A Barrel of Laughs & a Pile to Think about

A Barrel of Laughs & a Pile to Think about November 30, 2011

By Sarah Reinhard

[This post is part of a conversation at the Patheos Book Club on the new book Between Heaven and Mirth, by Fr. James Martin.]

I love to laugh, and maybe that’s part of the reason I was attracted to what I envisioned James Martin’s new book, Between Heaven and Mirth, would be.

It didn’t let me down. Each chapter contained at least one good laugh, and I caught myself actually giggling out loud a few times.

Laughter is medicine, but it’s also, Martin maintains, an often-overlooked element that’s needed in our spiritual lives. He relates that he’s come to see, in his life as a professionally religious (he’s a priest and a Jesuit), that faith is often grim.

The spiritual life does not have to be–should not, in fact, be!–without laughter and smiles. He points to Jesus himself and expounds on the fact that joy can–and maybe should–lead to lightness and levity.

Martin makes his case using anecdotes, jokes, and even studies. He interviewed people of various stripes and shared personal experience. I started off agreeing with him, but by the end, he had dispelled any doubts I may have had. He inspired me to focus on my own approach to spirituality and to keep that twinkle that must have been in Jesus’ eyes in front of my own.

The finished product–the book itself–is the kind of book you’ll want to buy two copies of: one to keep and reread, one to share with at least one person who could use a reason to smile.

Join our Twitter conversation on this book at #patheosmirth.

Sarah Reinhard continues to delight—and be challenged by—her vocations of Catholic wife and mother. She’s online at

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