Interviewed by Our Sunday Visitor in their latest issue. Love the cover.
OSV: You wrote that humor should be seen as a requirement in a Church leader. Why do you think it’s such an important attribute?
Father Martin: First, it’s important to have a sense of humility and poverty of spirit. Second, humor helps us get along with people. Humor is a natural social element that is an essential part of human interaction. Third, to gain some perspective. The saints used humor as a tool in their quest for humility and also as a way of gaining some perspective on their place in the universe. And finally, as Archbishop Timothy Dolan has said, “Happiness attracts.” Why would anyone want to join a group of miserable people?
It also communicates our belief in the Resurrection. We’re living in Easter time now — Christ has risen. The disciples ran with joy to see the risen Lord. They didn’t mope around.
It’s a very complicated topic, because you don’t want to give the impression that you want people to be irreverent or silly, but I’m just trying to balance things out a bit.
OSV: How can Church leaders go about lightening up a little or infusing a sense of joy and humor back into the spiritual life of its members?
Father Martin: Far be it for me to give advice to Church leaders, first of all. But it’s an invitation for all Christians to recover a sense of the inherent joy in the Gospel, to see humor as something that the saints used and therefore as something we can use. Life gives us plenty of invitations to laugh at ourselves. That’s the first step, to laugh at ourselves and at the absurdities of life, and to not take ourselves too seriously. And all of this leads to attracting more people to Christ.
It’s not to say that we have to be grinning idiots 24/7, but I think we are so far over to the one pole that this book is just trying to bring us back a little bit to the center.
OSV: What could that movement back to the center mean for the future of the Church?
Father Martin: It’s a tool for evangelization. Human nature is such that we are attracted to joy; and there’s something profound about that because the attraction to joy is the attraction to God’s joy. It’s our ultimate goal — joy with God — so there’s something within us that responds very deeply to the experiences of communal joy. The more the Church recovers it, the more it will be able to attract people.