Stephen on faith and his own “dark night”

The marvelous folks at No Fact Zone have once again worked their web connections to get a heads-up on the upcoming feature in Parade magazine this weekend. I sometimes feel like I’m just following in their wake, unworthy to unfasten their collective sandal strap.

Humility aside, I gleaned some of the best quotes the Catholic Heroes will be interested in. The article and the behind-the-scenes outtakes from the interview offer some of the best insights I’ve seen yet on Stephen’s faith, particularly in light of the discussion of Mother Teresa with Fr. Jim Martin last Thursday.

From the article, via NFZ’s coverage:

Colbert was the youngest of 11 children growing up in Charleston, S.C. It was a big, bustling, Irish-Catholic family—”a humorocracy,” Colbert recalls. “Singing around the house highly encouraged.” On Sept. 11, 1974 everything changed. His father and two brothers were killed in a plane crash. With his other brothers and sisters either working or heading back to college that fall, the household was suddenly diminished to just two: 10-year-old Stephen and his mom. “The shades were down, and she wore a lot of black, and it was very quiet,” he remembers. “She was a daily communicant, and many times I was too. It was a constant search for healing. My mother gave that gift to all of us. I am so blessed to have been the child at home with her.”

Always a devout Catholic, Colbert lost his faith after graduating from college. “I was very depressed about it,” he says. “I wanted the idea that I would see my father and brothers again, and it was heartbreaking to think that that wouldn’t happen.” Then, one winter day, as Colbert walked down a street in Chicago, a Gideon handed him a Bible. “It was so cold I had to crack the pages,” he recalls. “I flipped it open, and it had a list of things to read about if you were feeling different ways. Under ‘Anxiety,’ it said ‘Matthew V,’ the Sermon on the Mount.” He paraphrases: “‘Who among you by worrying can change a hair on his head?’ It spoke to me.”

….Now living in New Jersey with his wife and three kids, Colbert says he just wants to be normal. “To have a wife and kids, and live in a suburban house, and wear khaki pants, and pick them up from the dry cleaner—I don’t see anything wrong with that. I think a lot of people who perform have a fear of being ordinary. They confuse ordinary with common.”

This uncommon man even manages, when he can find the time, to teach Sunday school. Colbert remembers the lesson of the Sermon on the Mount: “That’s being fearless,” he says. “Not living in fear is a great gift, because certainly these days we do it so much. And do you know what I like about comedy? You can’t laugh and be afraid at the same time. If you’re laughing, I defy you to be afraid.”

And from the out-takes:

ON THE STRANGE CONNECTION BETWEEN IMPROVISATIONAL COMEDY AND RELIGIOUS HUMILITY:
Stephen Colbert: One of the things that I like about improvisation is that, literally, there are no mistakes. There are only opportunities.

James Kaplan: You embrace the bomb.

SC: You embrace the bomb. And that idea is so appealing to me, because it’s also about valuing suffering, and gratitude for bad things — because really, what’s the option? Mother Theresa said, “Smile and accept.” I love that.

IN THE TRAGEDY OF HIS FATHER AND BROTHERS’ DEATH:
In a way that’s not easy to explain, I am grateful. I am grateful to be given the gift to have seen [my mother] survive it and to have had the suffering myself, because there is no escaping suffering. So you have to be grateful for it.

ON HIS YOUTHFUL LOSS OF FAITH:

The minute I went to college, I didn’t believe in God. The minute I had an opportunity to sort of be out from under the constant exposure to my faith, I accepted the opportunity to not believe. And I was very convinced of my atheism for a long time, and I was very depressed about it. I wanted very much to believe… I wanted the idea that I would see my father and my brothers again, and it was heartbreaking to think that that wouldn’t happen. The fool says in his heart that there is no God, and I was sad to be that fool. I would rather have been a fool for God, but I was so convinced that believing in God was foolish. There were five years maybe when I couldn’t think of why to get up. That wasn’t good. But the desire to believe always was there. The fact that thread was never cut was helpful. Then one day, a Gideon gave me a Bible walking down a street in Chicago….

Mother Teresa and the Dark Night

Ah, I knew Stephen couldn’t hold out on us forever. Last night he brought up the Mother Teresa story in his usual blend of insight and ignorance. Thank God he’s got Fr. James Martin, SJ, to set him straight.

Here’s a link to Fr. Martin’s book.

Now I need to go make my morning tea and get the dogs up. Enjoy the clip and I may be back later with some further reflections and commentary while we wait for the Emmys on Sunday.