Joy To The World…

No, the Lord has not yet arrived – that is Christmas and we are still in Advent. As a stickler for that sort of distinction, I thought twice about the post title. That said- you can see that I went for it.

My review of Fr. James Martin’s new book, “Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life,”  (Harper One, $25.99) was published in yesterday’s Evangelist. I also present it for you here.

Have some humor for the holidays
“Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life” by Rev. James Martin, SJ (Harper One, $25.99)
BY FRAN ROSSI SZPYLCZYNHumor may be one of the least-used tools of evangelizing, but it’s never too late to begin.

The Eucharist is no laughing matter. However, Christ, present in the Eucharist, is the source of all joy. In his latest book, “Between Heaven and Mirth,” Rev. James Martin, SJ, explores this notion of joy in our faith.

Joy and happiness are often confused, but Father Martin clarifies the difference between them. It is easy to see that, with the cross as the focal point, we focus on suffering – and we are never directed away from the essential notion of suffering. This book brings forth the necessity of joy in the midst of suffering as essential to faith.

Consider these words: “You need not be a scholar of religion to see that anyone truly in touch with God is joyful.” As people who not only die with Christ, but rise up with Him as well, we are called to joy in a most profound way. What is more joyful than Christ risen?

This book is filled with examples of faith infused with joy – and no shortage of jokes. This joy is a pathway to a richer spiritual life and a call for greater awareness of God’s presence in all things.

Readers will find Scriptural references to well-known stories that might have been understood differently in biblical times and even seen as funny. This humor engaged and consoled many then and can do so now, as well.

What’s funny, for example, about St. Lawrence, martyred on a grill of burning coals? Apparently, he told his executioners, “Turn me over. I’m done on this side.” St. Teresa of Avila once said, “A sad nun is a bad nun.” Father Martin employs the lives of many such saints to support his call to joy and humor.

Unhappy times in life are not ignored, either. Readers are asked to explore those moments with faith, reminded that happiness and joy are not to be confused. The absence of a cheerful happiness should not preclude our deep joy, which is rooted in the heart of Christ.

One chapter in the book is devoted to the Visitation as a study in joy. Another chapter explores the notion that a lack of seriousness is not sacrilegious, but a lack of humility can be a problem.

Is there a better path to humility than through laughter? Isn’t laughter a call to others to discover the source of joy?

Father Martin is very clear: All religious institutions need humor and laughter. Levity and belief are partners, reminding us that perhaps laughter is the most underrated and under-used tool in evangelizing.

This book is truly an invitation to an enlivened faith and Father Martin’s own tireless evangelizing shines through every page. Readers will not only find humor, but will also find Christ present in ways they may have never imagined.

(Mrs. Szpylczyn works at Immaculate Conception in Glenville and attends St. Edward’s parish in Clifton Park. She blogs at and on the websites of both parishes.)


A Blog Post About… Blogging, Blah-Blah Blogging

It was not long ago when an interviewer called to talk to me about being a Roman Catholic blogger in the Albany diocese. For someone who always has a lot to say, I must admit to being a bit dumbstruck. The article appears here and includes my real-life friends Mary DeTurris Poust, Deacon Neil Hook and Fr. Richard Vosko. (For the record, with respect to the author of the article, I have corresponded with and interviewed the wonderful James Martin, SJ – but, befriend is a strong word. Deacon Greg Kandra on the other hand is a met-in-person, in regular touch with, beloved and trusted friend of mine. That’s us over there!

I thought that my interview my come out all “errr…. ummm… well, you know…”  I think it came out sounding like “blah-blah blogging!” At least that is my fear.

It was not the first time I have been interviewed on the topic and who knows if it will be the last.

Yesterday I was driving to my job at Immaculate Conception and was listening to the Parliamentary hearings from the UK around the phone hacking scandal. One of the members of parliament was talking about how media in general, including social media, needed better standards. (massive understatement!) He then referred to the “blags.” It was his accent and I am not mocking, but it caught my attention. He then went on for a few moments about the “blags” and “blaggers.” Blah-blah blogging!

The third thing on this circuitous path to a post is this. Earlier in the week I was at my home parish of St. Edward the Confessor, at a meeting with someone from a website design firm and the topic of the parish blog came up. This gentleman implied that blogging was on life support, a soon-to-be thing of the past. It did not make me happy to hear that, but there is some truth to it.

If you are a marketer. If you are a marketer or a news organization or anyone trying only to get quick attention, forget blogging. A 300 word post on your new product or service will be lost in the ad clutter. I did not spend 29 years in the media business for nothing; I get that. If I had a business it would be Twitter and Facebook, all the way.

So what is my long-winded point? (I told you I always have a lot to say!) 

My point is this – I do not think blogging is going away any time soon. At least I hope not.

