The Laughing Brothers and Fathers (and three Sisters)


READ:  Isaiah 52

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces “Peace”, of the messenger of Good News who proclaims salvation and says to Zion, ‘Your God is Sovereign!’  The voices of the watchmen, they are raised in rejoicing, shouting for joy together, for with their own eyes they have seen Yahweh returning to Zion!” – Isaiah 52:7-8

In the song of Luke’s Christmas angels, this theme is echoed, and once again by Paul in his Letter to the Romans, chapter 10 — “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger (angel) who comes proclaiming “Peace and Good News“.

Benedictine monks are traditionally cautioned about being too expressive in their raucous laughter, joking, tomfoolery, silliness were not condoned in the old days.  It was thought that a peaceful smile was more fitting for the life of holy joy.   And though no one could ever confuse the Brothers of Greyfriars’ Abbey with the cast of Saturday Night Live, laughter does indeed reside even in this community of silence.  Life is not as austere as it once was; and holiness is not as somber as it once was.

rejoiceOnce a year, the Brothers of Greyfriars‘ challenge the priests who teach at the University to an annual kickball match as a fundraiser for the Soup Kitchen.  Most of the scholarly Fathers  are either Dominican and Jesuit, souls not as vigorous as we Benedictines who rejoice through manual labor.   So, for years, the Brothers have been the victors, but mind you, always gracious and humble in our victory.  The game is highlight of homecoming week, and the students support our game with loud enthusiasm.  As I watched these men so devout in their holy vocation returning to being young boys – at least, for an hour or so – I was so enthralled – yes, enthralled – with the exuberance of their joy, not only their laughter but their whole visage was caught up in this celebration of play.

I once wrote in a sermon many years ago, a line that I oft repeated … “No one can truly know peace until one can hear the laughter of God!”  And I still ponder on that image … the laughter of God.

No one can truly know peace until one can hear the laughter of God!”  From my revival days, I can remember wondering why so many “Evangelists” – “Bearers of Good News” sounded so angry and look so fierce when they were preaching.  Down deep, I knew back then … that somehow we were off-track with that emotional tone in our ministries.  Nowadays, this Protestant Evangelical who often attends Roman Catholic Mass wonders why so many “Evangelists” of Roman Catholic cloth sound so bored and look so beleaguered when they are preaching.  Down deep, I know … that somehow also here we are off-track with this emotional tone in our ministries.  Of the angry revival preacher and the somber Catholic priest I ask, “Can you not hear the laughter of God and the joy of angels bringing the good news of Peace?

I have observed a subtle instinct within me … possibly, you have observed in yourself … when I see a picture of a child, I always smile … when  I see a puppy or a kitten, I smile … somehow, the experience of New Life instinctively draws forth joy and a sense of well-being … and it does so every time.  Much like what I was feeling when a group of old men … returned to the playing fields for a frolicking game of kickball.

Good News is the announcement that New Life has arrived upon us, a new hope, a new peace, a new sense of well-being.

My Loved Ones, our present day has more than its necessary share of naysayers, doomsayers, critics and complainers … but we do seem to be seriously suffering from a drastic shortage of joy-bringers and heralds of Good News.  The world, I do believe, needs the witness of those who can still hear the laughter of God and the songs of angels singing in the sky, Christian souls within whom dwells the Peace of God.


Brother Anthony of the Cross

(jim mcwhinnie)

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