"We Are Jesters."

Over the holidays I've been reading Fr. James Martin's book Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life. I've really enjoyed two other of Martin's books, My Life With the Saints and The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything.

Here is Father Martin on The Colbert Report talking about Between Heaven and Mirth and the humor of Jesus:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
James Martin
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Between Heaven and Mirth is an apology for joy, humor and laughter being a central part of the spiritual life. I heartily agree. Ever since college I'd been attracted to the merry band of holy fools that followed St. Francis, the merriest and most foolish of them all. Fr. Martin's book is a light and breezy read, but it is full of great quotes and antidotes, many from the lives of the saints. Here was one of my favorites:
There is a Talmudic story of a rabbi meeting with Elijah the prophet, who would answer questions for him about the "world to come." The rabbi was in the marketplace when he came upon Elijah. He asked the prophet whether there were any in the marketplace who merited a place in the world to come. Perhaps the rabbi was hoping that Elijah would assure him that his piety and wisdom would earn him that reward.

Instead, Elijah pointed to two men and said, "Yes, those two." The rabbi approached the two men and asked them who they were and what they did. They replied, "We are jesters. We make sad people laugh. And when we see two people arguing, we make peace between them."

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5 thoughts on “"We Are Jesters."”

  1. "A man may seye full sooth in game and pley." --Geoffrey Chaucer (The Canterbury Tales)
    "Jesters do oft prove prophets." William Shakespeare (King Lear)

    "Many a true word hath been spoken in jest." --William Shakespeare (Roxburghe Ballad) 

  2. If we can't laugh at ourselves, and even our beliefs at some point, then we all need to really lighten up. I can't imagine that God does not have a great sense of humor. After all, we are made in His image, aren't we?

  3. If laughter is not a "fruit of the spirit" I am in BIG trouble!  I have been privileged to serve as an elder with ministers and shepherds who value and embrace humor.  Have you noticed how closely laughter and sorrow exist? Seems to me humor is quite often the truest expression of faith amidst the mystery that is faith.

  4. Richard,

    As I have remarked previously, it is but a short trajectory between eschatological humor and scatological humor.  Legend has it that Luther (who probably created the legend) had his most profound spiritual insight while seated in the privy.  Grace and peace arrive and depart like the breaking of wind!


  5. I found this book in the New Fiction section at the library a few days ago.  Thank you for bringing it to my attention and recommending it.  I needed to reclaim my sense of humor, at this precise moment.  Ask and ye shall receive :-)

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