Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Between Heaven and Mirth-A Book Review

Fr. James Martin, SJ has this theory that a joyful nature will attract others to the Catholic faith. By taking a look at his Facebook page and seeing that he has over 7400 likes, I'd say he's got that theory nailed!

I've been a fan of Fr. Martin for quite a while, ever since I read his books This Our Exile and My Life With the Saints. Last year I had the opportunity to hear him speak at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's Pallium Lecture Series and laughed out loud during his entire program. The man clearly has a great sense of humor and knows how to tell a joke.

I'd been in a particularly low and lousy mood not so long ago and it was during that dark time that I received an email from Trish Collins at TLC Book Tours asking me to review Fr. Martin's latest book Between Heaven and Mirth. I thought it was a providential sign from God that it was time to crack a smile once again. And crack a smile I did, and then some, upon reading Between Heaven and Mirth!

Still feeling a bit joyless when the book arrived in the mail, it took me a chapter or two to really get into it. I thought, "What's so funny about a book that reads like a textbook with footnotes and an index?" It seemed a bit complicated for my dull senses and to top it off, I sensitively took the the first few chapters personally as I felt quite well described by his negative words about religious people who are prudish, touchy, irritable and serious seeing as that was the particular state of mind I was in at the time I received the book. This just seemed to reinforce my bad mood and I thought that if I were to ever meet Fr. Martin in real life, he probably wouldn't approve of my petulant and negative nature.

But after I got past the first few chapters I began to lighten up and enjoy the book. Fr. Martin's joyful spirit was proving to be contagious! I particularly enjoyed his anecdotes about his own personal failings and how he found the humor in them as well as the occasions where he pointed to scripture passages that seemed to tickle his funny bone. My favorite was the example about Jonah trying to hide from God so as to avoid preaching to the people of Nineveh and God's great comeback: "And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city {as if I need to remind you}, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?" The humor in this passage is even more evident in the NAB version read at Mass just this past 5th of October which uses "cattle" instead of "animals" as if cattle are much more important than any other animal!

But by far my favorite chapter came towards the end of the book-I'm Not Funny and My Life Stinks-in which Fr. Martin acknowledges the fact that sometimes in life we do have just cause for sorrow and he offers concrete examples of how to survive that sorrow with a joyful spirit. His practical advice from St. Ignatius on the daily examination of conscience in which we are called to "savor" the events in our days for which we are grateful was, to me, the most helpful and uplifting advice this often malcontented Catholic has ever read. I particularly love the saintly quote in this chapter: "Do not become upset when difficulty comes your way. Laugh in its face and know that you are in the arms of God." ~St. Francis de Sales

If, like me, your personality tends to focus on the negative and you are easily brought low by the difficult events in life, you will find that Between Heaven and Mirth might be just the antidote to your depressive nature, and who knows, maybe even your "animals" will be rejuvenated by your more lively spirit! I rejoice in the gift of Fr. Martin and his lovely book Between Heaven and Mirth!

You can read further reviews at the following blogs:

Tuesday, October 4th: JonathanFSullivan.com
Wednesday, October 5th: Scrutinies
Thursday, October 6th: Oh Mandie
Tuesday, October 11th: Imprisoned in My Bones
Monday, October 17th: The Curt Jester
Tuesday, October 18th: Elizabeth Esther
Wednesday, October 19th: The House of the Seven Tails
Thursday, October 20th: Vox Nova
Monday, October 24th: Happy Catholic
Tuesday, October 25th: imperfect prose
Thursday, October 27th: Mom’s Mustard Seeds
Friday, October 28th: A Catholic Life
Monday, October 31st: Why I Am Catholic


  1. Great review. I love Father Martin and have read all of his books so will get this one too! Thanks Anne!

  2. I'm so glad that Trish's email arrived at the right time and that you decided to give this book a shot. It is such a blessing with the right book comes along a the right time!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.