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Issue Date:  August 25, 2006

From the Editor's Desk

Laughter in late summer

It’s late summer. The oppressive heat here in the Midwest has just broken. So this seems as good a time as any for a pause in the day’s provocations. Some weeks ago, I asked you to let me know what makes you laugh.

I got far more than I bargained for -- great reading -- and I’ll pass on here a few of the responses. If they are any indication, there is a fair variety in what makes us laugh and -- I admit, a surprise to me -- quite a few favorite priests mentioned as sources of humor.

Bruce M. Simons of West Chester, Pa., is active in several Catholic reform groups and well versed in all contemporary church intrigues and frustrations. “I get back to the core of my relationship with Jesus Christ by running a vegetable garden program at The Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Chester.”

He laughs when a “little girl says ‘yuck’ to my eating a sugar snap pea off the vine, then tries it and smiles” or “when a little boy eats cherry tomatoes off the vine and then, against my orders, defiantly looking me in the eye, eats a jalapeno pepper that looks like a tomato. That makes me laugh as he tries to spit that hot stuff out.”

“As soon as I read your question, one person’s face came to mind, Fr. Ed Killackey,” a Maryknoll priest currently living at the order’s headquarters in New York, wrote Anne R. Brusca of Columbia, Md. After many years in Africa, Killackey returned to the United States and often celebrates Mass at Bursca’s parish, St. John the Evangelist in Columbia. “His sense of humor is his strong point,” she wrote. “At the worst of times, he can make us laugh.”

For J.M. LeCluyse, people-watching is funny, and Fannie Flagg’s latest book Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven “has been the source of many laugh-out-loud sessions.”

Tim Janiszewski of Ellicott City, Md., forwarded a short paper on “God and Laughter” that he wrote for a theology class in the recent past. Not only was the subject matter unusual, his research was original (if convenient): He interviewed his two sons, Luke and Jake, at the time 7 and 4, respectively. Both agreed, in answer to a question, that God laughs, the younger reasoning that “when I laugh, God laughs” and the elder, “when you laugh, you’re happy, and God loves to see happy people.”

Jake gets my vote for most original answer when his dad asked him how he knew God laughs. “Because he didn’t put fur on that funny naked mole rat.” Works for me.

Ann Olivier of New Orleans says Steven Colbert makes her laugh. “I’m 76 years old and I think he’s hilarious. There is hope for the church.” The latter comment refers to her note that Colbert of the Colbert Report, a zany and enlightening though fake news show, is an active Catholic. I’m not 76 and I agree. And the fact that he can provide laughs for someone from New Orleans proves, for me, that he is not only a formidable comic talent but performing a national service as well.

Back to a favorite priest. Mary Sandherr writes that she and her husband attend Mass at LaRoche College in Pittsburgh where they are part of a “wonderful worshiping community” that “includes students and anyone and everyone who wants to forget about the liturgy wars.” Sounds like you’ve got a great place -- take note anyone on a late summer trip through Western Pennsylvania. “Fr. Pete Horton makes us laugh every Sunday. Everyone should have such a treasure in their midst.” Indeed, and thanks for letting us know about your community.

I’ve got to move on for this week, but we’ll return to the funny stuff down the road. If you feel inspired, write to me at

~ ~ ~

The Catholic social justice tradition, particularly the part condemning weapons production, easy resort to violence, and modern warfare, is often referred to as the church’s best kept secret. Few in the church work harder at bringing that tradition to the fore than Jesuit Fr. John Dear. A prolific writer and tireless activist, he has written more than 20 books and been arrested some 75 times in acts of civil disobedience, all the while traveling nonstop, it seems, to give lectures on peacemaking throughout the country. I am both grateful and proud to announce that you can now keep up with Dear’s activities and his insights into current events weekly at Dear joins a distinguished list of writers -- Sr. Joan Chittister, John L. Allen Jr. and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton -- available on the site. Dear’s weekly column is scheduled to appear on Tuesdays. Anyone interested can sign up to receive an e-mail each week as soon as the column, On the Road to Peace, is posted.

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, August 25, 2006

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