Blogging, which I have been doing in one form or another since 2007, has helped me to better see and understand the world around me and my own place in it – personally, spiritually and politically.

In the midst of hard core (who remain beloved to me) lefty bloggers, I found my political center. In the midst of a group of passionate Episcopalian bloggers, (who I continue to be in prayerful blogging/Facebook and real-life friendship community with) I discovered the depth of my Catholic faith. In addition I have had great discussions and learned much from Buddhists, Jews, atheists, Lutherans, Evangelicals, Pentacostalists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindus, humanists and of course, the SBNR people.(Spiritual but not religious.) Without a doubt, I am a better Catholic because of all of this, of that I am certain.

As for my Catholic blogging friends-  we are engaged in discussions, theological and otherwise that are transformational for all of us. And I can promise you, we have many, many disagreements, but what binds us is our common love for the Church and how the Church is in the world!

If you are not familiar with blogging, which is quite different than reading a newspaper or some other static thing,  blogging offers the chance for conversation via the comments. I also think that that is a big plus of using blogging and Facebook together, the opportunity to have a discussion.

That is how we are transformed. That is how community is discovered and built. Both this blog and the parish blog are about gathering community more than anything else.

In the past year this blog and my parish blog have both floundered a bit. Last summer I was very ill and the summer was lost to me. The fall proved to be too busy for a variety of over-committed reasons. Then came January and a new year presented our family with a major challenge when my husband’s sister became ill and subsequently died, blogging fell to the bottom of the list. I had no time, I also had so little to say.

As I mentioned the other day, I am trying to find my footing again, but without you – well there is no footing!  It is community and conversation that we are trying to build here, not a one-way-ideological-my-way-or-the-highway-zone.

If you are new, I welcome you and I sincerely hope that you will say something. If you don’t want to comment, then please drop me an email and let me know that you are here.

Now, to think of things to write about. If you have ideas, you can put them in the comments to, or if you have questions.

I have to go now… I have a lot of blogs to read!  (This will be cross-posted on The Parish Blog of St. Edward the Confessor)

Online Faith and Other Matters

It has been a long, long, long time since I have posted here and I apologize for the lack of content.

It seems that I am plagued by a few issues that are culminating in a case of writer’s block that is as hard as the pack ice the plow deposits at the end of my driveway. No, that’s not true, I can eventually get the snowblower and shovel through that, this seems currently impassible.

This will change, but just not yet.

This past Thursday our diocesan newspaper The Evangelist published an article written by Casey Normile entitled, “Is Online Faith Good for the Church?” Casey interviewed me at length for this yet I was more than surprised to see the prominent place my quotes were given in the piece.

Please read it and let me know your thoughts. I clearly do think that it is good, but like all things, it can be bad.

Things are often neutral – it is what we do with them that makes for good or bad. In being online with my ministry, I’d like to think that I am doing good, cooperating with grace. It is not about me – It is about God.

With that said, I am off to meet another Catholic blogger and writer, Brother Daniel P. Horan, OFM of the blog, Dating God. Last year I read an article written by Bro. Dan and I found his website and emailed him. It turns out that he was living right near here; he is at Siena College. It has taken us awhile, but we are finally meeting today.

I share Bro. Dan’s blog almost every single day on my Facebook page. Sometimes I worry that he thinks that I am  stalking him! The reality is that I just think that he is brilliant and that his work should be widely read. I suspect that given his youth, we will all hear of him in the future, as I bet he will be well published.

In any event, my real life is full of real people, amazing people. My online life is full of real people, amazing people, that I first meet online. Often I am privileged to meet them in person too! Wherever two or three are gathered in HIs name, He is present.

Thanks be to God.

If you have experiences – good or bad – of online faith journeys, please add  them to the comments! I’d love to see a good discussion get started here!

Walking Together by Mary DeTurris Poust – A Book Review

Recently I had the pleasure of reading “Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship” by Mary DeTurris Poust (Ave Maria Press, $13.95). My review was published in our diocesan paper, The Evangelist last Thursday.

Please read the review here.  Here are a few words from my piece:

A recent piece in the LA Times newspaper left me stunned. Citing one study of Americans, the article stated that most people “had one-third fewer non-family confidants than they had 20 years earlier, and 25 percent had no one in whom to confide whatsoever.”

It continued, “Another study of 3,000 Americans found that, on average, they had only four close social contacts.”

We are a pilgrim people and, as Catholics, we are “covenantal” people, so those numbers startled me. That may be one reason I enjoyed “Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship” by Mary DeTurris Poust.  (continue reading here…)

This book is intellectual while remaining completely accessible and touches the heart without being saccharine. I think it would be a great book to give as a gift – or to receive! Walking Together is made for book clubs and small faith sharing groups.

Read and enjoy!