Jim Gaffigan, an American stand-up comedian, actor, author and a proud Catholic father lives with his beautiful wife, actress Jeannie Noth, and their 5 children in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City. He is known for his routines relating to being lazy, and eating food, especially Hot Pockets, cake and bacon… just another everyday comedian?
Besides his gift of comedy, I couldn’t help but noticing a beautiful sense of Catholic humanity in Gaffigan, a certain sense of calm calamity.
Like many of us, allured by worldly control, he went for “suit” success. But he failed miserably. Even now as a successful comedian, one look at his apartment confirms his aptitude for chaos is still going strong.
Yet, taking a moment to reflect, one word comes to mind: order. Perhaps Jim Gaffigan is one of the most orderly men that I have seen. What makes me say that? The goofy look of joy while navigating the typhoon of 5 children on scooters. “I have no idea what I am doing,” he says. The perfect response of a good father who understands that a healthy dash of ignorance is always included in the recipe for wisdom.
Josef Piper, a well-known Catholic philosopher, once said, “Real man is a being by nature given to shattering emotion.” What does it mean? Man is meant for the storm. He is was meant for the ups and downs, the sharp curves and unexpected landslides: the all-nighters with the crying son or daughter, the pasta-projectiles in the kitchen, the frightening surprise of medical bills that leave one on his knees praying for Providence, the almost ecstatic, yet terrifying feeling that comes when you hear you are having another child, etc… Modern man, on the contrary, prides (fools) himself on his inner resistance to the crashing tides of life. Armed with a framed diploma, synchronized calendars, a solid 401k, YMCA gym membership for health concerns, a professional psychiatrist on speed-dial for any emergencies, and a fluffy dog to take care of any low-level affectionate crisis, he is imperturbable. Things are in order.
Yet, is this truly human? Is this an ordered life? From a Catholic standpoint, order lives, above all, in the interior. Order means my interior responds faithfully to the order of being, to the order of how things are in reality. That means we don’t control reality, rather we respond to it. And we aren’t at the top of that order. God is and He works and speaks to us all the time in our daily lives. Peace means giving up control– not clawing for it– and putting our lives in his hands. So where does Gaffigan come in?
I see him as someone unafraid of being touched by reality. Someone unafraid of the passio amoris. Here passio doesn’t mean passion in the sense of excessive vehemence; rather, it means only that one is seized by a superior force, that one is carried away by something.” Ratzinger interprets Plato’s though in a similar way saying that the encounter with beauty “is the salutary emotional shock that snatches man out of himself and ‘carries him away’ .” (Ratzinger)
[pullquote align=”right”]”Real man is a being by nature given to shattering emotion.”[/pullquote]
Gaffigan is a normal guy that sought happiness in worldly control. Thank God he was horrible at! (Be wary, those who are good at it!) He was miserable, reality struck him. It hurt. He was lost. Then he allowed himself to get carried away by something greater, a Plan greater than his one, a thing, or a person, called Love: love for himself (reconciling with himself, with his own goodness and talents) love for a beautiful woman, love for an awesome family, and at the foundation of it all, love for a sometimes crazy-seeming God. Many times God’s Plan for our lives seems crazy and disordered. When saying our, “yes”– our fiat– to Him, we almost can’t help but think, “I can’t believe I am saying this, but yes!” Yet amongst the craziness, there is a deeper ordis and a deeper joy. Love that comes before everything else. Love that shatters so as to put the pieces in their authentic place; that is order (Mt 10:39). It’s crazy enough to laugh at, but beautiful enough to leave myself asking if maybe I should be a bit more Jim Gaffigan.
True knowledge is being struck by the arrow of beauty that wounds man: being touched by reality, “by the personal presence of Christ himself”… (Ratzinger, On the Way to Jesus Christ)
Here’s a preview of Jim Gaffigan’s brand new stand-up special “Mr. Universe.”
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