joke (e.g., see p. 14), you mightwonder when I was going to get to the point. But, in a way, jokesare the point of this chapter, which is that joy, humor, and laughterare under appreciated values in the spiritual life and are desperatelyneeded not only in our own personal spiritual lives, but in the life oforganized religion. Joy, tobegin with, is what well experience when we are welcomed intoheaven. We may even laugh for joy when we meet God. Joy, acharacteristic of those close to God, is a sign of not only a confidencein God, but also, as we will see in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures,gratitude for Gods blessings. As the Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard deChardin said, Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence ofGod.*
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