Tom Foolerary

TOMFOOLERYMy mother wanted Frank for my name but my dad insisted on Tom.  I’m glad that he won.  It’s hard to be frank and serious when an abundance of humor in our world is always needed.

It begins with yourself and it is the healthy ability to muse over things you consider imminently important but in reality are just passing inconveniences.  This just can’t be good for your heart when the minor stuff stuffs up your life.

I like to think of myself as having a life perspective that neither begins nor ends with me.  It is a warning that always takes me away from myself and into the situations and lives of people around me.  My enjoyment is triggering a quick smile or unleashing a deep laughter.  The sounds it creates can warm the cockles of anyone.  (What are cockles anyway?  The dictionary says an “edible, burrowing bivalve mollusk with a strong ribbed shell.”  Its relationship to warmth eludes me.)

Puns are the silliest of humorous elocution.  I rarely use them.  People reduce themselves when using them.  Those forced to hear puns seem to be either amused or annoyed by them.

The special laughing release is reserved for irony.  It starts with a deep-felt roar in your stomach and then quickly moves its way to a rousing laughter that only puns can envy.  You can try to stop it but you can’t, it only take seconds before it happens.

Our lives are full of ironies that lie in wait until a connection between that and what this should be is made.  Once that connection is connected and shared is the time when jollification begins.  Priests, as I’m sure many others, take their professions much too seriously and at their own peril.  The world did not begin with me nor will will end with my wise and carefully chosen words.  The ironic part of my profession rests in its irony and I often laugh about it to myself.  (I’m quite thankful for that.)

We like to imagine ourselves as stable, consistent, in-control folks when realities are strewn with confusion, misunderstandings and misconceptions.  We can only laugh it up to our own limited and, often times, senseless lives.  The biggest laughs I receive arise from irony and its attempt to connect to the unconnected.

A friend asked me how she could be funnier in the classroom.  I smiled to her and wondered how you teach humor, how do you teach irony.  (I find that it’s ironic, in itself.)

An observation made at a funeral, of all places, can lighten depression and express our own mortality while grieving the loss of a good friend.  A sly remark can switch a meeting that is going nowhere back to the matters at hand.  An off handed thought can liberate an awkward moment between two strangers.

It’s been said that for every tragedy Shakespeare wrote, he wrote a comedy.  What a better summation for our planned and organized and surprisingly spontaneous journey through life.

So please let me be Frank with you in saying that my name is Tom and it’ll never change; Foolerary is the family name.

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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