For those who are reading this from another country, Frank Skinner is a popular British comedian. He is also a mass-going Catholic. He has recently remarked on the generally poor quality of priests' homilies. My initial reaction to this was to think, "actually Frank, I don't think you are all that funny" (I don't as it happens). However, I think Frank has a point because I'm sure that many other mass-goers feel the same. At the New Dawn Conference, Charles Whitehead (a layman) began his talk with a joke. Before the priest began his homily, he took off his watch and laid it on top of the lectern. A little boy turned to his father and said, "Dad, what does that mean?" The father replied, "Absolutely nothing!" Frank said that the problem with many homilies is that there are too many ideas being presented; one idea is enough. In one of his excellent books, the late Fr. Leo Trese (from the 50s and early 60s) said that, (as far as I remember) according to scientists, the human mind could not concentrate on more than one thing for more than 30 seconds. Personally, when listening to other priest's homilies, I get a bit annoyed if they last longer than ten minutes. For me, that is the optimum (though I know, on rare occasions I have gone over that myself).
Admitting that Frank has a good point, I feel I also have to say that I have problems with Frank Skinner's style of comedy. He says that his comedy is about his life, implying, I think, that if we do not like his comedy we probably do not have much time for him. This suggests an element of insecurity - and I think it shows. He also says that if he can put up with the Catholic Church's "homophobia", it ought to be able to put up with some of his dirty jokes. This is a bad argument because it is dishonest. It rests on a slogan based on myth, not on truth. On the whole I feel sorry for Frank. I believe he is, deep down, an honest guy, perhaps trying to understand himself and the world around him, but there seem to be some deep seated problems there. Of course, if he reads this he will either laugh it off or, even, raise two fingers to it. If he does read it I want to say that I like him and pray for him, but I don't like his brand of comedy. On the whole I find it demeaning and undignified. If that is drawn from his life I see no reason to celebrate it. There is a need for humour as a safety valve and a way to deal with the pain, but ultimately it is not the answer either for him or for the rest of us. For humour to be truly healing it has to be based on more than pain and a clever wit (which he has). Ultimately it must point to the joy that we have in our Creator and the joy that He has in us.