Book Club Focuses on Joy, Humor in the Spiritual Life

Thirteen people gathered on Saturday morning, March 20 at the San Pedro Spiritual Development Center in Winter Park to discuss humor, spirituality and how people can all lighten up a bit.

Third Order Franciscan Father Blase Romano, a member of the pastoral staff at the San Pedro Center, led the discussion, which was based on the book, “Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life” by Jesuit Father James Martin. He said it struck a chord with him because he often uses humor in his sermons.

“I don’t think many folks would put humor, joy and faith in the same sentence, but there is a connection,” Father Romano said. “Because I use humor in what I do, I thought this would be a good book to get the juices flowing.”

Tita Cruzada, who attends St. Stephen Parish in Winter Springs, said she decided to attend because she enjoys Father Romano’s humor.

“We religious [people] are always so serious,” she said. “This is a nice thing to go to and take a break from being serious.”

Father Romano said the saints used humor in their lives as well. For example, one of the early Church deacons, St. Lawrence, was burned to death on a grill over hot coals. It is believed he called out to his executioners, “This side is done. Turn me over and have a bite.” Even in the face of martyrdom, St. Lawrence could find a bit of humor in his situation.

In the book, Father Martin states that nothing surprised him more than the frequent stories of the saints’ lightheartedness, playfulness or sheer sense of joy. St. Francis de Sales is quoted saying, “a sad saint is a sad sort of saint.”

St. Teresa of Avila, the sixteenth-century Carmelite nun and reformer, spoke out against deadly serious Catholicism and recommended humor.

“A sad nun is a bad nun,” she said. “I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits… What would happen if we hid what little sense of humor we had? Let each of us humbly use this to cheer others.”

Father Martin stated that in some religious circles, joy, humor and laughter are viewed as excessive, irrelevant, ridiculous, inappropriate and even scandalous.

“But a lighthearted spirit is none of those things,” he said. “Rather, it is an essential element of a healthy spiritual life and a healthy life in general.”

According to Galatians 5:22-23, the fruits of the Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Reinhold Niebuhr, a professor at Union Theological Seminary for more than 30 years stated, “Humor is a prelude to faith, and laughter is the beginning of prayer.”

Father Romano said we need to try to find the humor in everything including the time when his Black Labrador was accidentally let out and interrupted Mass.

“Faith is a serious thing, but people need to not take themselves so seriously,” he said. “I just want to give them a sense to laugh at themselves.”

Father Romano encourages anyone who interested in learning more about their faith and finding humor in it to come out to the next book club meeting on May 6 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., which will continue the discussion.

For more information, contact the San Pedro Center at 407-671-6322 or visit www.sanpedrocenter.org.