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You might get a laugh out of this

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

I was stunned to learn that The Leaven is read at the Vatican.

Apparently, my Easter column, “Let the Easter season get the last laugh,” prompted Pope Francis to contact the Dicastery for Culture and Education to set up an audience for comedians with him! (Now, if you believe that most of what I’ve written in this column so far is true . . . well, you make me laugh.)

All kidding aside, the pope really did host 105 comedians from 15 countries around the world at an audience in the Vatican Apostolic Palace on June 14. Among those in attendance were U.S. Catholics Stephen Colbert and Jim Gaffigan. Other familiar faces were Jimmy Fallon, Chris Rock, Conan O’Brien, Whoopi Goldberg and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. According to the dicastery, the purpose of the visit was to “establish a link between the Catholic Church and comic artists.”

The pope kicked things off by commenting that because smiling is good for one’s health, it might be better for him if he just made a funny face for the crowd, rather than read his lengthy speech. It looked like there was plenty of “good health” in that room as the comedians were positively beaming when shaking the pope’s hand.

In his comments, the pope told the comedians: “In the midst of so much gloomy news, immersed as we are in many social and even personal emergencies, you have the power to spread peace and smiles. You are among the few who have the ability to speak to all types of people, from different generations and cultural backgrounds. In your own way, you unite people, because laughter is contagious. . . . [It] spreads peace in our hearts and among others, helping us to overcome difficulties and cope with everyday stress.”

The pope also made a point to stress a humor “that does not offend, humiliate or put people down according to their flaws. . . . [It] is inclusive, purposeful, eliciting openness, sympathy, empathy.”

Pope Francis said that he’s prayed daily for over 40 years these words of St. Thomas More: “Grant me, O Lord, a good sense of humor.” He noted that this grace of humor “helps me approach things with the right spirit.” He also made sure that each member of the audience received a copy of the longer version of Thomas More’s prayer which was read near the conclusion of the gathering.

The pope’s farewell words were: “I wish you the best. May God accompany you in this very beautiful calling to make people laugh, to be comedians. It is easier to be a tragedian than a comedian, it is easier. Thank you for making people laugh and also thank you for laughing from the heart.”

One of the great “comedians” of the Vatican was Pope St. John XXIII.  A few of his gems were:

• When asked by a journalist how many people work in the Vatican, he replied, “About half of them.”

• Another time, someone asked Pope John about the Italian habit of closing offices in the afternoon. “Your Holiness,” the man said, “we understand that the Vatican is closed in the afternoon and people don’t work then.”

“Ah, no,” said the pope. “The offices are closed in the afternoon. People don’t work in the morning!”

• Pope John once said, “From all eternity, God knew I was going to be pope. He had eighty years to work on me. Why did he make me so ugly?”

This summer, find plenty of reasons to laugh — long and from the heart!

By the way, did you hear the one about the priest, the minister and the rabbi who walked into a bar?

Seeing them, the bartender said, “What is this? A joke?”

Bada bing, bada boom!

About the author

Fr. Mark Goldasich

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