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Sometimes the image people have of the Church is one of austere nuns and frowning prelates, and people in the pews shushing children and giving people nasty looks if they laugh. In other words, the Church is often portrayed as being a gloomy and somber place.
Yet, as the saying goes, “A saint who is sad is a sad example of a saint.” This aphorism, attributed to St. Francis de Sales, is a good expression of the Church’s true relationship with joy and humor.
While the rule of St. Benedict condemns laughing when it is provoked by “buffoonery” and “vain words” (chapter 6, paragraph 77), laughter is healthy in itself. Indeed, many holy men and women have been characterized by humor and joy.
How we can be humorous and holy at the same time
St. Thomas More asked God to give him humor to “discover in life a bit of joy and to be able to share it with others.” Pope Francis is another good example; he is often photographed in the middle of laughing. Pope John XXIII was famous for his joviality and his sense of humor.
We could also mention many other inspiring figures, from St. Philip Neri to Servant of God Claire de Castelbajac to Pier Giorgio Frassati and his famous tongue-in-cheek “Society of Shady Characters.” These examples (among others) show that laughter is a sign of joy that is quite present in the Church.
Don’t deprive yourself of laughter! Chortle, chuckle, laugh, giggle, or guffaw, as the circumstances merit and your sense of humor prompts you. The Church wants to laugh with you!
Pope Francis is famous for his hearty, frequent laughs.
Pope John Paul II was known for his sense of humor and occasional goofiness. He loved to laugh!
Laughing is a wonderful way to bond a community together, like these happy Sisters of Life.
Cardinal Tagle shows the world the Church’s smiling face.
Pope Francis and Archbishop Georg Gänswein share a moment of humor together.