by Father Mark Goldasich
Honestly, I’m afraid to laugh in front of my family anymore. As soon as I do, they smile and say to one another, “See? Doesn’t he sound just like him?”
The “him” being referred to is Muttley, a Hanna-Barbera cartoon dog, the sidekick of Dick Dastardly. If you’re curious as to what I — I mean — Muttley, sounds like, just Google “Muttley laugh.”
There are worse things to be known for than a distinctive laugh. In fact, in this season that we’re now entering, it’s entirely appropriate. The church calls us to celebrate the new life of the Resurrection throughout the Easter season — all 50 days — from April 16 until June 4.
Unfortunately, we Catholics seem much better at penitential practices than celebratory ones.
Most folks are very familiar with the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving and walk through that season with a detailed plan in mind.
But what happens once Easter hits? Usually, we all go back to our “normal” routine. Oh, we’ll probably celebrate after Easter Sunday Mass by indulging in what we gave up for Lent and enjoy a special meal with family. By sundown, though, we’re pretty much done with the season.
Actually, that’s a shame. Why are we so reluctant to rejoice? Does doing penance seem a holy practice, but celebration appear frivolous? When we picture Jesus, do we ever imagine him smiling and laughing or is he always serious?
The Easter season is a time of transformation. We should turn our fasting into feasting, our being “pray-ers” into being “play-ers,” and our almsgiving into thanksgiving. Just as we spent time planning what we would do to make Lent a holy time, so should we map out how to make the Easter season a time of sustained joyfulness and new life.
Particularly as adults, we’ve lost the ability to have fun. We’re overly serious. Seeing the very real problems in the world, we might feel that not taking them seriously makes us uncaring. In truth, having fun gives us not only a necessary respite, but brings perspective as well.
One of my favorite companions over the years is a book by Bob Basso, published in 1994, by The Globe Pequot Press. Called “555 Ways to Put More Fun in Your Life,” my copy has Post-It notes sticking out from multiple pages as reminders of things I should try.
While some of its suggestions are definitely not family-friendly, there’s plenty of ideas for keeping Easter fresh all 50 days.
Here are some quick suggestions:
#276: Track down a childhood friend. Have lunch together.
#25: Pat yourself on the back when someone else should, but doesn’t.
#458: Bring a flower to your favorite supermarket clerk.
#405: Eat dessert first.
#293: Never pass a toy store without stopping in.
#205: Ask for a round of applause.
#147: Look for paradise on earth. Send away for brochures, watch travelogues, ask world travelers. Find a way to get there.
#210: Listen to a classical recording. Conduct the orchestra. Get into it. Go bananas.
#254: Leave a thank-you balloon for the garbage collectors.
Traditionally, the Monday after Easter is a time for telling jokes, in honor of the greatest joke in the world. On Good Friday with the death of Jesus, the devil thought that he’d won. But God had the last laugh on Easter Sunday when he raised Jesus from the dead. There’s no way for Christians to contain their joy!
To get your joke-telling started, try this one on for size, found in “The Second Book of Catholic Jokes,” by Deacon Tom Sheridan:
There were once two evil brothers. They were rich and used their money to hide their dastardly ways from the public. They even attended the same parish and looked to be perfect Catholics. Their pastor, however, was not fooled.
One of the brothers died. The other brother called on the pastor the day before the funeral and handed him a huge check, enough to pay off the new addition to the church that was being built.
“I have only one condition,” said the man. “At his funeral, you must say that my brother was a saint.”
The pastor thought for a moment, then agreed.
At the funeral, the pastor was unrestrained: “This was an evil man. He cheated on his wife and abused his family.” At the end of citing a long litany of the man’s faults, the priest concluded, “But, compared to his brother, he was a saint.”
Cue that Muttley laugh!