What? No laughing? Surely you jest…

“Not to speak words that are vain
or apt to provoke laughter,
not to love frequent or raucous laughter.
(cf. 2 Tim 2:16, Sir 21:23; Rule of Benedict 4.#)

StBenedict’s words against laughter are central to Umberto Eco‘s The Name of the Rose.  A literal interpretation strikes at the heart of community life and the human spirit, even unto death.

A better interpretation recognizes varieties of laughter. Toddlers’ antics evoke smiles everywhere. It is healthy to find humor, rather than drama, in the foibles of everyday life. Teasing or practical jokes can be unkind; perhaps StBenedict had that in mind. Surely he is thinking of the crushing effect of hostile humor (ridicule, taunting).  The Rule prompts us to discern carefully, that even our laughter have a share of holiness.

(Never read The Name of the Rose?  The book has great depth – far beyond the film adaptation – but either shows the grim consequences of a poor interpretation of StBenedict’s words.)

Tooling Through Lent is a series of brief reflections on Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict, The Tools for Good Works.

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