Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life

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Overview

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 ...

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Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Harvey Cox
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. Reading it reminded me that when Dante finally approaches heaven in The Divine Comedy, the sound he hears "me sembiana un riso del universo" (seemed to me like the laughter of the universe).
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
“So a humor book and a serious theology book meet up in a bar...” Martin, a Jesuit who is something of a regular on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, makes a strong case for the necessity of humor in the spiritual life, offering what he calls “a serious argument for joy.” Weaving funny anecdotes and jokes with biblical and historical research and interviews with scholars, Martin does much to rescue the Christian tradition from joylessness. In his telling, church history is filled with levity if you only know where to look—his portrayal of St. Teresa of Avila shows her to have been downright hilarious, and Jesus himself drew upon humor in ways we don’t always appreciate when we read the Gospels today. Rather than laughter’s trivializing faith, Martin sees humor as a faithful response to God, a default stance that invites other people into God’s family.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.(Oct.)
Booklist
“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.”
Spirituality & Practice
“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.”
Catholic News Service
“Between Heaven and Mirth uses biblical passages, personal anecdotes and saints’ stories to show the importance of humor to the spiritual life.”
Christian Century
“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.”
Harvey Cox
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.”
Scott Alessi
“If you ever got in trouble as a child for laughing in church, prepare to be vindicated.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062024251
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/11/2012
  • Pages: 263
  • Sales rank: 80,311
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Rev. James Martin, SJ, is a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America magazine, and bestselling author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, Between Heaven and Mirth, and Together on Retreat. Father Martin has written for many publications, including the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and he is a regular commentator in the national and international media. He has appeared on all the major radio and television networks, as well as in venues ranging from NPR's Fresh Air, FOX's The O'Reilly Factor, and PBS's NewsHour to Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. Before entering the Jesuits in 1988, Father Martin graduated from the Wharton School of Business and worked for General Electric for six years.

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Read an Excerpt

Between Heaven and Mirth

Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life
By James Martin

HarperOne

Copyright © 2011 James Martin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780062024268


Chapter One

The MostInfallible Sign

Joy andthe Spiritual Life
Many of myfavorite jokes are about Catholics, priests, and Jesuits.
TheJesuits, by the way, are a Catholic religious order for men (a
group ofmen who take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and
live incommunity) founded in 1540 by St. Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish
soldierturned priest.
It's easyfor me to tell jokes about Catholics, priests, and Jesuits,
since I'mall three. And a self-deprecating joke may be the healthiest
brand ofhumor, since the only target is yourself. The standard Jesuit
joke playson the stereotype that we're (a) overly practical, (b) overly
worldly, or(c) not as concerned with spiritual matters as we should
be. Let meshare with you one of my favorites. (Don't worry if you're
notCatholic or you've never met a Jesuit in your life. As with most
good jokes,you can easily change the details or particulars to suit
your owncomic purposes.)
There's abarber in a small town. One day he's sitting in his shop,
and a manwalks in wearing a pair of sandals and a long brown robe
with ahood. The man, very thin and quite ascetic looking, sports a
shortbeard. He sits down in the barber's chair.
"Excuseme," says the barber. "I was wondering, why are you
dressedlike that?"
"Well,"says the man, "I'm a Franciscan friar. I'm here to help my
brotherFranciscans start a soup kitchen."
The barber says,"Oh, I love the Franciscans! I love the story of
St. Francisof Assisi, who loved the animals so much. And I love the
work you dofor the poor, for peace, and for the environment. The
Franciscansare wonderful. This haircut is free."
And theFranciscan says, "Oh no, no, no. We live simply, and we
take a vowof poverty, but I do have enough money for a haircut.
Please letme pay you."
"Oh no,"says the barber. "I insist. This haircut is free!" So the
Franciscangets his haircut, thanks the barber, gives him a blessing,
and leaves.
The nextday the barber comes to his shop and finds a surprise
waiting forhim. On the doorstep is a big wicker basket filled
withbeautiful wildflowers along with a thank you note from the
Franciscan.
That sameday another man walks into the barber's shop wearing
a longwhite robe and a leather belt tied around his waist. When
he sitsdown in the chair, the barber asks, "Excuse me, but why are
you dressedlike that?"
And the mansays, "Well, I'm a Trappist monk. I'm in town to
visit adoctor, and I thought I would come in for a haircut."
And thebarber says, "Oh I love the Trappists! I admire the way
your livesare so contemplative and how you all pray for the rest of
the world.This haircut is free."
TheTrappist monk says, "Oh no. Even though we live simply, I
have moneyfor a haircut. Please let me pay you."
"Oh no,"says the barber. "This haircut is free!" So the Trappist
gets hishaircut, thanks him, gives him a blessing, and leaves.
The nextday the barber comes to his shop, and on his doorstep
there is asurprise awaiting him: a big basket filled with delicious
homemadecheeses and jams from the Trappist monastery along
with athank you note from the monk.
That sameday another man walks into the barber shop wearing
a blacksuit and a clerical collar. After he sits down, the barber says,
"Excuse me,but why are you dressed like that?"
And the mansays, "I'm a Jesuit priest. I'm in town for a theology
conference."
And thebarber says, "Oh, I love the Jesuits! My son went to a Jesuit
highschool, and my daughter went to a Jesuit college. I've even been
to theretreat house that the Jesuits run in town. This haircut is free."
 
