Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Joy

I remember being in my final Sunday School class in high school, and the teacher was giving out gifts. He had given us all very nice leather keychains with engraved brass pieces attached. Engraved on each was a unique word that he associated with each of us. Mine said "joy." When I asked him why I had been given the keychain with "joy" engraved upon it, he told me that I needed more joy in my life.

It's one of those moments that I relive quite often and reflect on it. I often wonder if I have done the job of getting more joy into my life. I feel happy. I feel joyous. Even in the worst of times, I try to remain happy, optimistic and joyful.

One of my greatest things each week is receiving my America Magazine. I love the writings, particularly anything by James Martin, SJ. A few weeks ago, he wrote a wonderful article on Christian Joy. He describes the presence of joy in Scripture, in the life of Jesus and in the lives of many of our saints. Especially St. Francis of Assisi, who was said to have joy "that spilled over into the hearts of thousands of men and women." One of my favorite references is to Blessed Pope John XXIII. When asked by a journalist "Your Holiness, how many people work in the Vatican?" He answered, "About half of them."

Fr. Martin goes on to give us ten reasons why joy, humor and laughter is needed in our lives and in the church today. One of his reasons is that Humor shows Christian fortitude. He gives the example of St. Thomas More stepping up to the chopping block and saying to his executioner, "I pray you, help me on the way up, and I will take care of myself on the way down." Fr. Martin claims that this type of humor says, "I do not fear death." Maybe I need to come up with some witty quips to deal with my situation.

Humor Heals. "Physicians, psychologists and psychiatrists believe that humor helps with the healing process in the physical body." "This is not to say that one laughs over the considerable pain. Rather, humor gives us a much-needed break and can help heal."

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