A Comedian and a Cardinal Open Up on Spirituality, By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
“Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life” is a book written by the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest who moderated the wildly popular meeting between Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, and the famous Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report”. The meeting took place at Fordham University, and the topic was how joy and humor inspired their spiritual lives.
“The comedian Stephen Colbert and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York bantered onstage Friday night before 3,000 cheering, stomping, chanting students at Fordham University, in what might have been the most successful Roman Catholic youth evangelization event since Pope John Paul IIlast appeared at World Youth Day.
The evening was billed as an opportunity to hear two Catholic celebrities discuss how joy and humor infuse their spiritual lives. They both delivered, with surprises and zingers that began the moment the two walked onstage. Mr. Colbert went to shake Cardinal Dolan’s hand, but the cardinal took Mr. Colbert’s hand and kissed it — a disarming role reversal for a big prelate with a big job and a big ring.
The event would not have happened without its moderator, the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and prolific author who has made it his mission to remind Catholics that there is no contradiction between faithful and funny. His latest book is “Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life.”
Father Martin said in an interview earlier this week that the idea came from two young theology professors at Fordham. The university’s president, the Rev. Joseph M. McShane, invited Cardinal Dolan to participate, and he readily accepted. Father Martin, who has made enough appearances on “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central to earn the title “official chaplain,” invited Mr. Colbert. The event was announced with much fanfare by Fordham, and CNN was considering broadcasting it, Father Martin said. But then the university announced that it was closed to the media, without any explanation. Three thousand students and faculty members filled the Rose Hill Gymnasium, stomping on the bleachers, doing the wave and chanting “Ste-PHEN” like the revved-up audiences for Mr. Colbert’s studio show…Mr. Colbert shed his character for the evening and offered several sincere insights into how he manages to remain a faithful Catholic while making fun of his own religion and most others.
He said he did not make jokes about the sacraments, or put a picture of the crucifixion on screen. But he said he liked to poke fun at the use and misuse of religion, especially in politics. “Then I’m not talking about Christ,” he said, “I’m talking about Christ as cudgel.”
He is raising his children as Catholics, and he teaches Sunday school at his parish in New Jersey. “The real reason I remain a Catholic is what the church gives me, which is love,” he said…The audience sent in questions by Twitter and e-mail, which Father Martin pitched to the two men. Among them: “I am considering the priesthood. Would it be prudent to avoid dating?”
Cardinal Dolan responded that, on the contrary, “it’s good” to date, partly to discern whether the celibate life of a priest is what you want. Then he added, “By the way, let me give you the phone numbers of my nieces.”…Another question was even more pointed: “So many Christian leaders spread hatred, especially of homosexuals. How can you maintain your joy?”Cardinal Dolan responded with two meandering anecdotes — one about having met this week with Muslim leaders, and another about encountering demonstrators outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
But Mr. Colbert’s response was quick and unequivocal. “If someone spreads hate,” he said, “then they’re not your religious leader.”
An excellent article about three wonderful men!
Level: Intermediate -Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video.
Objective: Students will read the article with a focus on reading comprehension and new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through discussions, and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Tasks
- Prediction: Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Ask students to read the title of the post, and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them examine the photos. Based on these sources, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article. Have students use this great pre-reading organizer by Scholastic to assist them in finding the main ideas from the reading.
II. While Reading Tasks
- Vocabulary-Word Inference
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary or thesaurus for assistance.
- The comedian Stephen Colbert and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York bantered onstage…
- They both delivered, with surprises and zingers that began the moment the two walked onstage
- a disarming role reversal for a big prelate with a big job and a big ring.
- The event was announced with much fanfare by Fordham…
- …the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and prolific author
- “Are there flaws in the church?” Mr. Colbert said,
- He said he did not make jokes about the sacraments…
- “Consubstantial!” Mr. Colbert exclaimed, using a particularly cumbersome word that is now recited in the Nicene Creed.
- I am considering the priesthood. Would it be prudent to avoid dating?
- Cardinal Dolan responded that… “it’s good” to date, partly to discern whether the celibate life of a priest is what you want.
- Questions for Reading Comprehension: True / False
Directions: The following statements were taken from the article. If a statement is true, students write (T) if a statement is false they write (F) and provide the correct answer from the article.
- The comedian Stephen Colbert and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York held their meeting at Harvard University.
- The third person who attended the meeting was the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and prolific author.
- Mr. Colbert went to shake Cardinal Dolan’s hand, but instead kissed Cardinal Dolan’s hand.
- “Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life.” is a book written by Cardinal Dolan.
- Father Martin has made appearances on the “The Colbert Report” and on Comedy Central.
- Three thousand students and faculty members filled the Rose Hill Gymnasium to see the event.
- During the meeting an editor from the Catholic magazine Commonweal sent out live posts on Twitter narrating the most memorable one-liners.
- Colbert stated that there were no flaws in the church, only great beauty.
- Mr. Colbert is the youngest of 5 children, raised by Catholic parents who both attended Catholic colleges.
- Colbert is raising his children as Catholics, and he teaches Sunday school at his parish in New Jersey.
- Mr. Colbert used his time onstage with the cardinal to air his complaints about the new building at the university.
Grammar Focus: Using Adjectives to describe a photo.
Directions: Have students choose a picture from this lesson and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives. For a review of Adjectives visit ESL Voices Grammar
III. Post Reading Tasks
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
- Essay Writing
Directions: Have students choose one of the prompts and write an essay.
Have students review ESL Voices Modes of Essay Writing.
- Stephen Colbert made the following statement, “Are there flaws in the church?”… “Absolutely. But is there great beauty in the church? Absolutely.” How would you put this into your own words? Provide examples to demonstrate your point.
- This meeting was between three men of the Catholic faith. together, they believe that there are some elements of humor to be found in their religion. How do you think people from different faiths would view this idea of humor in religion? What about other Catholics?
- Mr. Colbert made the following comment, “If someone spreads hate, then they’re not your religious leader.” Write an essay in which you provide examples illustrating his comment.
- Can you see humor in religion? Write an essay in which you support or refute this idea. Provide examples to support your view.
IV. Listening Activity – The Colbert Report: Stephen Colbert Interviews Father James Martin.
“Stephen Tyrone Colbert is an American political satirist, writer, comedian, television host, and actor. He is the host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, a satirical news show in which Colbert portrays a caricatured version of conservative political pundits…”read more
In this interview from his popular show The Colbert Report, Stephen interviews Father James Martin.
- While Listening Tasks
Directions: Students listen for the correct word or phrase to complete the sentences. They are to choose the words and phrases from the choices offered.
1. During his introduction Colbert stated that he checks the cover of___.
a- Time magazine
2. He checks the cover to see if___.
a-a new story is on it
b-someone he knows is on it
c- he’s on it.
3. The topic story of the magazine was about___.
b- Mother Teresa
4. The article contained recently disclosed___written by the nun.
5. They revealed that Mother Teresa spent 50 years without sensing the presence of___ in her life.
6. Colbert responded with, if God doesn’t exist then who’s ___when it thunders?
7. “My Life With the Saints” is the name of the book written by___.
b- Father Martin
c- Mother Teresa
8. Colbert told Father Martin was he shocked that Mother Teresa was in___.
9. Father Martin ___with Colbert.
10. Colbert asked why did Mother Teresa go to___?
- Post-Listening Tasks
Directions: After the video place students in groups and have them create a list of questions that they would like to ask the speakers.
ANSWER KEY: Cardinal Dolan & Stephen Colbert: “Between Heaven and Mirth
Please come back again.