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Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life Paperback – September 11, 2012
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“Winsome and comical but also provocative and thoughtful, Martin’s book is a breath of fresh air for those who would take religion—and themselves—too seriously.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Martin’s book suggests numerous ways to foster the strength of gracious good humor and makes a wonderful case for replacing suffering and sadness with an abundance of levity and joy.” (Booklist)
“Between Heaven and Mirth couldn’t come at a better time since both individuals and religious institutions are feeling the pressure of hard times. Joy and a playful sense of humor are great antidotes to hopelessness and helplessness.” (Spirituality & Practice)
“Between Heaven and Mirth is delicious, well-crafted and well-paced. Martin draws on his own experience as a priest and demonstrates both a light touch and an impressive command of his subject.” (Harvey Cox, the Washington Post Book World)
“Between Heaven and Mirth uses biblical passages, personal anecdotes and saints’ stories to show the importance of humor to the spiritual life.” (Catholic News Service)
“Holy people are joyful people, Martin says. The author suggests ways that humor and laughter can be incorporated into prayer. This is a book that will make you laugh. Sprinkled throughout are many funny stories and jokes.” (Christian Century)
“If you ever got in trouble as a child for laughing in church, prepare to be vindicated.” (Scott Alessi, U.S. Catholic)
From the Back Cover
In Between Heaven and Mirth, James Martin, SJ, assures us that God wants us to experience joy, to cultivate a sense of holy humor, and to laugh at life’s absurdities—not to mention our own humanity. Father Martin invites believers to rediscover the importance of humor and laughter in our daily lives and to embrace an essential truth: faith leads to joy.
Holy people are joyful people, says Father Martin, offering countless examples of healthy humor and purposeful levity in the stories of biblical heroes and heroines, and in the lives of the saints and the world’s great spiritual masters. He shows us how the parables are often the stuff of comedy, and how the gospels reveal Jesus to be a man with a palpable sense of joy and even playfulness. In fact, Father Martin argues compellingly, thinking about a Jesus without a sense of humor may be close to heretical.
Drawing on Scripture, sharing anecdotes from his experiences as a lifelong Catholic, a Jesuit for over twenty years, and a priest for more than ten, and including amusing and insightful sidebars, footnotes, and jokes, Father Martin illustrates how joy, humor, and laughter help us to live more spiritual lives, understand ourselves and others better, and more fully appreciate God’s presence among us. Practical how-to advice helps us use humor to show our faith, embrace our humanity, put things into perspective, open our minds, speak truth, demonstrate courage, challenge power, learn hospitality, foster effective human relations, deepen our relationship with God, and ... enjoy ourselves. Inviting God to lighten our hearts, we can enjoy a little heaven on earth.
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Top customer reviews
This compliment came back to me while reading Jesuit Fr. James Martin's new book, Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life, which hits shelves today. Fr. Martin has crafted a wonderful book highlighting the rich tradition of faithful humor and joyful spirituality. He takes dead aim on the gloomy, pessimistic side of Christianity, arguing that it is not only antithetical to the teachings of Christ, but hurtful to the Church's mission of evangelization.
If you're looking for a quick summary of Fr. Martin's insights, skip to chapter four (helpfully entitled "Happiness Attracts: 11 1/2 Serious Reasons for Good Humor"). This is a similar list to the keynote talk I heard Fr. Martin give at the 2011 NCCL conference. At the top of the list is the fact that happiness and humor are ways to witness to our faith:
"Joy, humor, and laughter show one's faith in God. For Christians, an essentially hopeful outlook shows people that you believe in the Resurrection, in the power of life over death, and in the power of love over hatred. Don't you think that after the Resurrection Jesus's disciples were joyful? 'All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well,' as the fourteenth-century mystic Blessed Julian of Norwich said. For believers in general, humor shows your trust in God, who will ultimately make all things well. Joy reveals faith."
This may seem self-evident, but the number of dour and humorless Christians would seem to indicate that it bears repeating. Fr. Martin goes to on extol humor's virtues in the area of health, spirituality, hospitality, play, and interpersonal relations.
What's more, the book is funny. Fr. Martin sprinkles jokes and humor from the saints liberally throughout the text, including stories about Pope John XXIII; Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ; Dorothy Day; various Jesuit saints; and, of course, Jesus!
In fact, I think his look at humor in Sacred Scripture (both Old and New Testament) will be especially eye-opening for many people. As Fr. Martin points outs, it is easy to overlook the humor in the Bible:
"We've simply heard the stories too many times, and they become stale, like overly repeated jokes. 'The words seem to us like old coins,' [Elton Trueblood] writes, 'in which the edges have been worn smooth and the engravings have become almost indistinguishable.' Trueblood recounts the tale of his four-year-old son, who, upon hearing the Gospel story about seeing the speck of dust in your neighbor's eye and ignoring the log in your own,laughed uproariously. The young boy readily saw the humor missed by those who have heard the story dozens of times."
Besides the Bible Fr. Martin recommends numerous books on humor and spirituality (he admits up front that his book is not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of the subject) and even gives a list of his favorite funny movies.
A quick note about the book's intended audience: some Catholics may wonder why a book about spirituality by a Catholic priest includes insights from other Christian traditions as well as Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism. Fr. Martin writes for a broad audience, and I hope that his Protestant and non-Christian fans from the Huffington Post and the Colbert Report will pick up the book; I think many would be surprised at the relevance of its subject.
I heartily recommend Between Heaven and Mirth for anyone interested in furthering their own spiritual journey -- or just looking for a few new jokes from their repertoire. The Church's rich tradition of faithful joy is a treasure that deserves to be shared, for humor is a gift from God.
Or, as Hilaire Belloc so succinctly put it:
Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There's always laughter and good red wine.
At least I've always found it so.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book for free from TLC Book Tours.
I really enjoyed Martin's approach to joy, laughter, and humor in our lives.
We usually talk about "experiences with God" as solemn, deep, heavy-emotional moments. Very rarely do we say we meet with God during times of laughter and joy. God created laughter and he loves to be a part of it.
Humor can build us up, humble us, and destroy us. It is a powerful tool.
Some of my favorite quotes:
"Humor helps us to endure suffering by giving us something of a break and reminding us that pain is not the last word for the one who believes in God"
"Joy is not a selfish thing to seek, but a selfless thing to find"
"Joy, deeper than happiness, is a virtue that finds its foundation in the knowledge that we loved by God"
A great read, maybe a chapter every few days, let it sink in.