August 12, 2018

19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

BETWEEN HEAVEN AND MIRTH
BY JAMES MARTIN S.J.

FOR THE NEXT FEW WEEKS THIS COLUMN WILL FEATURE EXCERPTS FROM THE
BOOK BETWEEN HEAVEN AND MIRTH.

As a Catholic priest and Jesuit, I’ve come across a surprising number of spiritually aware people who are, in a word, grim.

Many of my favorite jokes are about Catholics, priests and Jesuits. The Jesuits, by the way, are a Catholic religious order (for men who take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and live in community) founded in 1540 by St. Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish soldier turned priest.

It’s easy for me to tell jokes about Catholics, priests and Jesuits, since I’m all three. And a self-deprecating joke may be the healthiest brand of humor. Let me share with you one of my favorites.

The Silent Monk
A man enters a strict monastery. On his first day the abbot says, “You’ll be able to speak only two words every five years. Do you understand?” The novice nods and goes away.

Five years later the abbot calls him into his office. “Brother,” he says, “you’ve done well these last five years. What would you like to say?” And the monk says, “Food cold!” “Oh, I’m sorry,” says the abbot. “We’ll fix that immediately.”

Five years later the monk returns to the abbot. “Welcome, Brother,” says the abbot. “What would you like to tell me after 10 years?” And the monk says, “Bed, hard!” And the abbot says, “Oh, I’m so sorry. We’ll fix that right away.”

Then after another five years the two meet. The abbot says, “Well, Brother, you’ve been here 15 years. What two words would you like to say?” “Im leaving,” he says.

And the abbot says, “Well I’m not surprised. You’ve done nothing but complain since you got here!”

You might wonder why I start with a joke, but in a way, jokes are the point of this essay, which is that joy, humor and laughter are underappreciated values in the spiritual life and are desperately needed not only in our own personal spiritual lives but in the life of organized religion. Joy, for example, is what we’ll experience when we are welcomed into heaven. We may even laugh for joy when we meet God. Joy, a characteristic of those close to God, is a sign of not only a confidence in God but also gratitude for God’s blessings. Humor, too, is an essential but neglected requirement of spirituallity. Most of the saints had a terrific sense of humor and could easily laugh at themselves. Finally, we must remember that laughter is essential even in the most “spiritual” or “religious” of places.

There are two ways to look at laughter from a spiritual vantage point: joyful, contented and playful or mocking, malicious, desperate and cynical.

Let’s start with the last in our trio of gifts, laughter. The most comprehensive recent treatment of the place of laughter in Western spirituality is Karl-Josef Kuschel’s short book Laughter:A Theological Essay. At the beginning of his enjoyable study, Kuschel, a professor of theology at the University of Tubingen in Germany, admits the “conceptual impossibility” of developing a theology of laughter, since there are so many varieties. Some are praiseworthy, others not. “There is joyful, comfortable, playful and contented laughter,” he writes, “and there is a mocking, malicious, desperate and cynical laughter.” Kuschel thus identifies the two main ways of looking at laughter from a spiritual vantage point. “Like their Master from Nazareth,” Kuschel writes, “Christians have to take into account both laughing and being laughed at.” Laughter can heal or hurt.

In short, one school of spirituality condemns laughter; the other praises it. The condemnatory strain finds voice in the writings of the 4th century theologian St. John Chrysostom, who suggested that true Christians should weep out of sorrow for their sins. Chrysostom explicitly stated that he does not wish to ban mirth, but rather aims to remind the world that tears more effectively bind us to God than does laughter. This predilection against laughter finds echoes in the thought of other early Christian theologians, who saw risibilitas (in Latin, the human ability to laugh) as dangerous in another way-it stood in opposition to reason.

My own theology of laughter, similiar to what Kuschel calls his “jokological” approach, is at odds with that of Jorge de Burgos. As long as it remains firmly in that first category of “joyful” and does not transgress into “mocking”, human laughter is a gift from God. Laughter has a long tradition among the saints and spiritual masters in many religious traditions as a necessary component of a healthy life. Most contemporary religious traditions, Christian and otherwise, disagree with Jorge’s overheated condemnation of laughter. The catechism of the Catholic Church-hardly a frivolous book-includes a line in a chapter on “popular piety” that might have surprised many of the early church fathers, not to mention Jorge. At the core of the faith of believers there is, says the catechism, a “storehouse of values” that offers wisdom for the Christian life. Such wisdom “provides reasons for joy and humor even in the midst of a very hard life.”

MISSIONARY COOPERATION PLAN COLLECTION
Sr. Eileen Tickner, F.M.A., a Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco will be at St. Philip next weekend, August 18/19. She will be speaking about the Missions in general; mostly about the Missionary call of each person in the Church.

Our Jubilee Prayer
Rejoicing in you, O Lord, with thankful hearts we pray as . . .
We Remember
gratefully our past companions on the Journey
whose sacrifice inspires us.
We Celebrate
the good news of love in action that empowers spiritual,
service and social ministry.
We Believe
in God’s providence as faithful stewards who continue
Christ’s work using the Keys to the Kingdom.
Amen

MINISTRIES AND ORGANIZATIONS

BEREAVEMENT SUPPORT & MINISTRY
A support group for people grieving the death of their spouse. Next meeting: Tuesday, August 14th and 28th at 7:00 PM in the RUSSO ROOM. Please contact Dr. Rachel Rengifo at 201-500-2068.

WIDOW/WIDOWERS
Monday, August 13th – 6:30 PM – We will be meeting in the Molloy Center.

KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS
1st and 3rd Wednesday – 8:00 PM: The VFW Hall – 491 Valley Road, Clifton

ANNUAL GOLF OUTING
Your parish Knights of Columbus are holding their annual Golf Outing on September 20, 2018. The cost remains the same – $150.00 for Golf at Knolls West Country Club which includes: luncheon, cocktail hour, dinner, lots of prizes, raffle, contests, golf cart and all fees. If you would like to be a player, sponsor or volunteer, please contact Brian Kulesa at (973) 418-2085 or beezerkul@aol.com.

COLUMBIETTES
The Central Chapter Columbiettes, the service group for Regina Mundi Columbiettes, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Columbiettes, St. John’s/St. Mary’s Columbiettes (Dumont) and St. Philip the Apostle in Clifton is celebrating their 60th Anniversary. The Luncheon will be held September 30, 2018 between 1 and 4 PM at Wallington Exchange, 365 Main Avenue, Wallington. Cost is $40.00 per person. For tickets call Marion at 973-790-3847 or Barbara Ann at 973-916-1957. Reservations close September 24th.

ROSARY SOCIETY
SAVE THE DATES!
Sunday, October 7th – 74th Annual Communion Brunch!
The first meeting of our Rosary Society will be September 10, 2018 beginning at 6:00 PM in Church with the Rosary followed by Mass. More information to follow!

To read complete bulletin click here