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Joy and Spirituality
By Sister Mary Christelle Macaluso R.S.M., O.F.N., Ph.D.

"A merry heart does like good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22). Although this verse was written 3,000 years ago, it reflects knowledge discovered through fairly recent scientific investigations (known as pyschoneuroimmunology-PNI). Namely, immune cells are produced in the bone marrow, depressed people have weakened immune systems, and humor is good for your health. In Old Testament times there was a basic understanding of a human being as whole—spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally.

Having drifted away from holistic thinking into dualistic thinking, medicine began to treat the human person totally from the physical aspect. Man was a machine. One’s thoughts, emotions, or spirituality had no effect on health. Yet the human person in not just a collection of cells into tissues, tissues into organs, organs into systems, and systems into a body. A human person is greater than the sum of his/her parts. A recent issue of Mind/Body Health Newsletter (1999, vol. 7(1): 2) reported that happy thoughts doubled IGA in 20 minutes and remained 60% higher 3 hrs. after the experiment began. Yes, the mind and body are connected!

Joy in the spirit is empowering. Computer research of the frequency of words used in the Bible found "joy" mentioned 250 times, "sorrow" 40 and "sadness" only once! Martin Luther said that if there is no laughter in heaven he did not want to go there! A Jewish proverb states "What soap is to the body laughter is to the soul."

Psalms (118:24) states "This is the day, which the Lord has made: let us be glad and rejoice in it!" It does not say "let us gripe" and "wallow" in it! In Proverbs 15:30 "A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones [immune system]." With the latter in mind, listening to all the negative news reports is not the best for our well-being! St. Augustine said, "Learn to dance, otherwise the angels in heaven won’t know what to do with you!" Out of the Book of Sirach (30:21-25) comes the following. "Do not abandon yourself to sorrow. Do not torment yourself with brooding. Gladness of heart is life to a person. Joy is what gives someone length of days…Jealousy and anger shorten your days and worry brings premature age." The holy writers definitely knew a human being was a whole person and not just a body.

Religious art is beginning to reflect the importance of joy. Pictures of Christ can now be seen where He is actually smiling, as the "Laughing Christ" by Willis Wheatley and "The Risen Christ by the Sea" by Jack Jewell. For some reason religion and expression of it have always been so very serious. Can not one be spiritual and happy also? I call myself the "Fun Nun," and in the minds of most I am a living oxymoron! My first book, God Knows Best about Joy, was written with the purpose of introducing people to passages in the Bible dealing with joy and laughter. Around 100 passages are quoted from Old and New Testaments, but there are many more. In holy writings from other religions I am confident that passages can be found reflecting the joy of the human spirit. So cheer up, as each day is priceless and we need to rejoice in it!

Copyright, The Fun Nun, Sister Mary Christelle Macaluso R.S.M., O.F.N., Ph.D.

The Fun Nun is a full-time professional speaker and member of the National Speakers Association (NSA).  For more information contact her at E-mail:  funnun@csm.edu, Web Site:  www.FUNNUN.com, Phone:  402-399-2474, Address:  College of Saint Mary, Omaha, NE 68124-2377 USA.

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