Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Humor is a Catholic thing, really….

Humor and Catholicism are not easily cohered by many people. For some reason, many people believe that to be a Catholic, a saint, a person “in-tune” with God means, by definition, to look unhappy, if not really be, unhappy. Yea, but no. Really, the contrary is true if you know God, His Son and sacred Scripture. To have a healthy, vibrant spiritual life is have joy. We hunger for intimate connections with God, others and self. We are made for love and joy. Yet, love and joy are mysteries in the Providence, and love and joy separates us from the animals, as does freedom. And to love is be full of joy, full of humor and delight.

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Tonight, I had the pleasure of seeing an old and dear friend, Jesuit Father James Martin, speak at Yale University’s St Thomas More Catholic Chapel. Nearly hundred people were in attendance including members of the local and Yale communities. Father Martin is the Cultural editor of America Magazine, the only Catholic weekly journal of opinion. He’s the author of a plentitude of articles and several books (My Life with the Saints & The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, and he’s due to publish yet another book, Sarah’s Laugh: Joy Humor and Laughter in the Spiritual Life, in a few months.

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Martin was invited by More House to deliver the More House Lecture, which since its establishment in 1962 has had a few distinguished Jesuits. The inaugural More House Lecturer was given by Father John Courtney Murray, SJ in 1962 on the topic of the Problem of God. Martin is now on a spry list of notable –and a few ignoble– scholars and cultural types. A terrific honor, indeed.

Father Martin’s point is that joy and laughter are under-rated in the spiritual life and are essential for a healthy physical and spiritual life. To be joyful is to be in-touch with God. Joy equals holiness (for those who pray).

While humor is culturally bound in time, place and location, there is evidence that laughter had some importance among the Old Testement characters, think of Abraham and Sarah, Isaiah and in the New Testament with Jesus, think of his interchange with Nathaniel. Saints had a particular bias for humor and joy and laughter, think of Saints Teresa of Avila, Philip Neri, Benedict, Blessed John XXIII and Teresa of Calcutta, and countless others.


Father Martin had ten points in praise of humor and its intimate connection with the spiritual life:

  1. humor evangelizes; humor shows others our faith in God, in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead; humor shows the victory of love over hatred;
  2. humor is a tool for humility; it aids in the quest of humility; humor is a great way to keep one grounded and away from the Deadly Sin of pride; as my mother says frequently, don’t take yourself that seriously;
  3. humor shocks the hearer to hear something new; humor gets the point of across
  4. humor speaks truth to power, especially when other forms of truth-telling seem to fail; do we need more pompous, puffed-up and powerful people with a distinct lack of humor leading us, in Church and in society?
  5. humor shows Christian courage: think of Saints Lawrence and Thomas More;
  6. humor deepens a relationship with God (if you have one); by analogy –Catholics love theological analogies: being in relationship with God is like being on the phone–someone talks and someone listens; a healthy relationship with God would mean that joy is very much a part of one’s relationship with God; as Father Martin pointed out from the Ignatian spirituality point of view, can I imagine that God might want to be playful with me? Can I delight in God’s desire for giving me the unexpected? Can I, like the Prophet Isaiah, allow God to delight in me and I delight in God?
  7. humor shows genuine hospitality, it shows the other that being welcome in a place is a virtue;
  8. humor is healing –it releases endorphins; one never laughs at sin or personal hurt but in its proper place humor gives us a break;
  9. humor opens our minds –it helps us to relax; humor helps get the message across, eases the burdens and allows us to imagine being personally with Jesus; joy is the surest sign of the Holy Spirit;
  10. humor is fun and fun is a foretaste of heaven.

 Thanks be to God for the grace of laughing. John Paul II and Benedict XVI have also showed us the value and place of humor in life. As I have said before here: can I really take my humanity seriously? Can I be joy-filled? Can I allow God to show me the way to Him through humor?

Zacchaeus had the opportunity of a lifetime

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When the Lord gazes upon you, looks up you with mercy, love, and interest, are you going to grumble and run away? Or, will you invite the Lord into your home with joy?

The gaze of the Lord is nothing less than THE miracle of a lifetime. God excludes no one, his salvation is give to all people. The lost are sought after by God and offers the chance for conversion. The Lord answers our human need with Himself. His Presence, the same as His Eucharistic Presence does today. His Presence is what we all long for.
The opportunity shared in was likely once in a lifetime … the Lord came to his home.

