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4/25/2014 1:59:00 PM
Bishop Smith's humor helps relieve tensions, difficulty
Catholic Sentinel photos by Bob Kerns
Bishop Smith shows his latest humor kick — Dilbert.
Catholic Sentinel photos by Bob Kerns
Bishop Smith shows his latest humor kick — Dilbert.
 Nelson Mandela hands rugby cup to South Africa team captain.
 Nelson Mandela hands rugby cup to South Africa team captain.
+ view more photos
Archbishop Alexander Sample and Bishop Peter Smith meet at pastoral center.
Bishop still a fan of the sport of his youth
Like most South Africans, Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith is a sports fan. He played rugby through his high school years. He says he was an average player, and has followed the sport since.

Rugby, a full-contact style of football also known as “footy," was introduced to South Africa by the British colonists.

Bishop Smith said he usually played on the side of the scrum. During the scrum, the forwards bind together, with arms around one another, into rows. The big, defensive players interlock heads with the opposing team’s defense while smaller, faster players push the ball through the mass of players.  

Many rules dictate what can be done during a scrum, but to the uninitiated, the play looks a bit like a chaotic dogpile.

Rugby helped bond a divided country following the end of apartheid. Even though South Africa had helped create the Rugby World Cup, the nation’s team wasn’t allowed to play in the competition until the mid-1990s because of anti-apartheid sporting boycotts.

When the team made its 1995 debut in the competition, the world cup was the country’s first major sporting event to take place.

The South Africans defeated New Zealand in the finals, and then-President Nelson Mandela presented the cup to the team’s captain.

Bishop Smith has the collared team shirt of his home province team, the Sharks, as well as one with the colors of the Springboks, the South African national team. Springboks are medium-sized antelope-gazelles that can jump 13 feet in the air and runs 60 miles per hour in sprints, faster even if they are being pursued by cheetahs.

Jon DeBellis
Of the Catholic Sentinel

Ordination to the Episcopate
Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith

2 p.m., April 29
St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

For Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith, a sense of humor always helps with difficulties in life.

“You have to be able to laugh at yourself, at things in life and with others,” he says.

The bishop has always enjoyed good humor, and his smile can be seen beaming around the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center these days. As a boy he would gather around the family radio to listen to the Goon Show, an English humor show starring Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, and Harry Seacomb. The show launched Sellers into his comedy career and set the tone for generations of English humorists.

“He and my other brothers would memorize whole sections of these shows,” says his sister, Kathy Thornburg. “They would sometimes get going at the dinner table reciting these sections with the appropriate accents and sound effects. We would laugh so hard we would almost fall off our chairs.”
Bishop Smith also enjoyed the comedic stylings of Mr. Bean, Blackadder, and Keeping Up Appearances.
His interest in comedy also spans the different places he has lived. In South Africa, it was the comic strip Madam and Eve poking fun at local life that brought him chuckles. He also watched South African stand-up comedians parodying the South African scene over the years.
While in the United States, his ear for humor leaned toward the comic strips The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes. The bishop has complete editions of both series. These days he’s an avid follower of the office parody comic strip Dilbert.

Although humor is important to him, the bishop admits that the business of making others laugh can have its challenges.

“The challenge with humor is that at some point humorists begin to lose their edge and then some resort to crudities and crude humor,” said Bishop Smith. “At that point they have lost what they originally had. Others like the folks behind The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes recognize that and stop, going out on a high.”
A humorless life is not one for the new bishop. He plans to rely on his sense of humor to get him through new challenges, just like he has his whole life.

“At some moments in life humor can be wonderful in diffusing tensions, relaxing us, and helping keep things in perspective,” said Bishop Smith.

“If I have had a really stressful day, I often turn to humor (after prayer) as a way of relaxing.”

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• Bishop's coat of arms pays tribute to homeland

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, April 28, 2014
Article comment by: Ricardo Alcocer

When people say of any priest, "He makes me laugh", I pray for him. Of any priest I'd rather hear, "He makes me prayerful", or "He makes me distainful of sin".

Perhaps I'm an old Catholic "sourpuss". I understand where Jesus wept but cannot find it written that Jesus joked. Neither are we told, "Take up your cross, follow me... and whistle a happy tune!"

I used to be quite silly myself. My laughter had no virtue, only distraction. Joy in Christ our redeemer needs no punchline. Priests, I pray, be courageously serious for the salvation of souls.

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