NEW YORK – If you can’t get enough of Pope Francis, then how about a little Stephen Colbert?
Yes, the new host of CBS’s “Late Show” was officially cast Tuesday night (September 8) as David Letterman’s highly anticipated replacement for the much-vaunted late-night slot. The new skits, along with some big laughs — and maybe a few misses — kept TV critics busy, at least for a news cycle or two.
For another side to the multi-faceted comic, however, there’s a new interview in which Colbert talks about his Catholicism with the kind of passion and humor that evokes the folkloric faith of Francis, who will debut later. this month when visiting the United States for the first time.
Colbert would have moved heaven and earth to try to hang a few minutes with the pontiff, who will travel to Washington, New York and Philadelphia from September 22 to 27. It would be a season-breaking score, of course; yet it may even exceed the impressive influence of Colbert.
But like François, Colbert is not outdone when it comes to evangelization.
He taught Sunday School in his New Jersey parish and he frequently deployed Catholicism for semi-serious fodder for his previous incarnation as a right-wing swagger on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.” (And had a Jesuit priest, the Reverend James Martin, as official chaplain and regular guest.)
He appeared with New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who also has a sense of humor, to discuss joy and faith. And he spoke eloquently of the tragedies of his childhood and how faith sustained him and continues to do so.
“(My) context of my existence is that I am here to know God, to love God, to serve God, so that we may be happy with each other in this world and with him in the next – the catechism” , he said in a recent cover of GQ magazine. “It makes a lot of sense to me. I get that from my mother. And my father. And my brothers and sisters.
In this last meeting, with the Reverend Thomas Rosica, English-speaking attaché to the Vatican press office and head of the Toronto-based Salt and Light media network, Colbert’s responses range from the silly (favorite Saint: “St. Arugula…he’s the saint I adore. Okay? Delicious!”) seriously: how the Holy Spirit forms his conscience.
“I should have said that in Latin, which I just said,” jokes the comedian, turning theological at one point.
During the conversation with Rosica, Colbert quotes the poet ee cummings, John Milton, Carl Sagan, Saint Anselm (yes, the ontological argument for the existence of God) and Saint Thomas Aquinas.
The interview will air in full on the Salt and Light channel on Sunday, September 13 at 8 p.m. EDT.
And what would Colbert ask Francis if he landed an interview?
“I would ask him how does love lead him to joy, or does love lead him to joy?” Colbert said. And he would ask him about being “a fool for Christ” – a role he sees Francis playing, as well as Colbert himself.
There’s that, and so much more, both deep and funny. For example:
“Doing something with joy doesn’t make something easier, it only makes it better. And that also makes it communal – that we all do it together. When you work in fear or when you work in distress, you often feel alone. But jokes, laughter, humor, joy, call it what you want…it connects people. And as I said earlier, what do we want to be? Not alone.”
“In the end, faith cannot be discussed, faith must be felt, and I hope you can always fully feel your faith, and let your mind have its own logical life and they don’t challenge each other but complete… Logic itself won’t lead me to God. But my love of the world and gratitude to it will. So I hope I can use my mind to make my jokes and not deny my love for God by same time.
“I think you have to make the choice to see Christ in the people around you and to love them without fear of anything being taken away from you in the gift of your own love to them.”
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