The Gospel Truth

Between Heaven and Mirth | November 8, 2011

I wish I could take credit for this very clever title but it actually comes from a book of the same name, written by Jesuit Father James Martin.

It does what I wanted to do in a previous post about devout Catholics and other religious people who don’t seem to emanate the joy of their religious convictions.

A humorous look at religious people

Father Martin’s book is adept at ferreting a rich lode of precious gems of humor that illustrate a correlation between sanctity and inner joy.

Even though saints are on the doorstep of eternity, they often reveal a clever wit that belies their perilous circumstances.

If anyone has ever been to the Sistine Chapel, and I have–twice, they could not have missed the artistic rendition of St. Lawrence  who was roasted alive on a barbecue spit-like contraption.

He asked his executioners to rotate him because, I’m done on this side.

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Humor to the very end

And there was St. Thomas More, my favorite saint and oddly the patron saint of lawyers and politicians, who proved that at least one from those classes that made it to heaven.

His reproach to his friend, Richard Rich who betrayed him for a political appointment Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for Wales…is a classic.

As he placed his head down on the block, he asked his executioner to be careful with his first strike because of his short neck.

Didn't want the executioner to miss

St. Thomas had the true Christian spirit of rejoicing in the love of God.

Before his death he advised his family to Be merry in God.

Without God — without the hope of another world beyond this one, for which this one is longing — there could be no true merriment. There could be only the shallow giggle of flippancy, or the hollow mockery of the cynic.

To be truly merry is to live lightly in this world, to be unburdened with cares about things that are quickly passing away.

Oh if we could all follow these words!

We might say that for those who take God and His will with appropriate seriousness, nothing else need be taken seriously.

To be in the world but not of the world is, among other things, to laugh at the world.

This is precisely Father Martin’s point.

He believes humor always seems to be a prerequisite for sanctity.

The saints always seem to take the long view of things and were quick to laugh at life’s absurdities and their own personal foibles because they had always put their trust in God’s love for them.

The other night we went to the 5:30 Mass for All Saints’ Day at a neighboring parish.

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The ultimate destination for all people

It is a special time in the Catholic Church when it honors the ultimate goal for each one of us…not just Catholics.

That’s the final destination for all human beings and it is not wise to get off the train until you were there.

A long time friend, who used to be the assistant at Annunziata, Monsignor Vernon Gardin is now the pastor of the Immacolata.

We went specifically to hear his clear and well-organized sermon but were treated, instead with one of the first public reflections of his Permanent Deacon.

Our disappointment quickly vanished as he started to talk about being a member of the Church Militant in hope of becoming a member of the Church Triumphant.

While life is indeed a battle, it is not without its mirth and good humor.

Every time we dine with Monsignor, laughter usually rings louder than a number of Biblical clarion calls.

My wife is especially fond of him because he appears to be a very happy man who is very good at being God’s servant.

He smiled when she said that and told us that yes, I am happy…but I do have my problems…like every one…

My wife stoically said, well that’s just life on planet earth.

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Even happy priests have problems on planet earth

Well his laugh bellowed out the door when he heard that.

He promised to quote her in a sermon some time.

We then started talking about how we were at a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1986 when Cardinal O’Connor introduced the congregation to a very special guest–Mother Teresa herself.

My wife had spied this little blue and white nun kneeling to the side of the altar as we came into the Cathedral and guessed that it was the famous missionary to India.

She talked for about 15 minutes and lamented how terrible it was that mothers were killing their unwanted babies through abortion.

This is a statement she has made to world leaders that support prenatal infanticide, like Bill and Hillary who squirmed under her indictment.

Monsignor said that we were in the presence of a living saint.

I agreed because she actually lit up the Cathedral with her aura.

But according to Father Martin’s book, she had a quick humorous wit as well as her devoutly serious side.

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Even a living saint can have a funny side

One of her sisters came to her and pleaded with her to tell her how she could become a saint.

Mother Teresa was quoted as having said, well it would be good time to die right now because the pope is making everyone a saint.

Mother Teresa was tweaking Pope John Paul II’s penchant for canonizing nearly 500 people during his papacy.

This was more than all his 263 predecessors had done in just under 2000 years.

Monsignor Gardin wondered if she had really said that.

I believe she did because mirth is the road to heaven.

My friend Bobby, whom I have known for 62 years, is a devout Catholic who is an expert on saints.

I’ll bet he would agree with Father Martin.

Since there is a saint for virtually every activity but massage therapists, I also want to ask him if St. Vitus is the patron saint of dancers.

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2 Comments »

  1. You neglected to mention that Msgr. Gardin was recently replaced as Vicar General and given the plum assignment at Immacolata which he richly deserves. Cardinal Cody came from there as well as the highly respected Msgr. Connie Flavin whose brother was a well known conservative bishop in the Nebraska area. However, I continue to be alarmed that the “best of the best” are no longer allowed to preach and deacons with no insight and training including those who are divorced are telling the faithful how to live. You can read this a number of ways. A Jesuit told me that the deacons are being phased in as priests. This should also send up a warning flare over the appointment of Nancy Warner as Chancellor (4th posting with the AB) and the pushing of female pastoral associates who are being trained at SLU and being prepped to become administrative pastors and maybe more. The bottom line is one of the praise of Msgr. Gardin and continued apprehension for the future.

    Comment by Mark Frances — November 9, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

  2. Just read your MR and will be ordering 20 copies to send to our local priests. Excellent. About your article BETWEEN HEAVEN AND MIRTH. I agree that no one is attracted to a sad sack. People love to laugh and its good for one’s body and soul.

    Comment by Mary B — November 10, 2011 @ 1:25 am


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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at bbprof@sbcglobal.net

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