The Gospel Truth

Heaven’s Nursery

February 10, 2011
5 Comments

Anyone know any good jokes?  Any good Catholic jokes?

There is something distinctively Catholic about comedy, good humor and story telling.

The 14th century Italian poet, Dante Alighieri referred to the nine circles of Hell in his classic The Divine Comedy.

To the ordinary reader this makes the term comedy seem like a misnomer.

Since the Renaissance comedy has revolved around the banalities of everyday life while tragedy was dealt with heroes in pursuit of honor, love, or patriotism.

Tragic figures maintain their honor but usually die in the process while comic figures lose their dignity but live to tell the tale.

Had the right idea

At the heart of all comedy is humor.  Humor is a citizen of two worlds.

While it is anchored in this world, humor ultimately looks to the heavens above in anticipation of the next world.

In laughing one must hold his sides while looking upward at the Divine Toastmaster.

Humor can be uplifting, derisive, and bawdy.  It can be self-effacing, intellectual, whimsical, and puerile.

It ranges from the clownish pratfalls of a Chevy Chase to the delicate nuances of a Shakespearean witticism.

Wit was at the center of his humor

Chase’s pratfalls on Saturday Night Live probably cost Gerald Ford his re-election. in 1976.  In one he nearly killed himself trying to mimic the president in the voting booth.

Chase actually fell off the NBC stage and broke a couple of ribs.

Years later he had to detox at–get this–the Betty Ford Center in California.

What great irony is that!

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Probably cost him the election

While laughter is the outward appreciation of life, it involves an inner assent to God’s creation.

To a secular America devoutly religious people seem to lack a sense of humor.

With their visible puritanical resignation to life’s trials, religious people can easily lose sight of the legitimate earthly joys and pleasures that God has designed for them.

With one’s eyes permanently downcast, it is too easy to fall prey to the Manichean trap that condemns all earthly fun in the name of piety and salvation.

A sense of humor is a necessity for one to be a good Catholic.

A  church that cannot laugh at itself will not be able to serve its flock properly.

The Catholic sense of humor relies on the thinking and attitudes that make us distinctively Catholic.

A good example might be a joke I chose to tell for speech class when I was in high school.

A little boy, the sixth of nine children was feeling restless at his baby sister’s baptismal.

When he wouldn’t behave, his father sternly warned him: Timmy if you don’t stop it, we wont bring you next year!

Humor is God’s gift to a humanity that takes its pride in large doses.

Laughter is the ontological opposite of pride, which is taking oneself so seriously that it obscures the image of God in the human soul.

One need only be reminded of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.

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God let them keep their sense of humor

The first parents thought that they were God’s equals, only to find out later that the joke has been on them and their descendants ever since.

In The Passion of the Christ, amid the bloody carnage of Jesus’ graphic suffering and violent death, director Mel Gibson flashed back to Jesus as a young carpenter, frolicking with and teasing his mother Mary who revealed her own dry sense of humor.

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A rare look at Jesus laughing

Gibson’s film was unlike any other depictions of Jesus’ life and death.

Too often filmmakers and the religiously devout are so awe-stricken by Jesus’ Divinity that they forget His humanity.

Life without laughter, even Jesus’ is like a day without sunshine.

Just as human love can reflect Divine love, humor can transcend man’s mortal boundaries and provide a glimpse of God’s Divinity.

Laughter is just the tease, the psychological rush that will prepare God’s faithful servants for an eternal basking in the warmth of His Divine smile.

On his highly popular 1950’s TV show, Life Is Worth Living Series, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen reminded his viewers that humor is really about child’s play.

Jesus told his followers whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 18:1-4)

He also stressed that unless you become like children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 19:13-15)  I believe that the face of a laughing or smiling child is a reflection of the face of God.

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A reflection of the face of God

With a childlike gleam of anticipation in his radiant eyes, Bishop Sheen once ended his program with his fervent prayer that enlisted his audience to look for me in the nursery of Heaven!

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Look for him in the nursery

Editor’s Note:  Please feel free to send your favorite Catholic or religious jokes to my comments page on this post and get your friends to do likewise.  Get those endorphins flowing.


A Sign of Contradiction

December 1, 2010
4 Comments

On a trip to Florida last April, I went to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg.

I was hoping to see his painting of the crucifixion that served as the cover of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen’s The Life of Christ.

The 1951 painting is entitled Christ of St. John of the Cross because it is based on a drawing of the crucifixion by a 16th century Friar of the same name.

Dali’s painting provides a unique overhead view of Jesus as He hangs on the cross.

A bird's-eye view

In a culture that offers us empty crosses as trendy ornaments instead of religious symbols, it is uplifting to see such a profound and reverential depiction of the crucifixion.

I think Dali’s God’s-eye view helps us to see more clearly the importance of the cross.

While St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians, (15:17) if Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain, Bishop Sheen reminds us there could be no Easter without first a Good Friday.

As one of the many paradoxes inherent in the Gospel teachings, the cross is a sign of contradiction.

While it is an overt device of punishment and torture, it is also the instrument Jesus used to liberate the world from the chains of sin.

Jesus’ death also had to be a public execution before the salvific powers of His Resurrection could be unleashed.  For Jesus to have died of natural or accidental causes would have had less meaning.

He had to suffer the sting of rejection of both the secular and religious authorities of His community for the true glory of His sacrifice to have been realized.

However its most important message of the cross is love–sacrificial love!   Jesus said the world would know His disciples by the way you love each other. (John 13:35)

He defined this ultimate love in terms of His sacrifice on the cross.   John (15:13) says no one has greater love than to lay down his life for another.

Jesus’ crucifixion personified this statement and served as a means to inspire His disciples to follow in His sanguinary footsteps.  Catholic priests recreate His sacrifice every day in Masses on altars around the world.

The cross has another message for us today.  Matthew tells us (16:24) whoever wishes to follow me must deny himself and pick up his cross.

Personal crosses come in all different sizes and weights.

Cancer victims, people in wheel chairs, married people with unfaithful spouses, troubled or dying children have very heavy crosses to carry.

For most of us the cross is usually the daily tasks of work and raising a family that must be met with the same humble resignation as the more serious crosses.

Everyone has a cross to carry

There is an even deeper message attached to the cross.   One of the little regarded figures of the accounts of the crucifixion was Simon of Cyrene.

The film, The Passion of the Christ vividly portrays this giant of a man as he struggled with Christ under the tremendous weight of the cross.

Though he had been coerced into helping Jesus carry His cross, Christ’s struggle filled him with such compassion and love that he seized the moment and helped Him complete His historic journey to Calvary.

At this moment Simon became a symbol for all of us, not just to carry our own crosses, but also help others carry theirs.

This cannot be planned.

It must flow naturally from our reverence for the cross and Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbor.

Author’s note: This is an article I submitted to the St. Louis Review last May. For whatever reason–I was never informed–it did not past muster with the new editor.

So I am passing it along to all of you with the hope that you will enjoy it and pass it on to those, especially Catholics , who read the Review and give them the benefit of a real thought piece.

Also while on the subject of the cross, Christopher Manion of then Wanderer had an interesting aside on the cross that would make a fitting conclusion for the above piece.

In writing about the marriage of convenience between Catholic bishops and Democrats in the late 19th century, he is calling for a divorce.  He believes that they have been in bed together long enough.

He believes that in these troubled times,they have an unprecedented opportunity to restore their independence and the supremacy of the Gospel to any partisan political ideology.

They merely need to say:

ENOUGH!

We call all parties, all Catholics, all human beings  to rally,not to a political agenda but to the cross!


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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