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Posted December 20, 2010

Romano Guardini and others on the virtue of humor

“One other thing is required by kindness, something of which we rarely speak — a sense of humor. It helps us to endure things more easily. Indeed we could hardly get along without it. The person who sees man only seriously, only morally or pedagogically, cannot endure him for any great length of time. We must have an eye for the oddity of existence. Everything human has something comic about it. The more pompously a man acts, the greater is the comic element. A sense of humor means that we take man seriously and strive to help him, but suddenly see how odd he is, and laugh, even though it be only inwardly. A friendly laugh at the oddity of all human affairs — that is humor. It helps to be kind, for after a good laugh it is easier to be serious again.”

Taken from the book The Virtues by Romano Guardini

“After all, Scripture offers many “faces” of Jesus: compassionate, prayerful, challenging, loving, and more. But where is Jesus the jokester? In other words, can the Bible be funny? You bet!

“That’s the judgment of Passionate Father Donald Senior, Scripture scholar and president of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.”

“Senior says Scripture is filled with an “appreciation of incongruity and appreciation of human foibles.”

“Since the Bible doesn’t have funny pages like a newspaper, where’s the comedy?”

“All over, Senior says, recounting the tale of Abraham in Genesis 18. “Here we have Abraham bartering with the God of the universe and whittling him down,” says Senior. ‘I can imagine that that wasn’t a funny story for the people of Israel.’”

“Abraham finds it humorous when God tells him — an old, old man — that his equally old wife will bear him a son and that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars. Abraham ‘throws himself down and laughs,’ says Senior. His wife Sarah laughs too when she overhears the angelic strangers say she’ll bear a child.”

“But it’s the New Testament where hyperbole, irony, and wit really shine. ‘The parables are just loaded with humor,’ says Senior.”

“The parables are filled with exaggeration, with things ‘not meant to be taken literally or seriously, but to make a point,’ Senior adds.”

Taken from the Catholic Digest

“Humor used at the proper time can help break the ‘panic cycle’ that so often accelerates the patient’s illness or state of mind. Laughter can broaden the focus and diffuse the intensity of negative thoughts, thereby aiding the patient’s ability to gain control.”

By Norman Cousins

“When I worked at the United States Catholic Conference in Washington, D.C., we would periodically invite a United States Senator to dinner. One night Senator Hubert Humphrey was our guest. After dinner we retired to the recreation room for a friendly chat, which ended up being much more than that.”

“Living with us was the well-known labor priest, Monsignor George Higgins, who had worked with almost every union leader in the country. Among other things, the experience of dealing with tough labor issues made him a first-class debater.”

“After some cordial comments between Senator Humphrey and those of us who were there, Humphrey and Higgins took over the evening discussion and debated one hot issues after the other with remarkable energy.”

“Never once during their verbal assaults on each other did they lose their sense of humor. In fact, their humor and wit got better as the evening wore on. It was evident that during their lifetimes each had compiled hundreds of hilarious stories. When the conversation grew heavy, out would come one of them. Both would laugh, and then they would start anew to make their points. Never did they let themselves lock into a position to the point that they stopped listening to the other. Beneath their seeming gruffness, they exemplified Frank Tyger’s saying, “All wise men share one trait in common: the ability to listen.”

“As I reflected on that night, I could not help but think about the wars that were probably nipped in the bud because of statesmen who were experts in applying humor. It then occurred to me that if husbands and wives, employers and employees could raise their senses of humor ever so little, we would have far fewer divorces and headaches at the office. If youth had good role models who taught them how to laugh at themselves and the world every so often, we might not have as many young people reverting to drugs and violence to relieve their tensions. It is this potential in humor that makes it a handmaiden to kindness.”

Taken from the book: The Promise of Virtue