This is the real life origin story of how The Simple Catholic began:
My name is Matthew and I have run The Simple Catholic blog since 2015. It was a fruit born out the suffering from losing my unborn son Jeremiah (miscarriage). Writing was a healing balm for my heart, mind, and soul.
I earned my Master’s degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and had teaching experiences. Personal and family circumstances caused me to leave teaching but the desire to help others learn about Jesus and His Church remained. The blog blossomed into a mission: to inform others about the Catholic faith and show how joy can be found in daily life (even in the suffering).
Finding Strength in My Differences
I was diagnosed with ADHD as a kid and it is one of my “super-powers” as it allows me to make connections between seemingly unconnected things.
I have had to learn over the years my neurodivergent mind wasn’t a weakness but it can be a strength. Through the help of my wife (a special education teachers) and my four kids along with the Holy Spirit I have been able to learn how to harness my differences and quirkiness with my passion for Catholicism.
In this picture, I celebrated my paper football victory over my oldest son: 60-24. 😀😂
The Healing Power of Humor
Humor is a big part of my life. It acts as a stabilizing force during the times my depression and anxiety flare up.
My favorite show is The Office (a great way to get me attention in the sea of emails I receive is to make a reference to this show). Threat Level Midnight or A.A.R.M are my favorite episodes.
I also enjoy reading (no less than 8 books simultaneously). I’m a literary omnivore but I do tend to enjoy theology, sci-fi, and comic books more than others.
I am also an avid football fan and love tossing the frisbee around.
Because of my ADHD I tend to enjoy lots of other things too:
Watching bees carry pollen
Looking at the moon
Drinking Dr. Pepper, Coffee, and Bai Teas (not together)
Listening to Bon Jovi
Reading anything Marvel
Playing board games
Reading about board games
Watching video about board games
Talking about board games
Making Seinfeld and The Office references on an almost daily basis
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“He who dwells in Heaven is laughing at their threats; the Lord makes light of them.” (Ps. 2:4)
We laugh because we have the hope of the Lord. Laughter is an integral part of a healthy spiritual life for just this reason. We have been delivered, so while salvation and our souls are very serious matters, we need not worry. Worry can lead to all sorts of vices like scrupulosity and even anger. But we were not delivered from death just so that we could worry ourselves out of friendship with God. He is a loving and merciful God! As such, the more we laugh, in good cheer and faith, the closer we can come to Him.
G.K. Chesterton on Humor
G.K. Chesterton once wrote in Orthodoxy that “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” What he meant by that was that angels are so secure in the love and friendship of God that they are burdened by nothing. And what happens when you are unburdened? You can fly! “Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Chesterton elaborated on his above statement very thoroughly. He said,
“The tattered cloak of the beggar will bear him up like the rayed plumes of the angels. But the kings in their heavy gold and the proud in their robes of purple will all of their nature sink downwards, for pride cannot rise to levity or levitation. Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One ‘settles down’ into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness. A man ‘falls’ into a brown study; he reaches up at a blue sky.
Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good Times leading article than a good joke in Punch. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.”
Faith and Fun
Don’t let this serious picture of Saint Philip Neri fool you he loved playing practical jokes. He once shaved half his beard to be funny!
Laughter is a leap of faith. It takes faith and hope to know that you are good and truly saved. Laughter says, I do not fear death or destruction. I laugh because God has saved me. Life is not meant to be all seriousness. Life is meant to be full of joy and what is a better sign of joy than laughter!
Saint Philip Neri is called the patron saint of humor because he often told jokes and played practical jokes. He would walk into meetings with half of his beard shaved off and other such shenanigans. Once, a follower asked Neri if he could wear a hairshirt as penance and Neri replied, “Only inside out and over your cassock.” Faith can be taken seriously while laughing.
Laughter reminds us of all that is good in the world. St. Neri said, “A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one,” and “Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life; wherefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits.” We have been given so much and we should be happy for it! A joyful heart can be made more perfect because it knows the goodness of God and that there is so much more to explore and learn. Even some self-deprecating humor, like St. Neri showed, can lead us to holiness! It is certainly one way to ground ourselves in humility, recognizing that we are not everything but that we are good, all the same.
Fulton Sheen on Humor and Faith
Venerable Fulton Sheen has even weighed in on the topic, saying, “A divine sense of humor belongs to poets and saints because they have been richly endowed with a sense of the invisible, and can look out upon the same phenomena that other mortals take seriously and see in them something of the divine.”
