You must be kidding - praying with laughter

“You must be kidding ” –
praying by laughing…. !!

Centre piece at opening prayer of Provincial Assembly 2011


The opening prayer of our Irish/Scottish Provincial Assembly
in Emmaus, Dublin in February 2011 was
prayer with a difference.

magine beginning a prayer session with Mary Poppins "I love to laugh",
yet that is how Carmel Byrne rscj invited her sister rscj in the Irish/Scottish Province
to gather themselves.

She challenged us in this way to enter into
how God might see and delight in his creation and in all of us.

Mary Ethna McLoughlin rscj & Rita Kinch rscj

The prayer centred on the gift of laughter
to an old woman 4,000 years ago.

“Like all of us here, Sarah the wife of Abraham was well past child bearing years, but she was given the gift of new life, the gift of laughter.” 

The Mary Poppins’ tune
“I love to laugh”
at the beginning brought smiles
all around.
We were all invited to enjoy the gift of laughter
and to allow this to be a prayer in itself. We were reminded that many of us had travelled from many different parts of the world and put a lot of work and effort into preparing for those days, so now it was time to let go and let the Spirit /God do the work.

The invitation now was to express our ‘cor unum’ – being together - by relaxing, enjoying, by smiling, by laughing, by vibrating with God’s smile, God’s delight, God’s laughter.

Carmel recalled, something we all knew, the bible story of the birth of Isaac, where Sarah was beyond child bearing years and had given up all hope of having a child, yet God gifted her with a son Isaac. What most of us did not know was that
the name Isaac means laughter.

Cor Unum Centrepiece

One day when Sarah and Abraham were very old, Abraham received a revelation that Sarah would bear him a son.
On hearing this preposterous piece of news, Abraham fell to the ground in a fit of laughter.
It was the most absurd joke he had heard in all his 99 years.
When Sarah heard the news, she too laughed at such foolishness.

God said to Sarah

You shall call his name Isaac, that is Laughter.”

Monica McDonald rscj & Sandra McSheaffrey



A year later a son was born. Sarah and Abraham gave their son
the name Laughter. The child was circumcised Laughter,
when he was eight days old, as God had commanded.
Sarah was well beyond child bearing age when she had given birth to her son Laughter.

So the history of Israel begins with a joke,
a Divine Joke.
At first the laughter of Sarah and Abraham at this joke was not so much
a laughter of unbelief as one of disbelief –
as when you say ‘you must be kidding’.

Yet it was a laughter that became the laughter of faith. Sarah and Abraham would be less inclined in the future to declare the impossible and their laughter in turn would become the laughter of faith and hope for generations to follow.

When Isaac was born, Sarah exclaimed in amazement wonder and delight
“God has made laughter for me and all ye who see me will laugh over me”.

Moira Donnelly rscj & Alda Civiera rscj

Our situation in the Scottish province is similar to that of Sarah,
in that we are all beyond childbearing age
and we do not have young people following behind us in the family of the province, at present.
But God is here with us, laughing with delight
and wants us to vibrate with the same creative laughter.


Anne Roche rscj & Patricia North rscj
Anne Roche rscj, Kathleen Cronin rscj & Christine Triay rscj



With the following reflection questions we entered into reflection:

1. Can we open ourselves to God’s laughter and delight in our situation ?

2. Can we let ourselves vibrate with God’s laughter and delight?

3. Can we let the God of surprises generate new life in us and through us,
what may seem hilariously preposterous ways?

Pat Egan rscj & Teresa Deasy rscj


Through the gesture of holding hands with each other  at the table and risking the foolishness of laughing together, our prayer and experience was encouraged to deepen.


Silently, we were encouraged to become aware of how we felt then
in our own body, in our own psyche, allowing ourselves to be open to

Where God was in this laughter?

How God was looking at us now in this assembly?

How God was looking at us now as a province?


“During this Assembly may we like Sarah be quickened with new life,
so that with her we can say
God has made laughter for me, everyone who hears will laugh over me.”


We finished with an adapted version of peace is flowing like a river, as follows

Laughter is flowing like a river,
Flowing out of you and me,
Flowing out into the desert setting all the captives free

Let it flow through me,
Let it flow through me,
Let God’s lau- au- au-ghter flow out through me..

The Prayer Team at work
Mary Roe rscj, Carmel Byrne rscj, Moira Donnelly rscj


To explore Carmel's Workshop click Laughter and God