Sunday, March 14, 2010

Because Catholics Really Can Take a Joke (Especially on Laetare Sunday)

Guest post by Allison 
Today, the fourth in Lent, our Church celebrates Laetare Sunday, or Refreshment Sunday. This means we are halfway through our Lenten journeys. The Church in her wisdom, understands that we may need to pause during this pentitential season. One of my parish friends seggests we think of Laetare Sunday as “halftime for Lent.” Among the signs of joy you might have seen this morning at Mass was your parish priest in rose-colored vestments. You might have seen flowers on the altar and you might have the organ at Mass and Vespers.

To keep with the joyful tone of the day, we thought it might be fun to offer our readers a few Catholic jokes, that is the kind of jokes we Catholics tell on ourselves. I had the fun task of compiling them.

These jokes seem to fall into a few categories: jokes about religious orders, jokes about ways we don't quite comply with Church expectations, and jokes about what happens at the Pearly Gates. (I decided not to include jokes in a fourth category of Catholic humor: those that poke fun at Our Savior, no matter how mildly, or at His  parents, or His relationship with them. I think it’s too easy to slip from fun to disrespect.)

Let’s start with a joke from reader Michelle, who inspired this post when she emailed a very funny one to Webster. Here it is.

Until a child tells you what they are thinking, we can't even begin to imagine how their mind is working. Little Zachary was doing very badly in math. His parents had tried everything: tutors, mentors, flash cards, special learning centers. In short, everything they could think of to help his math. Finally, in a last ditch effort, they took Zachary down and enrolled him in the local Catholic school. After the first day, the boy came home with a very serious look on his face. He didn’t even kiss his mother hello. Instead, he went straight to his room and started studying. Books and papers were spread out all over the room and Zachary was hard at work. His mother was amazed. She called him down to dinner. To her shock, the minute he was done, he marched back to his room without a word, and in no time, he was back hitting the books as hard as before. 

This went on for some time, day after day, while the mother tried to understand what made all the difference. Finally, little Zachary brought home his report card. He quietly laid it on the table, went up to his room, and hit the books. With great trepidation, His mom looked at it and to her great surprise, Zachary had an A in math. She could no longer hold her curiosity. She went to his room and said, “Son, what was it? Was it the nuns?” Little Zachary looked at her and shook his head, no. “Well, then,” she replied, “Was it the books, the discipline, the structure, the uniforms? WHAT WAS IT?”
Little Zachary looked at her and said, “On the first day of school when I saw that guy nailed to the plus sign, I knew they weren’t fooling around.”

Yes, teaching children the faith can be a challenge. They can so easily be befuddled. I felt  pleased as punch with myself for teaching both our boys the “Our Father” and the “Hail Mary” early in life. One bedtime when our little one was about four, I felt he was ready to recite the Our Father without prompting from me. And so he began:

Our Father, who are in heaven, Howard be thy name . . .

Reader Dave, who sings tenor alongside Webster in their church choir,  was the very first person to email me a joke. He heard it from Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley in his 2010 Boston Catholic Appeal  last Sunday:

Two US currency bills were ready to be retired after a number of years of service. One was a $20 bill and the other was a $1 bill. The $20 bill said, “It has been a great run. Over the years I have been passed from a number of wonderful things and events. I have paid for meals in some of the best restaurants. I have traveled the world and have paid for things in Europe and all over different parts of the United States. I have been used to pay for tickets to some of the best sporting events and some of the best concerts money could buy. It truly was a great run.” The $20 bill asked the $1 bill, “What about you?” Said the $1 bill, “I have not had as good a run as you. I have spent all of my time being passed form one Catholic offertory collection basket to the next.”

Reader Penny from Louisiana sent in this gem:

A Catholic boy and a Protestant boy were talking and the Catholic boy said, “My priest knows more than your minister.” The Protestant boy said, "Of course he does, you tell him everything."

Here in New Jersey, my dear friend Judy shared this joke, which the priest told during her elder son’s Confirmation Mass:

A priest was having a terrible time with mice in his church. He'd tried everything—all kinds of traps and poisons. Finally, he called an exterminator. He told the exterminator all the various efforts he had made to get rid of the mice. The man shook his head. “Father, there is really a very simple technique you could use to get rid of the mice. Just confirm them.”

Reader Michael from Virginia emailed me these jokes. He said he heard a lot of jokes about religious orders while a student at Catholic University, mulling a vocation. Here’s the first—

There are three questions that not even God, in all wisdom and knowledge, can answer: 1. Who has more brains, the Jesuits or the Dominicans? 2. How many orders of nuns are there in the world? 3. How much money do the Franciscans have?

And the second—

A Jesuit, a Dominican, and a Trappist were marooned on a desert island. They found a magic lamp, and after some discussion decided to rub it. Lo and behold, a genie appeared and offered them three wishes. They decided it was only fair that they could each have one wish. The Jesuit said he wanted to teach at the world’s most famous university, and poof, he was gone! The Dominican wished to preach in the world’s largest church, and poof, he was gone! Then the Trappist said, “Gee, I already got my wish!”

And the third—

Two men considering a religious vocation were having a conversation. “What is similar about the Jesuit and Dominican Orders?” the one asked.

The second replied, “Well, they were both founded by Spaniards—St. Dominic for the Dominicans, and St. Ignatius of Loyola for the Jesuits. They were also both founded to combat heresy—the Dominicans to fight the Albigensians, and the Jesuits to fight the Protestants.”

“What is different about the Jesuit and Dominican Orders?”

“Met any Albigensians lately?”

Jokes about what happens at the Pearly Gates are popular, too. An anonymous reader sent me this joke:

Pope John XXIII arrived at the Pearly Gates and was greeted by Saint Peter, who showed him around and described all the various accommodations in Heaven. The Pope said he would like to meet the Holy Spirit. “In my 2,000 years of greeting arrivals, I've never heard this request,” Saint Peter told him. He strolled over to the Sancta Sanctorum, where the Holy Spirit dwells. “Who wants to meet me, Pope John?” “Yes,” said Saint Peter. “Wasn't he the one who convened the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican ?” “Yes, he was,” Saint Peter said. “I didn't meet him then,” the Holy Spirit said, “ because I wasn't there.”

My husband, Greg,  told me this one:

Hall of Fame baseball manager Joe McCarthy [left] arrived at the Pearly Gates and was greeted with great enthusiasm. Saint Peter was thrilled to have the man who had won nine Major League Baseball titles overall and seven World Series championships coach Heaven's team. What a lineup he would have to work with, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Christy Mathewson!

Practices were going beautifully, until Satan gave McCarthy a call. “You're never going to win,” Satan told McCarthy. “What are you talking about?” McCarthy asked. “I've got the best players in the world.” “Sure you do,” Satan said. “But I've got the umpires.”

This last joke is also from my long-suffering Greg.

The Apocalypse came and  a billion men were lined up at the Pearly Gates, awaiting their final dispensation. Saint Peter came out and said, “Those of you whose wives were submissive to you, stand to the left. The rest of you, go over there.” Every single man—except one—moved over into the line indicating their wives had not been submissive. God ambled out and approached the man who stood alone in the line for men with submissive wives. God put his arm around him and with a big smile said, “I am so proud of you for following my guidance. Tell me why you're standing here.” “My wife told me to,” the man replied.