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Italian Jesuit says humour a serious requirement for the Christian life

The latest edition of the magazine Civilta Cattolica offers a set of neurological, psychological and philosophical insights to make the point that hilarity contributes to the survival of the human species and is therefore a virtue.

"If a Christian lacks a sense of humor, it is a sign, among other things, of a religious education too focused on conformity," said the article by Fr Luciano Larivera.

Studies show "adults laugh on average 18 times a day, while children laugh 10 times as much," Fr Larivera wrote. "Behavioural biologists maintain that hilarity contributes to the survival of our species; otherwise we would have stopped laughing millennia ago."

On the spiritual side, he said a healthy and mature sense of humor consists in a person's ability to see the absurdity present in his or her own life and to be somewhat detached from it.

The ability to laugh at oneself, he said, coincides with the Christian virtue of humility and with an awareness that, while the religious life involves striving to do God's will, God surpasses all human understanding.

With humility as the basis of one's sense of humor, he said, one can avoid the pitfall of being trivial, silly or ignorant of the real pain existing in the world and the real sacrifice made by Christ to bring salvation.

Laughter is necessity for healthy Christian, says Jesuit magazine (Catholic News Service 15/7/04)

21 Jul 2004