The Good News and a Good Laugh

My earlier blog about “Spiritual Joy” was actually the result of a google search: Did Jesus Laugh? I thought I’d be able to find some interesting articles on the topic but in the end such was not the case. Besides the article which I already posted, one other thing of interest popped up from the Catholic blog Whispers in the Loggia (here). It was an old post (dated 2007) and it cited an article which was for “subscribers-only” at the time but now when I click on the link I think the whole article is available.  At any rate, you can read at length here but for now I post only a part of the post available on Whispers in the Loggia below.

Skimming over the piece I’m not sure whether it answers the question whether Jesus laughed or not other than to say that it was recorded that He in fact did in the non-canonical books but the church fathers deemed the genre of humor as inappropriate.

“Some residues of humor may still be traceable in the way the Evangelists wrote and edited the Gospels. But as Professor Levine notes, we may be so familiar with these stories that we miss the humor. She points to the story of Eutychus (Acts 20:7-12), who sits in the window ledge of a room where St. Paul is still talking near midnight. Eutychus dozes, falls out the window, drops to the ground and is presumed dead, until Paul examines him, discovers he is alive and continues talking until dawn.

Many Christian saints and blesseds have celebrated humor and laughter, which run like common threads through their lives, disproving the stereotype of the dour saint. In his biography God’s Fool, the French novelist Julien Green speaks of the joy of St. Francis of Assisi that “spilled over into the hearts of thousands of men and women.”

Stories about the humor of saints reach back to the Roman martyrs. In the third century, St. Lawrence, who was burned to death on a gridiron, is said to have called out to his executioners: “Turn me over. I’m done on this side!” Some saints were known specifically for their sense of humor. St. Philip Neri, called “The Humorous Saint,” hung at his door a little sign: The House of Christian Mirth. “Christian joy is a gift from God flowing from a good conscience,” Neri said.

St. Teresa of ávila specifically warned her sisters against a deadly serious religiosity. “A sad nun is a bad nun,” she said. “I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits…. What would happen if we hid what little sense of humor we had? Let each of us humbly use this to cheer others.” A more contemporary example is Blessed Pope John XXIII, whose most famous sally came when a journalist innocently asked, “Your Holiness, how many people work in the Vatican?” John replied, “About half of them.”

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4 thoughts on “The Good News and a Good Laugh

  1. By the way, in rereading this post, I want to add my recommendation of the book God’s Fool by Julien Green. It is by far the best biography of Saint Francis of Assisi that I have ever read. My original copy, which was soft cover, fell apart years ago from being read so often. I finally got tired of having to pick up all the loose pages off the floor as I sat in my favorite becak chair reading it, and early this year I bought a sound, used hard cover copy at Alibris, and once again read it cover to cover. Though canonically a Western (papal) saint, Francesco of Assisi overcame in himself, in his simple devotion to the Lord, all the divisions then, and his life story still has that universal appeal today, that of being simply a Christian. In case anyone else who stops here is also attracted to the ‘little poor man’ of Assisi, God’s Fool is the book to get. (Though the source books, Thomas of Celano, and the Little Flowers of Saint Francis, are also worth reading.)

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