Lent – Day 36 – “What do you laugh at and why?” (Sutera’s question)

(Scripture: Sirach 21:16-20/Rule of Benedict 7.59)

Sorry to have missed yesterday’s post entitled “Keeping it to Yourself” – unplanned but necessary life got in the way.  I will try to make up for this by addressing both days today.  Today we reach Saint Benedict’s caution about laughing at inappropriate times or at someone else’s expense.  This caution is  seen as the tenth piece of humility following yesterday’s call for more silence in the world.    These are linked for me and speak to stewarding our tongue, although I am still wondering how they link to humility. It takes energy to stay in the present moment, refraining from the easy joke or comment.  It takes energy to listen to the other person and try to hear what’s behind words I may not understand.  I find that, when in doubt, it is always better to stay silent.  People don’t expect to be given the space to speak without being interrupted.  It is sometimes uncomfortable to be in the silence, but it reminds me of the prayer process of “lectio divina” – listening in silence that  offers space for God’s wisdom to emerge.  Now I see – yes, silence and refraining from needless laughter do indeed lead to the development of humility – they point to God’s wisdom and not ours. God is God – I am not.

About WalkingwithBenedict

I love how scripture comes alive with messages for our lives today. In praying with scripture, we are called into deeper relationship with God and others. We are called to the growth in love, hospitality, peace, humility, stewardship and hope. St Benedict's Rule provides a lens for how scripture can be lived in our lives today whether we live inside or outside a monastery.
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4 Responses to Lent – Day 36 – “What do you laugh at and why?” (Sutera’s question)

  1. Leonore Misner says:

    I have been neglect in writing my blog, but my busy lifestyle triggers a multitude of things I must do. Each day as I have read Sutera’s wisdom, my mind and heart have ingested her words to their deepest meaning. This particular topic, though, has really thrown me.
    One thing my mother did with gusto was laugh – it was an infectious laugh, full of love for God’s people and their idiosyncrasies, bringing a joyful noise into the world. Yet, Mom never laughed “at” anyone. Her first born is a Paranoid Schizophrenic, whom no one understood or “put up with” the way Mom did. Her compassion was beyond reproach – her gift of tears washed her grief stricken face whenever she witnessed tragedy on television or a simple newspaper story. Oh, Lord, that I could be so sensitive to another’s woe.

    Laughter is good mental health, but I don’t think this is what the Benedictine rule is about, as I see that NOT being easily moved can become an impairment to living another’s strife. Besides my mother just recognizing the humor in things, I think it was often a defensive mechanism. The horrors she lived through with my brother were mentally disabling and physically stunning – a mother encountering such destruction is truly crippling. And she was that. Her Rheumatoid Arthritis struck her body with vengeance whenever he tried (many times) to take his own life. Yet her nightly prayers were an hour long memorized litany that she never dissuaded from – prayers for OTHER people, and her family.

    Laughter has it’s place. It can be a saving grace. We are creatures of God, nonetheless, beckoning to His mercy. Just a few moments ago my daughter called to tell me that her sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s daughter (probably in her mid 20’s) took her life yesterday. They live here, but the daughter is in Indiana, so they have a woeful trip to make. No laughter here. No Godly wisdom. No answers. There is only God’s continuous mercy as I think of my own granddaughter’s (age 16) failed attempt two weeks ago. Thankfully she is taking anti-depressants now and seems better.

    My brother? Well, two years before my mother’s death, he was mercifully allowed to live in a Group Home in Rhode Island. Thank you, Lord. My Father has also gone to be with my Mom in God’s presence. From there they are praying for each of us. My brother, my only sibling, continues to live there where he is loved and cared for. I pray often for his caregivers at the home, who really love him. As his Court Appointed Guardian, I visit him about 4 times a year, as I make the trek each time from Colorado to Rhode Island. Sometimes he is not good. Other times he is endearing and shows his love. His condition changes from day to day, but I still go – after all, I AM my brother’s keeper. This is an anomaly to my husband. I love the Lord and the good work he has done through caring for my brother. Lord, let me be your instrument.


    • G. Murphy says:

      Thank you for sharing your heart in this space! I think about how our histories, our personal stories, are the squares of the quilt of our lives. One builds upon another as they are stitched together. I hear several quilt squares in your story.

      I relate to the story of laughter used as a defense mechanism. I remember that being a part of my life early on and I see it in two of my sisters and my mother- laughing to prevent crying when things were so bad. It also seems to me your mother, out of her experience of caring for your brother, was living the spirit of Benedict’s call not to laugh at inappropriate times and at another’s expense. She is now part of the Great Communion of Saints praying in concert with the living and with the others who has passed on. It seems to me that from your story, her “infectious” laugh was a gift to be celebrated. I believe I have heard echoes of that gift within the walls of the monastery when you are in class.


  2. Leonore Misner says:

    An ending to my blog: I love my brother more now than i ever had in the past. God’s grace has given me a peace beyond all understanding regarding my brother. And He has broken through my shell to my core with a penetrating love for my brother. I pray for the young lady who felt she had to end her life – apparently her new medication for the Bi-Polarism drove her there. I pray for her parents, who are devastated, but know the Lord, and for her sister, who needs help in explaining this tragedy to her own two little children. Oh, God, help us to somehow see your will in all this.


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