The Gospel according to Erma Bombeck


The late, beloved humorist Erma Bombeck (1927-1996) achieved great popularity for her syndicated newspaper column and bestselling books. She was a member of the United Brethren Church, but later converted to Catholicism. In 1984, Bombeck contributed the following introduction to JN Editor Cal Samra's book, The Joyful Christ: The Healing Power of Humor (Harper Collins), which became a bestseller and launched The Joyful Noiseletter. The book is a tribute to a group of merry-hearted friars at an Arizona retreat center who rescued Samra from a suicidal depression by reigniting his faith and his sense of humor and viewing Jesus as a loving, joyful Christ. The book may be ordered from Amazon.)

By Erma Bombeck


I am a great believer in the premise that humor heals. I have nothing to back it up physically, but emotionally I have file drawers of pure testimonials.

I've always wanted to teach a course on marriage, because you could pretty well judge who is going to survive a short wife who puts the car seat up under the steering wheel and never puts it back, and who refuses to put it back.

I've had pitiful letters from people who swear they don't have a sense of humor and want to know how to develop one, because they've heard how much of a stabilizer one is. And they're right. What I have been doing for 16 years in my column is to put my life in perspective, the frustration of raising children, the loneliness, the pain, and the futility of it all. And it works.

Last week, I got a great letter from a woman celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary. She said a lot of young people wondered how it lasted so long. She wrote: "For years, Herb and I both lusted after the cauliflower in the mixed pickle jar. Herb does not know this ‒ I've always let him have the cauliflower."

One of the favorite stories I used to tell when I lectured was the Supermom who is perfection itself. She did everything right: Kept a perfect home; kept her husband happy. Always had a copy of Bishop Fulton Sheen's latest book on the coffee table. And answered the door pregnant when the priest came by.

One day, I asked her how she did it, and she said: "I emulate the Blessed Virgin Mary," and I said, "Marge, it's a little bit late for that."

She said, "Very well, I'll tell you. Every evening, when the children are bathed and tucked into their clean little beds, and the lunches are lined up and labeled and packed in the refrigerator, and the little shoes are racked up, and the driveway is waxed, and I've heard all the prayers of the children, I fall down on my knees and say, "Thank you, God, for not letting me kill one of them today."

I would see an auditorium of women breathe a sigh of relief.

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