|A bishop's blessing for the clumsy deacon.|
In a life and liturgy that are often so serious, humor is good medicine for a number of things: liturgical travesties, personal failings, pastoral inadequacies. At times, I feel awkward, ridiculous, or clueless, but as with my liturgical nosedive, being a priest does not mean one avoids making mistakes; it means one learns how to rebound from them with a certain amount of integrity and grace. Humor is good for that. It reminds us that we are not simply cardboard cut-outs of some idealized image of a priest, but real people that are called upon to embody the priesthood in our own distinct ways. The priest may be in persona Christi or an alter Christus, but he is also a human being with the full range of human attributes, some lovely, and some not so lovely. As a drunk Elise (Goldie Hawn) declares angrily to Brenda (Bette Midler) in another of my favorite movies, The First Wives Club: "You think just because I'm a movie star I don't have feelings. Well, you're wrong. I DO have feelings. I'm an actress. I HAVE ALL OF THEM!," she shouts, sloshing her martini all over the kitchen in a final histrionic gesture. People quite rightly need priests to be role models, but it is dangerous to put a priest or anyone else on a pedestal. To deny that a priest has his own frailties, his own foibles, his own weaknesses is pure folly. To deny that church has its silly moments, camp, and humor is equally ridiculous. That is why I was so delighted when the Bishop sang "Over the Rainbow" from the Wizard of Oz as the opening of his very fine Ascension Day sermon. Being a serious priest sometimes means reveling in the humor we encounter in our vocation. If laughter is a response to the ridiculous, it is also a response to joy, and I do hope to be a joyful priest.