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Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life Hardcover – October 4, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 179 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 4th Print edition (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062024264
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062024268
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (179 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The nicest compliment I ever received came from a Catholic deacon at a parish in Iowa. My family and I were getting ready to move out of the area (my one-year fellowship at the local Catholic hospital was ending) and he was explaining why our family would be missed: "It's been so nice having you here. You and your family live the faith joyfully."

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.
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Format: Hardcover
Sometimes you'll find a book written by precisely the right person. When you see such a book you know that the author was born to write it. For instance, with all of its beauty and intelligence, Catholicism had to be written by Fr. Robert Barron. Likewise, nobody else could have compiled The Future Church like expert journalist John Allen, Jr.. And only a dreaming philologist like J.R.R. Tolkien was capable of producing The Lord of the Rings.

While these books are rare, one new title fits the mold. Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life (Harper One, hardcover, 263 pages) was written by Fr. James Martin, one of the funniest, joyous, most light-hearted religious figures in America and the perfect person to write it.

Martin is the rare priest who personifies levity. Whether writing articles in America Magazine or exchanging one-liners with Stephen Colbert--Martin is the official "Colbert Show chaplain"--he just exudes happiness wherever he is.

Between Heaven and Mirth captures this attitude and shares it with the rest of us. The pages are full of humor and the jokes roll one after another.

But the book isn't just a collection of jokes. An early section, for instance, explores the humor of Jesus. Many people see Jesus as a joyless judge, a sober teacher unconcerned with humor and laughter. Part of this is because many of Jesus' jokes are tinged with first-century Jewish wit and therefore fly right over our heads. To fix this misconception, Martin provides some context to many of Jesus' stories and quips, making them much more lighthearted and, yes, even funny.
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Format: Hardcover
Folks who have been visiting this space know that I have a soft spot in my heart for the writings of Fr. James Martin. You see, the very first post written here, by Webster Bull [...], was about his book "My Life With The Saints." I also read that book and enjoyed it immensely. Fr. Jim, see, has what I like to think of as a unique, folksy style, that appeals to many. Stephen Colbert has noticed.

Perhaps it's because Martin is so effortless to read. The words just seem to pour off of the page and directly into your subconscious, and before you know it, you're on the next chapter. In the particular case of this book, the subject matter is appealing because, and bear with the rhetorical question, how many of us have met the bane of St. Teresa of Avila during our journey along "the Way?" I'm referring to the "sour faced saints" that she begged God to spare us from. If you can find a way to give them this book surreptitiously, it would do them a world of good.

But forgetting about the speck in the eyes of others, and turning to the planks in our own, which Fr. Jim uses as an example of the tomfoolery of Our Lord, this latest book will help you along the narrow path with a lighter step. You see, the subtitle of this slim volume is "Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life," and though there are plenty of sour moments through this "vail of tears," Martin's book reminds us to remember that there is a time and place for everything, which he assiduously goes about pointing out for us through both biblical passages (Ecclesiastes in this case) and numerous other citations gleaned from the lives of the saints and other real world examples of lived, not just theoretical, faith.
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