What have I been busy about during this quarantine? Besides minding my daily religious observances, I’ve been reading critically the draft of an undergraduate thesis submitted to my advisorship. The thesis delves into the role of humor in establishing a peaceful community. That the faculty-leadership approved me for this particular function is to my speculation their acceptance of my reputation in their midst as “the laughing priest”. But not lately. Is it because in the backdrop of rising mortality rate brought about by this pandemic, laughter comes too late to be the best medicine. Besides laughing loud is an effective spreader of droplets loaded with Coronaviruses. And how can I laugh with gusto when my mouth is covered with a mask?
But why in my old normal, I love to laugh? Because there’s a lot of incongruities I discover in myself which if I take seriously will most probably compromise my mental health. I don’t take myself seriously. Even my priesthood is a heaven-sent gift which certainly I don’t deserve. It’s funny when people address me “Reverend” when there’s nothing reverend in me except my religious habit. The ecclesiastical robe indeed covers a multitude of sins.
So, I move around as a priest serving God as his clown. My students, for instance, quipped that they remembered my jokes more than the lessons of my lectures. To this remark, I replied with the words of Walt Disney: ” ‘Laughter is no enemy to learning’. Don’t you know that the core lessons I mean to teach you are subtly embedded in those jokes?”
The thesis of my advisee ends up with a recommendation for further research: to inquire about how humor can help persons handle disasters. I can’t help but get excited about the prospect of a sequel. Will humor die as a victim of the pandemic?
By Fr. Enrico Gonzales, O.P.