The SilentMonk
A manenters a strict monastery. On his first day the
abbot says,"You'll be able to speak only two words every
five years.Do you understand?" The novice nods and goes
away.
Five yearslater the abbot calls him into his office. "Brother,"
he says,"You've done well these last five years. What would you
like to say?"
And themonk says, "Food cold!"
"Oh, I'msorry," says the abbot. "We'll fix that immediately."
Five yearslater the monk returns to the abbot.
"Welcome,Brother," says the abbot. "What would you like
to tell meafter ten years?"
And themonk says, "Bed hard!"
And theabbot says, "Oh, I'm so sorry. We'll fix that right
away."
Then afteranother five years the two meet. The abbot says,
"Well,Brother you've been here fifteen years. What two words
would youlike to say?"
"I'mleaving," he says.
And theabbot says, "Well, I'm not surprised. You've done
nothing butcomplain since you got here!"
And theJesuit says, "Oh no. I take a vow of poverty, but I have
enoughmoney for a haircut."
The barbersays, "Oh no. This haircut is free!" After the haircut,
the Jesuitthanks him, gives him a blessing, and goes on his way.
The nextday the barber comes to his shop, and on his doorstep
there is asurprise waiting for him: ten more Jesuits.
Now, if Irecounted a second joke or a third joke (e.g., see p. 14),
you mightwonder when I was going to get to the point. But, in a
way, jokesare the point of this chapter, which is that joy, humor, and
laughterare under appreciated values in the spiritual life and are
desperatelyneeded not only in our own personal spiritual lives, but in
the life oforganized religion.
Joy, tobegin with, is what we'll experience when we are welcomed
intoheaven. We may even laugh for joy when we meet God.
Joy, acharacteristic of those close to God, is a sign of not only a
confidencein God, but also, as we will see in the Jewish and Christian
Scriptures,gratitude for God's blessings. As the Jesuit priest Pierre
Teilhard deChardin said, "Joy is the most infallible sign of the
presence ofGod."*

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Between Heaven and Mirth by James Martin Copyright © 2011 by James Martin. Excerpted by permission of HarperOne. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Excessive Levity 1

Chapter 1 The Most Infallible Sign Joy and the Spiritual Life 12

Chapter 2 Why So Gloomy? A Brief but 100 Percent Accurate Historical Examination of Religious Seriousness 31

A Study in Joy: Psalm 65 62

Chapter 3 Joy Is a Gift from God Humor and the Saints 68

Chapter 4 Happiness Attracts II 1/2 Serious Reasons for Good Humor 86

Chapter 5 I Awoke How Vocation, Service, and Love Can Lead to Joy 120

A Study in Joy: The Visitation 135

Chapter 6 Laughing in Church Recovering Levity in the Community of Believers 142

Chapter 7 I'm Not Funny and My Life Stinks Answers to the Most Difficult Challenges of Living a Joyful Life 171

Chapter 8 God Has Brought Laughter for Me Discovering Delight in Your Personal Spiritual Life 193

A Study in Joy: I Thessalonians 212

Chapter 9 Rejoice Always! Introducing Joy, Humor, and Laughter into Your Prayer 218

