Friday, May 5


Humor in homilies?

Fr. Martin Fox asks, "how much is too much?" and "when is it appropriate?"

My answer to this sort of thing is the Philip Neri Protocol: jokes in homilies are perfectly okay...they just have to actually be funny.

Incidentally, there's a longstanding tradition of telling jokes in Easter Sermons (the apparently infamous Risus Paschalis), as this informative entry from the Catholic Encyclopedia will tell you:
This strange custom originated in Bavaria in the fifteenth century. The priest inserted in his sermon funny stories which would cause his hearers to laugh (Ostermärlein), e.g. a description of how the devil tries to keep the doors of hell locked against the descending Christ. Then the speaker would draw the moral from the story. This Easter laughter, giving rise to grave abuses of the word of God, was prohibited by Clement X (1670-1676) and in the eighteenth century by Maximilian III and the bishops of Bavaria (Wagner, De Risu Paschali, Königsberg, 1705; Linsemeier, Predigt in Deutschland, Munich, 1886).
The idea isn't a bad one on the surface--though I wonder what grave abuses crept in? The only thing I can think about is the question the jokes pose regarding of the relationship of the Limbo of the Fathers in regards to Hell (whether the Devil was really running around down there, but come now, that's a bit of a nitpick), but the basic truth of Christ pulling a fast one on Satan's still at the heart of the whole thing. And that's worthy of plenty of laughter.

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