Michelle Martin

God can take it

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Know any good Catholic jokes?

I’ve got a few.

We’ve all heard the one about Mary stepping up when Jesus invites anyone without sin to cast the first stone, and probably the one about how members of various religious communities react when confronted with a vision of the Holy Family. While the others are in ecstasies of adoration, preaching and singing, the Jesuit, the joke goes, pulls St. Joseph aside and asks if he’s thought about educating the young Jesus, adding, “Have I got a school for you!”

My husband, I think, has more, including a few that have left me shaking my head, wondering if he really should have gone there.

That’s when he shrugs and says, “God made a sense of humor, too!”

That’s one thing he learned, he says, from his fifth grade teacher, Sister Mary Owen, the strictest nun he ever had, who declined to stop the boys from goofing around and telling jokes at recess.

So when Teresa told me she was writing a comedy sketch for her camp that was about the church, I wasn’t exactly shocked. When I asked for more details, it turned out that she was writing a sketch about a priest having everything go wrong, all while the bishop is visiting — something that could, and probably has, happened to any number of pastors. If they can laugh at it, so much the better.

A little laughter can make any day seem brighter, and it doesn’t always have to take a lot of effort. Dad jokes are called such because they are, well, kind of stupid. (What do you call a priest who is also a lawyer? A father-in-law.) But sometimes that can make us smile all the same, and we could all use a few more smiles.

I’d never argue that all jokes are good or appropriate. Jokes should not be hurtful, especially to people in vulnerable positions or those who have less power than the joke teller. But at their best, jokes can illuminate truths we don’t always think about, or even express an affectionate familiarity.

The above joke about Mary, for example, emphasizes the fact of the Immaculate Conception and that Jesus’ mother was truly sinless, and, at the same time, shows the absurdity of thinking that she who was without sin would throw a stone at an outcast woman, sinner though she was.

As for the Jesuits, well, having been through the college application process with two kids, I’m pretty sure they’d like all of us to know all about their schools.

So if you find yourself laughing at the one about the priest, the minister and the rabbi who walked into a bar, or the one about what St. Peter said when the first pope approached the pearly gates, I don’t think it’s anything to feel guilty about.

God, after all, gave us a sense of humor. He can take a few bad jokes. Who doesn’t like to see their children smile?



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