By: Theresa Zoe Williams
“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.