What We Can and Cannot Do in These Serious Days
What we can not do…
- We can not change the facts and the rapid changes they call for!
- We can not let up on our vigilance!
What can we do?
- We can take time to smile and laugh a bit!
In that spirit, I offer this eclectic sampling of the humor and wit not only of our Vincentian heritage but also the humor of Popes over the last 100 years.
Smiling with Vincentians
- When a priest of the Congregation asked permission to leave the community in order to help his elderly father, Vincent responded: this does not hold true of your father who is only forty or forty-five years of age at the most, enjoying good health, able to work and who is, in fact, working. – Otherwise, he would not have remarried, as he has done recently, to a young woman eighteen years of age, who is one of the most beautiful girls in town. He himself informed me of this (CCD:II:611)
- On another occasion, a priest entered Vincent’s room and informed him of his firm decision to leave the Congregation as soon as possible: M. Vincent began to smile and looking at him with great kindness and tenderness said, “When do you plan to leave? Are you going on foot or will you take a horse?” (CCD:XII:393). Abelly stated that the priest was so surprised by this response that Monsieur Vincent had given to distract him from this temptation, when he expected some sort of severe reprimand, that he was completely freed from this wish to leave (Abelly III:152).
(It is amazing how he was able to trivialize situations and behavior that were not in accord with evangelical simplicity … and yet he never resorted to sarcasm or sadism. He never wanted to harm a person but he would hold up for ridicule any vain or licentious behavior.)
Francis Regis Clet
- As he was fleeing persecution at age 70 he wrote… “I want none of this world’s goods, apart from a decent watch; only one of the ones you sent two years ago was any good. The others began by gaining an hour every day, and later two hours; then they all contracted a recurrent fever which led to their deaths, so if you’ve anything in the line of a decent watch I’d like you to send it along, and some money after it.”
- He also wrote, “I have a great dislike of being Superior, but they forced me to accept, in spite of my obvious unsuitability.”
Sampling papal humor
Pope Leo XIII
To a man who, while thanking him for an audience, stated Pope Pius IX had also given him an audience just days before he died, Pope Leo XIII replied, “If I would have known that you were so dangerous for popes, I would have postponed our meeting for a few years!”
Pope Saint John XXIII
“It often happens that I wake up at night and begin to think about the serious problems afflicting the world and I tell myself, I must talk to the pope about it. Then the next day when I wake up I remember that I am the pope.”
To a young boy whom he was visiting in a hospital who stated he either wanted to be a policeman or a pope: “I would go in for the police if I were you. Anyone can become a pope, look at me!”
Pope Paul VI
After being shown his schedule for a particularly busy day: “There is only one thing lacking, at the end: the pope’s funeral!”
Pope John Paul I
To his brother cardinals after they had elected him Pope: “May God forgive you for what you have done.” (Francis quoted him when he was elected!)
“If someone had told me I would be Pope one day, I would have studied harder.”
Pope Saint John Paul II
When Timothy Cardinal Dolan was Archbishop of Milwaukee, he told Pope John Paul II in a papal audience, “Holy Father, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is growing and expanding!” To which JPII responded, “And so is its new archbishop!”
- To a member of the Swiss Guard who told Pope Francis he could not sit down and rest while on duty because of orders from his captain to stand at attention for Pope Francis’ protection: “Oh, is that so? Well, I’m the Pope and I am asking you to sit down.” Pope Francis disappeared for a moment and then returned with a sandwich.
- On the return flight from Abu Dhabi, Pope Francis offered his impression about a little girl who broke through the security line and ran to the popemobile. He expressed amazement, saying, “That little girl is courageous! … That little girl has a future, a future! And I would dare say: poor husband!”
- He has hung a sign on the door of his hotel suite reading: “No Whining.” In smaller print the sign continues: “Transgressors are subject to a syndrome of victimization and the ensuing reduction of a sense of humor and capacity to resolve problems. Sanctions are doubled when the violation is committed in the presence of children.”
Just a few of many … I will spare you “The pope walks into a bar…” jokes.
Worth thinking about…
Cardinal Basil Hume, when Abbot of Ampleforth, once counseled his monks: ‘Take life seriously. Take God seriously. But don’t, please don’t, take yourselves too seriously.’
PS. I invite you to share with us similar things and favorite stories from our respective traditions. Just click on the “Comment” link.