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


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.

The Rev. James Martin, S.J., is a Jesuit priest, author, and culture editor of America, the national Catholic magazine.

Father Martin was born in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in 1982, where he received a bachelor’s degree in finance (B.S. Econ.). After working for six years in corporate finance with General Electric Co. in New York and Connecticut, he entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1988. During his novitiate, Martin worked in a hospital for the seriously ill in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a hospice for the sick and dying with the Missionaries of Charity in Kingston, Jamaica; a homeless shelter in Boston, and at the Nativity Mission School, a middle school for poor boys, in New York City. In August 1990, he pronounced his simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. From 1990 to 1992, he studied philosophy at Loyola University in Chicago, and also worked in an outreach program with street-gang members in the inner city and at a local community center helping unemployed men and women find jobs. For his “regency,” he worked for two years with the Jesuit..

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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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