The Cardinal and Colbert: Humor, Joy and Spiritual Life

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By Richard Bertin

After completing back-to-back tours of Catholic middle and high school, laughter and faith weren’t subjects I ever put together.  But now, as Associate Producer of JustLove, our Catholic Charities weekly radio program on Sirius XM Channel 129.  I had the pleasure on September 14 of hearing Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, Comedian Stephen Colbert and host Fr. Jim Martin, Author of “Between Heaven and Mirth” and frequent Just Love radio program guest, dig into the lighter sides of faith at Fordham University’s special event “Humor, Joy, and the Spiritual Life.”

The purpose of the event was to have an open discussion about the relationship between humor and faith, something many of us do not think about when we talk about Catholicism. And who better to discuss this topic than arguably three of the most comedic Catholics in the media?

At first thought, a Cardinal and a Comedy Central satirist might seem like polar opposites. After all, the nature of satire is to poke fun at serious things like politics and religion. Although Cardinal Dolan and Stephen Colbert come from different walks of life they actually have a lot in common. Both are Catholic public figures with massive followings, and both use jokes and laughter in a way that is endearing to their audience. As the evening rolled along it became clear that Stephen Colbert takes his Catholic faith seriously and enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the importance of laughter.

“Are there flaws in the Church?” Colbert asked. “Absolutely, but is there great beauty in the Church? Absolutely,” Colbert said to rousing applause. “I like to make jokes about things I love, and I love my church!”

Cardinal Dolan echoed this in his own open remarks by stressing the importance of being joyful with your faith.

“Why is a crabby believer a contradiction?” the Cardinal asked the crowd. He then explained that although we understand Jesus was crucified, he rose three days later for our sake. “‘He, who laughs last, laughs best,” he continued, “so Good Friday did not have the last word…Easter did! That’s why I can laugh.”

For me, as a young Catholic, it felt great to see so many young faces in the crowd enjoying the panel and taking part by submitting their own questions, both serious and humorous. When one student asked the panel for advice on whether it was a good idea to date while considering entering the priesthood, Cardinal Dolan replied that it was good to date as part of deciding whether the celibate life of a priest is something he could live with.  He also joked that “by the way, let me give you some of the numbers of my nieces.”

Colbert weighed in on the question by telling the student to “Go for it! It actually could be a great pickup line: ‘I’m thinking of becoming a priest, but you could change that!’” Cardinal Dolan and the crowd roared with laughter.

After seeing Cardinal Dolan, Fr. Martin and Colbert share their joy of being Catholics, I left Fordham with a renewed feeling of pride and joy about my own spirituality and was eager to talk about it with a friend over drinks.  After all, as I learned from the panel, it’s healthy to have fun when reflecting on religion. And besides, I thought, “We’re Catholics, not Puritans!”

You can click here for more laughs and inspiration from the event.

Check out Fr. Martin’s photos on Facebook.

Were you inspired by their conversation? Click here to post your comments.

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