Conclusion Get Ready for Heaven 235

For Further Exploration 237

Acknowledgments 241

About the Author 243

Notes 244

Index 249

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 15 )
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(11)

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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 16, 2011

    The Perfect Gift for Lots of Joy

    Looking for the perfect gift for your priest, minister, spiritual director or cranky relative? This informative and hilarious book will delight them. Get a copy for yourself, too. If you're like me, you're not sure sometimes what humor is appropriate, when you can laugh in church or even what's funny. Fr. Jim clears it up with serious reasons for good humor, and he clarifies what's good. Fascinating historical anecdotes speak of the humor of many holy people from various times and faiths. Plus, there are really good jokes and lots of joy, the kind that comes from God. Did you know that God has a sense of humor? Get the punch line in "Between Heaven and Mirth." You really need to know this before the Apocalypse.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 2, 2012

    Why so serious?

    This book is something I needed. I sometimes feel weighted down by the serious of life, and I see humor as something necessary that is often set aside and considered frivolous. I love the references and interpretations in this book and many times I felt moved to read parts to my family because they were just so funny. I'm torn between sharing it with my pastor or getting him his own copy. I'm so thankful to have stumbled across this book!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    REFRESHING!!!

    Although this is written by a Jesuit priest, in addition to Catholicism, he looks into other Christian religions, Judaism, and even some Eastern religions, pointing out the attraction and need of some joy and levity in our religions. His premise, with which I found refreshing to hear stated is that if we believe we are made in God's image, that He is with us always, that Christ died for us, then why aren't we filled with joy--particularly in our ritural services. I would suggest that every pastor, seminarian and anyone working in church ministries in any denomination, read this book and take it to heart. He pointed out many saints and other past religious leaders who were filled with joy, laughter and mirth. I am glad to have read it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2012

    highly recommend

    this book will make you laugh out loud, no matter where you are. it is humorous and pokes a bit of fun at how stern religious folks can be. i think you will enjoy it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2012

    Highly recommended

    This is a great book for all those who believe that religion should be a joyful experience

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2013

    Thank you!

    After 3 years of constant health struggles your book helped me to once again find my joy. Thank you!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2014

    Good

    Good

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  • Posted May 2, 2014

    Wittiness and Spiritual Insight

    First I must confess to being a James Martin fan. And this book combines his wittiness and spiritual insights. He begins by noting that some people talk about the vice of excessive levity. Or is it a vice? Next he distinguishes scared joy, happiness in God, from profane humor. Joy he says is a sign of God but many saints had a great sense of humor. This book is about humor and it relates humor to spiritual joy.
    Throughout the book are interesting examples of mirth such as the "Easter laugh." Many years ago in Germany priests would tell jokes in church. The idea was to laugh at Satan who was unhappy anyway after Jesus rose from the dead. There are stories from the Old Testament with elements of humor. One is Jonah being swallowed by a whale. The author retells the story pointing out what I now see as humorous aspects of it.
    Father Martin says humor may not be valued as much as it should because of the way Jesus is portrayed in the Bible. He is shown to be clever and articulate but not humorous. Perhaps what was funny then is not seen to be so now. For example the parable of a mustard seed growing into a big tree may have been humorous to the simple people to whom Jesus spoke. To us now not so funny. In the book are various other such example of time bound humor.
    Humorous stories about the well known saints such as Saint Teresa, Saint Ignatius Loyola and Saint Francis of Assisi as well as other saints witticisms are described. Of particular interest is the humor in the story of Saint Francis preaching to the birds. We tend to focus on the seriousness of the story but Father Martin points out the wit and wisdom in it. And it is not just about saints, Popes are featured as well. When asked how many people work in the Vatican, Pope and now Saint John XXII said, about half!
    Father Martin points out that over seriousness is not just a Catholic problem. In spite of the well know wit of Martin Luther, Protestant church are serious too. But joking and humor do have a history in churches. Quite a few stories about various priests and saints in various places throughout the world are told in this book.
    In the end Father Martin says excessive levity is not to be feared. He shows us how humor from Biblical to current times has been part of religion and so should be embraced. He concludes, "So to be joyful. Use your sense of humor."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2014

    wonderful!

    Great read for anyone who needs to be reminded that faith is about joy, not suffering.

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    Posted January 20, 2012

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    Posted July 25, 2013

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    Posted February 10, 2012

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