Find Your Inner Iggy

Focused on Joy

by James Martin, SJ

J-Martin-Quote-Main“Laugh and grow strong.”
— St. Ignatius of Loyola

Did St. Ignatius Loyola, the famously austere founder of the Jesuit Order, really say “Laugh and grow strong?” That was a quote I had never heard before, until my friends at Loyola Press told me that he did say that…or he may have said that…or that it’s attributed to him.

Even if he didn’t say it, he was right! And much of Ignatian spirituality is focused on joy. In his famous text, the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius spends a good deal of time asking us to imagine the appearances of the Risen Christ to his disciples—something that was surely joyful.

Plus, Ignatius himself liked to cheer up downcast Jesuits by dancing a little jig, to get them to smile. He had a dry sense of humor, too.

Soon after he founded the Jesuits, Ignatius heard of one bishop who didn’t like the Jesuits, and refused to have any of them in his diocese.

When asked about this opposition, Ignatius said, “The bishop is old. The Jesuits are young. We can wait!” That probably provoked at least a few smiles.

Laughter is an important part of anyone’s spirituality. It is essential to maintaining a healthy outlook on life. If you can’t laugh at life’s absurdities, you’ll find yourself growing cold and bitter. And if you can’t laugh at yourself, you’ll find yourself incapable of change.

So if Ignatius could point us to joy, why not laugh yourself? As Ignatius said — or didn’t — laugh and grow strong!

How is humor a part of your spirituality?

How can you make someone else smile today?

Iggy and his pal Jim Martin, SJ

Iggy and his pal Jim Martin, SJ

James Martin, SJ, is a Jesuit priest, editor at large at America magazine and author of My Life with the Saints.

Tagged on:

11 thoughts on “Focused on Joy

  1. Sharon

    I find my “Iggy Joy” when serving meals at the Saints Peter and Paul Warming Center in downtown Detroit to the homeless guests that come to us. Many of them are so kind and appreciative. They often remark on my smile and my “head wrap” (to keep my hair out of the food) with sincere compliments. That only causes me to smile all the more. Although I’m tired at the end of my service, I am profoundly joyful. AMDG.

  2. Mary Ann McKendry

    So happy to read this. I often feel our faith has a “heaviness” to it and I truly believe God wants us to be joyful. Just look at all the wonderful gifts he has given us. Thank you for sharing. It made me smile :)

  3. Brigid

    Thinking about joy and humor in the spiritual life always brings me back to Chesterton. Cardinal Wuerl’s new book on the Holy Spirit quotes Kafka on Chesterton: “He is so happy! I can almost believe he has found God.”

    I agree with you, Father, that maintaining a light view of ourselves and the world makes us better able to move through the world in a more open way. I find that not taking the minutia of my daily concerns to seriously helps me focus on the more important concerns of the next world and God’s desires for my energy rather than my own plans.

  4. Ellen

    I do believe that laughter is essential in order to live a balanced life. I love the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I wasn’t aware, until now, that he was such a ‘jokester’! I’d like to share a poem I wrote about laughter…….
    To Laugh Or Not To Laugh
    Laugh at me or laugh with me
    It’s really up to you.
    I prefer the latter,
    It’s the ‘funner’ thing to do!

    Is it funny, is it not?
    Depends on how you see.
    But, a little bit of laughter
    Can fill a room with glee!

    Text someone an ‘lol!’,
    Or simply say ‘haha!’,
    Either way, it’ll make ‘me smile,
    Instead of ‘wah, wah, wah!’

    So try a little laughter,
    And do it right away!
    It’s sure to change your outlook,
    And brighten up your day!

    Ps. Fr. James, I read your book, Between Heaven and Mirth…..Loved it!

  5. Amy Peltz

    I often intuitively know that God is laughing with me when I laugh, especially with friends. Just as He knows our sorrows, so He shares in our laughter!

  6. Sharon Smith

    I have ALWAYS thought God wanted us to have a sense of humor. It is the ACE tool to coping with life. ‘He’ wants us to be happy and be able to deal with life’s unexpected pitfalls. Joy is the presence of God in us.

  7. Pingback: Jen Goes Zen A Lifestyle Blog With Spirit

  8. Eibhlin

    I agree with Mary Ann! Our faith need not have this ‘heaviness’ around it. Thank you Fr. Jim for reminding us of this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *