The Gospel Truth

My Gift

February 28, 2013
10 Comments

I have always quipped that I had only two identifiable talents, namely a very good memory and a very big mouth or what the Italians call—Boccalone!

The two have worked foot and shoe for most of my adult life.

I actually have developed an additional personal quality that I am increasingly proud of.

I am an inveterate storyteller.

A natural

Virtually every one of my posts, or at least the ones that are deeply personal revolve around a story of some sort.

I practice as often as I can…in small gatherings, dinners with friends or family…or wherever and whenever I meet new people.

My only rule, other than keeping them relatively clean, is not to repeat myself.

Most of the time it is a situation or something the other person has said that will prompt my telling a story or making an observation.

And unlike many storytellers, most of mine do have a point…something that may even transcend the nature of  the story itself.

I think I adopted this trait through my love of baseball.

That was what has always intrigued me about the game–the wonderful array of personal stories that gave flesh and blood to a sport that draws its lifeblood from statistics.

I call this the S. A. B. R. Syndrome, named after the Society of American Baseball Research which has changed the nature and face os baseball statistical analysis.

(SABR's first meeting: August 10, 1971)

Founding meeting two years before I joined in 1973

That’s one reason I quit the organization after over 20 years as a member.

Baseball lost something very personable when the players stopped traveling by rail and they had a closer relationship with their business advisor than their teammates.

I started telling stories, mostly about my baseball memories.

Then I branched out in all fields of endeavor and interest.

Most of my stories are usually about me.

I have received some criticism for that.

The word narcissist or even ego-maniac has sometimes come up.

But they are MY stories!!!

There was this fellow at the radio station where I filled in for Phyllis Schlafly for many years that called me on it and said I was the most egotistical man he had ever worked with.

And he liked me…so I thought!

My audiologist, the woman that helps with my hearing problem at Central Institute for the Deaf strongly disagreed with the announcer when I told this story to her.

She told me that I was a natural-born storyteller.

In all modesty, there was no way I could dispute her honest opinion.

God bless her for it!

Sure most of my stories are about me!

That’s because  they are my stories and I am in just about all of them.

How can I separate my life experiences from myself?

While I sometimes tell stories about things, events and so on that I have read about in books, newspapers or have seen on television or even the movies but my best stories are about things I have witnessed, had inflicted on myself or had experienced in a very personal way.

They are real stories about real things.

I seldom embellish them and most of them wind up blowing the spit back in my own face.

They may be about me but more times than not the result is not favorable to my self-image.

 

Often times as they say the joke is on me.

I seldom get to be the hero.

 

I encourage that if it will get a laugh.

Making someone smile, laugh or snicker at something I have said is the highest form of personal validation I have achieved in my social relationships.

And I believe I am getting very good at it.

If I am at a public dinner and my table is not laughing harder than adjoining tables, I get upset.

I feel I am not being true to my special thing.

There is a lot of the court jester in me and I feel that in many ways, it is my special gift.

Missed my calling

This is something I have been able to do for a long time.

The first time I realized I could do this was at my grandfather’s wake in 1962.

No disrespect intended but it was in one of the waiting rooms that I was first felt my gift.

My uncle–my mother’s younger brother, my dad and a few others were present and I just started cracking jokes or telling my limited range of stories.

Their laughter only encouraged me.

Ever since then when I am with any group of two or more people I feel compelled to raise the humor level a few notches.

But I have never thought that I had what it takes to do it professionally.

I have probably already written of my one experience of stand-up comedy on a cruise in the early 1980s.

They had a talent night and I signed up to do four minutes of my brand of humor.

Well during the performance which was based mostly of what I knew–my family, who strategically did not attend my first and last performance as a stand-up comedian.

The painful truth is my four minutes generated three and a half minutes of dead silence.

Deafening!

The silence was deafening.

The crowd of about 350 were mostly polite but somewhere between comatose and death.

It was very lonely on that stage.

The only member of my family that got a laugh and he is arguably the funniest member of the family…next to me… was my son Matthew who was eight at that time.

I said he had all the instincts of a terrorist.

I got a big laugh but today I am not so sure anyone would be brave enough to laugh.

My story about my wife…not only did not evoke any laughter but actually made some people angry.

My wife had been forced to assist a magician during his stage act the prior night.

Well the magician prepared to chop off her head with something like a guillotine.

One laugh, anger and silence

I quipped that before he had finished four young women came up to me and asked what I was doing after the show.

Now I thought that was funny!

An elderly woman rushed up to me when the show was over and berated me for saying such things about my wife.

We all went on another cruise three years later and they also had a talent night.

So I go to sign up again in hope of atoning for my last performance, only to find out that California Raisins and comedians were banned.

I had been banned at sea.

I guess I could never go back to Boston.

Yes, stand-up comedy is very hard.

But it is not my thing because as a child my parents always told me to  sit down and shut-up.

I really prefer smaller clubs…like elevators.

Year later a friend and I commandeered an elevator in a Cleveland hotel  at the SABR convention and proceeded to do schtick before we reached the Lobby level.

That’s what comedians always love–a captive audience.

No matter how much they screamed we would not let them out of the elevator.

So I have had to let go of my comedic aspirations for pure storytelling.

And that’s probably a good thing because I just learned who the patron saint of comedians is.

None other than St. Lawrence who was roasted alive.

no laughing matter

Tradition holds that Lawrence was burned or grilled to death, hence his association with the gridiron.

Tradition also holds that Lawrence joked about their cooking him enough to eat while he was burning on the gridiron, hence his patronage of cooks and chefs, stating something along the lines of, turn me over … I’m done on this side.

I think storytelling is safer.

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Between Heaven and Mirth

November 8, 2011
2 Comments

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.


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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