La Civiltà Cattolica, THE prestigious journal of opinion in Italy, and perhaps in very many ecclesial circles, has new leadership in Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro. La Civiltà Cattolica has been at the service of the Church 162 years.
Today has been a day of death it seems. I started the day with a funeral of a 8 year old who died the other day of cancer.
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.
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.
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:
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?
The staff of the Centro Aletti with faith in the life-giving power of the Lord’s Resurrection announced the death of Tomáš Cardinal Špidlík Friday, 16 April 2010 at 9 pm.