Friday, 1 May 2009

These Foolish Things....

There was a crazy incident when I visited Grenada in the W. Indies. Imagine me at 5.00 in the morning. I'm dripping wet and wearing only a towel after a cold shower to wake me up for morning prayers and Mass. To my delight and surprise I saw an enormous crapaud -a toad the size of my fist -hopping down the corridor. As I pursued it with my camera my twin brother, Peter, a fellow Dominican, sang, 'These foolish things remind me of you.' I bet that's not how you imagine us priests!

Such foolish things also reminded me of an important truth. The great Dominican saint and scholar, Thomas Aquinas, wrote that having a sense of humour is a mark of being human. No brute beast can laugh at itself or at life. It has no sense of the ridiculous. And however close a computer may resemble human intelligence it can't crack a joke or laugh at one. True, it can make me feel ridiculous when I can't work a simple programme any child can manage. But that's frustrating, not funny.

At best a computer can produce amusing coincidences, resulting from the way a human being has programmed it. This is most likely to occur in the spell check. I used to have an Amstrad PCW. When this didn't recognise the name 'Bathsheba' it suggested 'bathrobe' -the very garment the lady wasn't wearing when king David ogled her while she took a bath! Perhaps my PCW was dropping her. a hint. Incidentally, the alternative for my name is, 'Isotope Clack.'

Since Jesus was fully human, he must have had a sense of humour. There's an example of this in his conversation with the Syro Phoenician woman. He seemed to delight in her witty argument that if dogs were allowed to eat the crumbs children dropped from the table, she, a pagan 'dog,' had the right to ask Jesus, a Jew, to cure her daughter.

The parable about a great banquet gives us another example of Christ's humour. One of the guests was so full of his own importance that he grabbed the most prestigious place at table. But to his embarrassment and everyone else's amusement his host asked him to move down and make room for someone more important. An exaggerated idea of our own importance only makes us appear ridiculous. Certainly God is not impressed by our posturing. I bet Jesus told this story with a twinkle in his eye, and caused his listeners great amusement, as they knew who he was getting at. But then it could be you or me! Then I hope we would be able to laugh at ourselves.

And what about my encounter with the crapaud? Well, this reminded me that while I must take Christ seriously I shouldn't be too solemn about myself. We discover what it means to be a Christian, not only in prayer, but also in play. And we all know that a sense of humour can relieve many a tense situation -if we are not too pompous to admit that we are being ridiculous and can laugh at ourselves. Any way I have a good precedent in king David, dancing in his loincloth before the ark of the Lord. His very prim wife was shocked. God was not pleased with her!

Thank God for my crazy encounter with the crapaud. Hopefully this will help to keep me sane! And if this foolish incident reminded Peter of me, it should also remind me to seek Christ both in the serious and amusing incidents in life. Incidentally, I have drawn this cartoon of a ridiculous elderly priest -me -meeting a crapaud early in the morning in the W. Indies. I'm not sure which of us is more bewildered! Me or the crapaud?

Isidore Clarke O.P.

Next week Peter will reflect on “Aged to Perfection”


  1. I had my own incidence with a tree frog in the bathroom that surprised was just after I had given a little pep talk to a friend about Theresa Avila telling us to "pay no attention to the reptiles in the outer mansions." Well, I figured I got one in my inner home's mansion! After I recovered from the shock and disgust, (uhmmmm, we'll just say it accosted me...) I could actually laugh about it...Praise God!!

  2. Thank God that our priests have such a sense of humour.It makes me love and trust them all the more!
    I know that I can easily become very self-righteous and inward looking when I take myself too seriously and need God to bring me down to earth.
    Fr Isidore is a talented cartoonist and looks kinda cute!