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Don’t take yourself too seriously

Recently I’ve dipped my toes in the waters of social media, having followed several Twitter feeds for the past couple of weeks.

My original aim was to track the progress of the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Madrigals and alumnae as they traveled through France.

The photos posted with brief messages as they traveled the countryside amounted to electronic postcards from the trip; and the postings from Etables, birthplace of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, and from Ruille, home of the French Sisters of Providence, were nothing short of moving for me.

I’ve also been following a few Catholic Twitter feeds, and I’ve been fascinated by some of the postings. I’ve learned that Bishop Christopher Coyne, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, posts a brief reflection on the day’s scriptures almost every day.

I’ve also learned that he’s a pretty funny guy. Last week, he posted a series of reflections on an upcoming golf game, including the following:

  • I am playing golf today for the first time in at least three years. My doctor told me I don’t have enough stress in my life.
  • It is a fundraiser. People are paying a lot of money to play with me. I think they should get a refund.
  • … I’m buying a bushel of balls … I think when I come to a water hole, I should just throw a ball in.
  • I’m told when I drive up to the club, they will take my clubs. I hope they take them right to the dumpster …

Another prominent churchman has been featured in a number of tweets recently. Last week Cardinal Timothy Dolan posted a photo from Catholic University’s commencement, at which he addressed the audience in full ecclesial regalia, including the red cardinal’s cape. He mugged for the camera, striking what he dubbed his Batman pose and seemed to take great delight in poking fun at himself. The Cardinal’s speech was itself part commencement address, part stand-up comedy routine.

Why should it come as a surprise that these prominent individuals who surely spend a great deal of time with matters of significance also exhibit a comic sensibility and appear to laugh at themselves easily?

Our own Mother Theodore, whose wisdom and deep spirituality we cherish, is also known for her sharp French wit. What Sister of Providence does not have a favorite humorous quote from the eighth American saint?

She could turn a frightening situation into a comic one, describing a perilous coach ride as a “dance without a fiddle.” She could laugh at her own failed attempts to converse in English, creating scenes that could have come directly from I Love Lucy. She could dramatize the bloody battle she and her companions waged with mosquitoes in Cincinnati. She could face hardships, fear, deprivation, and still laugh. Perhaps she HAD to laugh.

The lesson here, at least for me, is not to take oneself too seriously. Of course, there are circumstances in every person’s life that are far more tragic than comic. That said, it seems that many of us could benefit from viewing any number of everyday occurrences with an eye to their potential for comedy.

Perhaps that’s a way of seeing our own foibles and the frustrations of daily life as relatively insignificant in a “big picture” context. Perhaps it is a way of affirming our faith in the Providence that will not fail us.

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Sister Lisa Stallings

Sister Lisa serves as vicar of the Sisters of Providence leadership team. After teaching junior high and high school, she spent twenty years ministering in music and worship in parishes in Chicago, Kentucky and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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2 Comments

  1. Alan Watson on May 30, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Sister Lisa, I Think you hit the nail on the head. We must remember that Cardnials and Bishops and Priests and Sisters are after all real people and no somesort of automatons. One of the gifts God gave us is the ability to have some enjoyment once in a while.Will Rodgers gave us lots of snippets on life that keep us as a nation smiling. Keep laughing. See you soon. Alan

  2. Diane Weidenbenner on June 1, 2012 at 10:20 am

    If we are made in God’s image, it’s a good reminder for us, too, that God must have a sense of humor. Humor can do so much good – diffuse a tense situation, lift one’s spirits, even reduce stress. Thank you for the reminder of how important “keeping things light” is, in our Christian walk. I appreciated your blog!

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