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  • Writer's pictureDavid OMalley

Cheer up its a new term!

Joy and humour

Pleasure can be provided and pain can sometimes be avoided but joy is always a gift that resonates deep within the spirit of people. Salesian holiness is the result of the virtue of hope based on a Gospel that leads to resurrection. It was that cheerful hope that motivated Don Bosco to work tirelessly for young people and to unlock joy in their lives.

The young person who feels he is in a state of grace with God naturally experiences joy in the certainty that he possesses a good that is completely within his reach, and he expresses this state of pleasure in cheerfulness" (John Bosco, Vita del Giovanetto Savio Domenico, Opere Edite, XI, p. 236).

It is clear that Don Bosco regarded balanced cheerfulness as a sign of faith and health in a young person. In emphasising this he is echoing the thoughts of St Philip Neri:

Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and helps us to persevere. A servant of God ought always to be in good spirits. Charity and cheerfulness should always be our motto. Maxims of St Philip Neri.

Gerald Bessiere notes in his extended work on humour that:

Humour is a quiver of transcendence within the weight of humankind.[1] It reminds us that our own story is but a part of a much bigger narrative, and that we can only make sense of our own predicament by seeing it in proportion to the story of God and God’s people. It helps us to make sense of life’s incongruities

The vital element of play in the preventive system becomes a place to make joy and cheerfulness visible. Plato pointed out that you can find more about another person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. So, cheerfulness and play become building blocks for community as well as expressions of faith that all will be well.

In scriptural terms we have probably lost a sense of the joy of the Gospel over past centuries. The Gospel narratives were focused originally on the passion narratives that were available to the evangelist and so there is perhaps an understandable emphasis on suffering that may detract from a more buoyant three years of Jesus’ ministry. That tendency is still with us today in a difficulty in getting beyond the empty tomb and to resurrection.

Thomas Merton writes:

The cult of the holy sepulchre is Christian only so far as it is the cult of the place where Christ is no longer found. It can be valid only on one condition: that we are willing to move on. To follow Jesus to Galilee.

Too often our culture, our religious lives and our own inner world can get caught up with the tomb, with loss, sadness and darkness. It is then that we lose energy, cheerfulness and optimism because Jesus is not there. He has moved on and we must follow in humility and trust.


  • When did you last have a good laugh in school? How did it feel?

  • · Where are the tombs of sadness that have trapped you in the last academic year?

  • · How do you see the resurrection at work in your own students and staff?

  • · The demented man in Mark 5.1-20 wandered the tombs and gashed himself with stones. Have you become a prey to despair or anger in school? Ask Jesus to teach you how to manage those times.


Don Bosco Letter from Rome 10 May 1884

If we can recognise an absence of joy our Salesian charism gives us the remedy:

If you want everyone to be of one heart and soul, for the love of Jesus you must break down this fatal barrier of mistrust, and replace it with a happy spirit of confidence. "How then are we to set about breaking down this barrier?" asked Valfre. By a friendly informal relationship, especially in recreation. You cannot have love without this familiarity, and where this is not evident there can be no confidence. If you want to be loved, you must make it clear that you love. Jesus Christ made himself little with the little ones and bore our weaknesses. He is our master in the matter of the friendly approach.

1. Where do you detect a “happy spirit of confidence” in your life in school and your family life?

2. Who, through friendly informal relationships re-awakens your joy and faith in yourself?

3. Who has confidence I you and draws life and strength from your cheerful optimism?

4. How far are you present to others in school as a life-giver?

5. Whose shoulder can you cry on?

6. Who always makes you smile?

Finally- A poem

Said the robin to the sparrow, “I should really like to know, Why these anxious human beings Rush about and worry so.”

Said the sparrow to the robin,

“Friend I think that it must be, That they have no Heavenly Father,

Such as cares for you and me.”

[1] Bessière, ‘Humour—A Theological Attitude?’ 90.

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