This is something that I, personally, try to live in every moment of my life. It’s not about where to look but how to look. It is easy to see God everywhere and in everything, if you know how to look. The goodness of God is as in the delicate flower as it is in thick eyebrows and we should rejoice in both the same. You merely have to look around to see the goodness of God everywhere, even when people fail.
Comedy is Good
So it is good to laugh! It is good to be entertained by the world around us and by comedians and poets and the class clown. It is good to laugh at yourself when you trip or make a silly mistake. It is good for comedians to tell jokes and for writers to write bits that will make an audience laugh. This is the work of God just as much as teaching the Faith or working directly for the Church are. Sometimes that’s hard to remember.
It is easy to think humor is a lesser good, not as important, and to belittle the efforts of those who are called to this because joy is hard to accept. But we must remember what Chesterton said, “It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.” Don’t choose the easy path! Be light! Be so light that your soul simply floats up to the highest heavens to be with God. “God save us from gloomy saints!” St. Teresa of Avila said and isn’t it true.
Find Laughter Opportunities in Your Life
Mother Angelica, who had a quick wit, too, once said, “I try to laugh a lot, because life is funny, and everybody today is too serious. The only tragedy in the world, my friend, is sin.” The only tragedy in life is sin. Look around a little bit and see what is there to rejoice in and laugh at. I promise you, there’s so much. Laugh at the butterfly in flight or the bunny hopping to its burrow. Laugh at the baby delighting in a spoon for the first time or dancing to music. Laugh at yourself when you look in the mirror, knowing that you are so good and made in so much love and dignity. Shave half of your head! Whatever it is, laugh and laugh a lot.
Theresa is an author and entertainer who has contributed to two books, hosts a comedy podcast Up Too Late, and is working on two books of her own. She blogs at www.TheresaZoeWilliams.com and you can find her on Twitter @TheresaZoe.
Editor’s Note: Matthew Chicoine interviewed John Kraemer via phone call on December 3, 2020. Some of the questions have been rearranged and edited to provide the best reader experience without losing any of the integrity of the answers given.
How the Lego Project got started?
My first project begin in 2003 and featured at Christ the Good Shepherd Church. It wasn’t until I started displaying my churches during the Christmas season (in year 4) that the Project took off.-
How do you pick the specific Catholic Church to build each year?
It has been a church of my own design. I wanted to combine the elements of modern church while keeping to tradition. I try to show the happy medium between the modern and traditional.
I try to keep things as accurate as I can. I will blend some real world elements. For examples, I have included items from Rugged Rosary (Crucifixes and Statue of Mary).
What is your favorite Lego display?
The Christmas display is one of my favorite and most important displays.
I build the displays in mid-February. It takes around a couple months for about 2-5 hours a day. I usually take a break after Easter. I usually tear down the Church at the end of the year. I sometimes save the tabernacle and ambo for later use.
How do you find inspiration with creating the Lego Churches?
Until I sit down with the bricks, I’m not quite sure where the story takes me.
I’m always looking, studying, getting ideas for what’s around me. How are things set up? Placement is everything for me. I review my previous projects all the time.
Did you play with Legos a lot as a kid?
Yes, while my friends were building spaceships I found myself constructing buildings. Eventually it developed into me making churches.
How does your work inspire others?
One priest was building a Vatican City and he was looking at my work to get an idea.
The Project is a prayer because it is also a reflection of where we’ve been and where we should be. My thoughts for this Christmas is an end to the pandemic.
Tell me a bit about your devotion to Blessed Solanus Casey.
The qualities that attracted him to me was his learning difficulties. His faithfulness and obedience. I learned about him as he was from Detroit and my parents grew up in Detroit. Grandma grew up across the street from the monastery. One of her wishes before he died was to see Blessed Solanus canonized.
Why is the Mass is important to you?
When we participate in the Mass we are part of something else. No matter what storms or challenges we face when we make the Mass our priority he say Jesus is our savior.
John Kraemer is a Catholic out of Saginaw, Michigan and has been building his annual “Lego Church Project” for over twenty years. With a focus on disability awareness.
It was a joy interviewing John and his work about the Lego Church Project. To learn more about his ministry follow his Facebook page at The Lego Church Project