I am writing this during the last hours of Good Friday. The crude, empty cross of my parish has been changed this afternoon for one with Christ crucified, presiding over the temple. However, when you read this, it will be only a few hours before the celebration of the Easter Vigil, the grand Christian festival, the celebration of the Resurrection. Then we will intone a magnificent Gloria in excelsis deo and the light of the candles will put an end to the darkness of this day of restlessness and gloom.
During the past year, misfortunes have brought me closer to the cross than to Easter. Fortunately, this has not caused me to lose my sense of humor even in the most difficult circumstances, which is a disease I have not yet managed to cure. It seems to me that there is nothing more Christian than laughter in the midst of heartache. We are not crazy, we simply have a magical element, a kind of drug that many are unaware of, which is called hope. In hope, humor can emerge. Not in despair.
On November 28, 1936, in the middle of the Spanish Civil War, the anarcho-syndicalist militias shot the playwright and comedian Pedro Muñoz Seca, one of the funniest authors of the last century. He was killed for being right-wing, Catholic, and monarchist. At the moment of his execution, in front of the mob of enraged and hateful men, seconds before his death, he raised his voice to leave us another pearl of humor and hope that disconcerted his murderers: “You can take away my properties, my country, my fortune and even — as you are about to do — my life. But there is one thing you cannot take from me: the fear I feel at this moment!”
Almost all the saints have had a good sense of humor, sometimes even in unpleasant circumstances. John Paul II became Pope at age 58. At that time his doctors advised him to take care of himself and, in particular, to try to swim a bit, even daily, if possible. For this reason he had a swimming pool built at Castel Gandolfo. This idea met opposition from his collaborators in the Vatican, who saw the expense as wasteful and tried to dissuade the Pope from such a project. John Paul II insisted on his swimming pool with a comment that made everyone laugh: “A swimming pool to take care of the pope’s health is much cheaper than a pontifical funeral.” And, of course, there was a pool. And that Pope is now a saint.
The celebration of the Paschal Triduum is quite similar to the life of all men. There is no glory without pain, no reward without uncertainty and, if you will, no happiness without surrendering to love beforehand. A few days ago a guy was trying to discredit Catholic Holy Week in a progressive Spanish newspaper. He was supposed to be an intellectual: I think he defines himself as an “expert on Jesus.” His laughable article came to say that the big problem with Easter is that it is too focused on Jesus and that, on the other hand, the other two unfortunate chaps — the bad thief and the good thief — who died with him have been ignored. I had to rub my eyes several times, and later I dedicated an article to him in Spain, having a little laugh at his expense, whilst trying not to be too uncharitable. The truth is that now I think about it and I find myself quite indifferent to the fact that he does not know that Dismas is in fact Saint Dismas and that he is celebrated by Catholics in March. Or that he does not know that the small difference between the two thieves and Jesus is that the latter is God, died for us, and rose again on the third day as he had promised.
Yesterday, I realized that sectarianism and hatred can have us making big fools of ourselves. Of course, the fall to disgrace is that much greater when, as did this author, you present yourself as a great intellectual expert on Jesus. But the truth is that, ridicule aside, today I have come to the conclusion that it actually makes me sad: it is not that he does not have correct information about what happened and what we Catholics celebrate, it is that he has understood absolutely nothing at all. Thousands of Easters could pass under his nose and he would continue to live under the same lamp of darkness and gloom. Faith is a gift. And now that I have laughed enough at this author, I prefer to pity him, and thank the good Lord for having granted me faith.
A Spanish saint, contemplating the horrors and brutality of that Civil War which was in reality an extermination of Catholics, used to repeat: “we must drown evil in an abundance of good.” It is time for grace, it is time for good, it is time to dream of trying.
From the Spain of processions and living faith, with great affection to the precious American nation, happy Easter to all my friends at The American Spectator.
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