Faith in Christ’s Divine Merits

Eucharist Institution.jpgSome friends and I at the parish have been reading a series of Pope Benedict’s homilies on the Eucharist taken from his book, God is Near Us. I recommend paying attention to every page of this small collection of Benedict’s. Reading through some meditations of Blessed Columba Marmion, the famed Benedictine monk and spiritual master struck me. He wrote,

To believe that Jesus is God, is to acknowledge that He has every right over us, it is to surrender ourselves to Him without reserve, to allow Him to act in us as absolute Master.
When we live by this faith, we say to Our Lord: “I love Thee, I adore Thee, I give myself to Thee by my submission to Thine every will, by leaving all that Thou does desire of me; I wish to live in complete dependence on Thee.” Then Christ takes us by the hand and draws us close union with Himself.
Moreover, faith in the Divinity of Jesus produces great confidence in our souls. His merits are those of a God, therefore they are infinite, and they are ours, we may dispose of them. His redeeming blood can blot out all our sins and all our infidelities; we may hope for all the graces of which we have need, for He intercedes for us.
United to His intercession and clad with His merits, let us not fear to draw nigh to the Father and to speak to Him, in the Name of His Son, with unshaken and boundless trust.
Blessed Columba Marmion, OSB
Revue Liturgique et Monastique

Prayer: raising one’s heart and mind to God

Moses vs Amalekites.jpgIt would be a pity to forget last Sunday’s first
reading where we read of Moses’ role as mediator of God’s saving plan.

In the
book of Exodus we were reminded that Moses had concern for the salvation of his
unbelieving countrymen, and therefore he asked that God show His compassion
towards sinful Israel (see Exodus 32-34). The raising of Moses’ hands in
prayer, while dramatic, is not a biblical example of a magical Wizard of Oz. It is, however, a posture that invites all of us to pray using our God-given body and as a group as it is more effective in
expanding our own heart for God’s grace and power.

The teaching of the Church
as it is given to us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church cites Saint John
Damascene’s definition of prayer as “…the raising of one’s mind and heart to
God or the requesting of good things from God.” The Catechism speaks of
biblical types of prayer, such as ‘the prayer of Moses [that] responds to the
living God’s initiative for the salvation of His people. It foreshadows the
prayer of intercession of the unique mediator, Christ Jesus’ (2593).

St Dominic in prayer.jpg

Do we
raise our hands in prayer? What posture of prayer do we use? Do we use our body in praying? Are you too stiff and scared in your manner of praying? 

Recall that one of
the “Nine Ways of Prayer” given to us by Saint Dominic de Guzman is the raising
of hands in prayer. The 6th and 7th Ways of Prayer are directly connected with the living of the Beatitudes and the spirituality of the Cross. Outstretched hands in the form of a cross became a familiar way of praying for Saint Dominic (and his followers) that he believed was inspired by God not only at Mass but also when he was praying for someone’s healing or being being raised from the dead.

Catholics of the Latin Church are often too reserved, perhaps even too rigid, in their posture of prayer versus what is seen in Eastern Christianity where the extension of hands in prayer is one of many postures used in the sacred Liturgy and in private. This particularly seen in praying the Lord’s Prayer and other prayers of penitence and before the reception of Holy Communion.

So, can we follow the example of Moses and Saint Dominic in speaking and listening to God? 

Capuchins Open Center in Jerusalem

The Order of
Capuchin Friars Minor opened a center for spirituality and formation for
religious and laypeople who want to attend courses and retreats in that region.
The center, which is inspired by the motto, “I am the light of the
world,” was inaugurated 28 September 2010.

At the inauguration ceremony,
Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, noted that this light is
the witness that believers make to those around them. He added that this idea
“is a topic of our next synod,” which will take place in Rome,
beginning Sunday, and will focus on the Middle East.

“In Jerusalem, we can
count on hundreds of religious congregations, 14 of which are contemplative
communities,” the prelate said. “They are the strength and richness
of the Latin Catholic Church.” He continued: “Today we inaugurate a
new center for spirituality and welcome, thanks to the goodwill of our beloved
Capuchins, a center called to be light.” “True Christians influence
the world around them and reflect the light of the Lord,” the archbishop

The property where the center is located belonged to the Capuchin
order since the 1930’s, when Archbishop Luigi Barlassina invited the religious
to build a convent in the Jewish area of Jerusalem.

However, the friars had to
leave Jerusalem during World War II, putting the project on hold. The property
was taken over by the state for a psychiatric hospital. The Capuchin center
project was later revived in the 1990’s.

Present at the inauguration ceremony
were: Fr. Mauro Jöhri, Capuchin General Minister and the entire Definitory; His
Beatitude, Archbishop. Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; Archbishop
Antonio Franco, Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Apostolic Nuncio in Israel;
Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, Custos of the Holy Land; Bishop
Francesco Beschi, Bishop of Bergamo; the Capuchin Order’s Legal Representative,
the General Bursar, the Capuchin Provincial Minister of Venice, other
Franciscan Provincials.

The renovation was made possible by a number of
benefactors, with a considerable contribution from the Cariplo Foundation.

A photo
of the center’s dedication is here.

The Latin Patriarch of
Jerusalem posted a story on
the center

Zenit carried a story on this center.

story is reposted and edited from Capuchin Newsnotes, 13 October 2010)

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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