Please do not feel offended when I write about today’s subject. I mean no mockery or harm and am not putting down anyone’s religion.

Religion is incredibly important to the lives of so many, all religions utterly fascinate me, and I respect everyone’s right to worship, or to not, if that’s their thing.

I have lately been remembering some episodes in my life connected to religion when some inappropriate situations made me laugh (or to attempt suppressing my laughter, which as we all know is nearly impossible to do in a church setting). Has that ever happened to you? I’ll bet it has — it is one of life’s inevitables.

Did you ever watch the old Mary Tyler Moore Show? The writers on one of those shows addressed that hopeless situation when Mary and her TV crew attended the funeral of Chuckles the Clown, an employee of WJM-TV, and gradually gave in to desperately suppressed hysterical laughter. We’ve all been there. Come on, you know you have!

In fact, I was guilty of that, too. Many years ago, I attended the funeral of a person who was not particularly nice during her life. She was, well, shuddersome, and yes, that is a word and it fits that dearly departed lady perfectly.

As the minister began to tell the congregation how wonderful, sweet and kind that “gentle” lady had been, I began to silently laugh with such force I thought I’d black out. I bowed low, pretending to pray and held it in until my ears and eyes began to bulge out of my head and other unmentionables threatened to let go.

That old lady in the box up there was not in the least what that good and holy man was describing. Unfortunately, my brother had really liked her a lot and so when he saw my disrespectful convulsions, he made a decision to never speak to me again. And he didn’t, for about three years.

Then there was that summer wedding I attended. This was back in the day when churches had no AC, so all the windows and doors had been cranked open to cool the place down. The service was lovely and loving, when quite suddenly a huge gray cat wandered in, looked around, walked up to the bride and groom, sat at their feet, stared up at them, and the service stopped, the couple looked down at her.

The church became very still, that cat never budged and after minutes, the good Father looked up, grinned at everyone and continued on with the service. That big old feline sat and watched with great interest, staying for the entire service, tail switching. But when the couple kissed he stretched and yawned hugely and strolled outside again, tail straight up in disdain. What fun!

I never did know if the newly married couple or that big gray cat with attitude were getting the most applause. Everyone laughed!

Then there was that wedding where the blushing bride wore a veil with an impossibly long train and one of the precious little kids holding the end of it tripped and fell right straight into it as the wedding march boomed and the father of the bride frantically tried to right the situation. And couldn’t. And then the sweet little girl “in charge” of the veil lay face-down flat on that aisle and began to wail hideously.

The nearly married young bride’s head, with a most expensive coif, jerked backward, her upswept ‘do fell apart and the veil, interwoven with live flowers floated beautifully to the floor. But that young bride was a class act. She shook her long hair out, laughed, turned and picked up the veil, jammed it crookedly onto her head, finished the march and married her beloved. Thunderous applause when they were finally joined in holy matrimony and holy hilarity. You just had to know they’d have a great marriage! And they did.

Then there was the Day of the Nun. An old friend of mine had gotten The Call and had become a nun, and I very much wanted to go to see her because I had the idea that once a woman became a nun she never again touched the ground when she walked, and surely never did any of the mundane things we here on earth did. Her name was Donna and her father, Dr. X., said he’d take me to see her. I had never been inside a Catholic church before, so when Dr. X. walked me through to visit his daughter and he suddenly dropped to one knee in front of the altar, I was so stunned I tried to do it, too, tripped, staggered and crashed my hip painfully into a pew.

Oh God oh God, save me. I was mortified. But no one genuflected in my family church so the good doctor caught me off guard. I still think there should be a kind of mini genuflect primer for non-Catholics entering a Catholic church for the first time.

But Dr. X. was kind and didn’t scold me, but he kept on doing it everywhere we walked and I kept trying to do it too and pretty much made an Episcopalian ass of myself.

We finally got to a tiny room to meet his beautiful daughter Donna and I was re-stunned to have her tell me that nuns, in fact, did all the same things we seculars did, only they always wore those long black dresses and starched white cowls. She looked so beautiful, and when she told me that nuns even go swimming on vacation, I laughed loudly and nervously. I could not imagine such a thing. No. It was simply not possible.

When my family moved from one end of Staten Island to the other, we changed churches, from St. Mary’s to St. Andrew’s. I was pretty young and was asked by a kindly old woman what the difference in the churches was to me. I remember telling her that my father had said one was high Episcopalian and the other was low. She asked me how I knew which was which and I told her that in Sunday School, we kids often got away with shooting spitballs at each other at St. Andrew’s so that church had to be the “lower one.”

I recall not understanding why that old lady laughed really hard.

And then there was my formidable grandmother, daughter of a seriously Scottish Presbyterian minister who would occasionally say to me, “Alas, my darling Elsie, the world is made up of two groups of people, the Presbyterians and The Heathen. I’m sorry, but it’s just the way it is, sweetheart.” And she would stare at me in offended disbelief as I gasped with laughter.

So folks, my point is, that even in religious situations, it’s good to laugh. It’s not a bad thing. After all, if, in fact, God made us, he or she gave us funny bones and the ability to laugh hard and long, so you see it’s really out of our control. Laughing in church is not disrespectful, it is healthy.

And let’s not forget there are some who say it has even been written that God is likely laughing at us. A lot.