2012 Catholic humor summit

BY TERRY MATTINGLY Modified: September 24, 2012 at 1:04 pm •  Published: September 24, 2012
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-- A student, via social media, asked: "I am considering the priesthood. Would it be prudent to avoid dating?" The cardinal said dating was a good idea, adding, "By the way, let me give you the phone numbers of my nieces." Colbert responded: "It's actually a great pickup line: 'I'm seriously considering the priesthood. You can change my mind.'"

-- Concerning his own struggles as a believer, Colbert said: "Are there flaws in the church? Absolutely. But is there great beauty in the church? Absolutely." And also, "The real reason I remain a Catholic is what the church gives me -- which is love."

-- Dolan to Colbert: "Do you feel pressure to be funny all the time?" Colbert back to Dolan: "Do you feel pressure to be holy all the time?"

The bottom line, noted Martin, is that humor has always been part of religious life, including the lives of the saints. Take, for example, that famous prayer from the young St. Augustine: "Lord, give me chastity ... but not yet."

In remarks later posted online, the Jesuit noted: "Humor serves serious purposes in the spiritual life. Joyful humor can evangelize, and draw people to God. Self-deprecating humor reminds us of our own humility. Provocative humor can also gently speak truth to power."

In his own theological reflections, the cardinal argued that the roots of Christian humor can be found in the darkest hours of Good Friday, when it appeared Jesus had been "bullied to death by undiluted evil; Love, jackbooted by hate; Mercy incarnate, smothered by revenge; Life itself, crushed by death."

But he who laughs last, stressed Dolan, laughs best.

"Lord knows there are plenty of Good Fridays in our lives. But they will not prevail. Easter will," he wrote, in his script. "As we Irish claim, 'Life is all about loving, living and laughing, not about hating, dying and moaning.' ... That's why we say, 'Joy is the infallible sign of God's presence.'"

(Terry Mattingly is the director of the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and leads the GetReligion.org project to study religion and the news.)

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