Philip Neri, Thomas More, and Francis of Assisi were famous for their cheerfulness.
Although the Gospels frequently refer to rejoicing in Christ, too often the image of Christians is anything but joyful. Instead, religious people are often perceived as grim and severe. Watch this video to learn about three saints whose famous good humor and happiness offer a cheering example of how joyful the Christian life can (and should!) be.
St. Philip Neri was called “the saint of joy.” His special talent for human relationships and for bringing out the best in people enabled him to evangelize very effectively. He drew crowds of friends with his warm personality and great sense of humor, and then he encouraged his listeners, “Well, brothers, when shall we begin to do good?” In his lifetime, countless people loved and respected him, and he always pointed them to Christ.
St. Thomas More was known as “the apostle of good humor.” His life was certainly not an easy one; he lost many people dear to him—including three siblings, his parents, and his beloved wife—and finally lost his position of respect and authority as King Henry VII’s trusted advisor to instead be executed for failing to support the king’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. Yet throughout these trials and many more, he was known for his unfailing good humor, even telling jokes to his executioner as he approached the scaffold.
“I am reproached for mingling jokes, witty remarks and teasing words with more serious subjects,” he once wrote, as reported in this article. “I believe that the truth can be told laughing. It is certainly more fitting for a layman, as I am, to pass on his thoughts in a cheerful and lively manner rather than in a serious and solemn way like preachers.”
St. Francis of Assisi famously instructed his followers to have joy even in terrible trials, because suffering with Jesus would bring them to participate in his glorious resurrection. He was known for his frequent reminder, “Always be joyful!” and even described his religious order as a “society of joy” because he believed joy to be so integral to the Franciscan charism.
The lives of these three saints reveal the profound joy and inner peace that come with faith in Christ. The old proverb “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” certainly applies to evangelization, and indeed these cheerful saints brought about many conversions. Their famous good humor reminds us that “holy people are happy people,” and hopefully each person following Christ can find this same happiness for themselves.