For some reason or another, I always had problems with nervous laughter. From laughing in the middle of class in High School to even laughing in the middle of community prayer. Of course, there's always a reason for the laughter, but once it starts it is hard to control . The more you try to stop the laughter, the less is your control over it. It is an odd dimension of the human mind, the stubbornness in which it refuses to stop doing what is inappropriate. Anxiety is not calmed by simply telling your mind to "stop worrying", fear is usually not dispelled by telling yourself "don't be afraid", impure thoughts takes more than a "no" to your mind to chase them away. And so it can be with laughter, at least in my case.
This is the second time it happens. We are seating inside the chapel, praying the liturgy. It is the feast of St. Rita, a solemnity to Augustinians. We use a separate book in conjunction with the liturgy of the hour for the antiphons, readings and intentions. This creates a mind bending confusion as you have to bookmark your prayer books in many different areas. I was in charge of the Antiphons. I was hopelessly confused. It comes the time after the hymn that I need to jump start the prayer with the 1st Antiphon. I'm lost between my bookmarks. The brother next to me tries to help me find it, and he gets lost as well. After a few seconds that seemed like minutes, I find the Antiphons. I say it, and in the middle of it, the brother next to me laughs. He tries to control his laugh, and I find his almost failed effort somewhat funny. I laugh a little. To which he laugh even more.
I'm able to carry through the first psalm, but I'm already sweating cold in my down spiraling efforts to simply not laugh. The brother, apparently, finds my efforts all the more funny. He laughs uncontrollably for a few seconds. I try to find the second Antiphon, running through the prayer book. I gather all the strength within me and I'm barely able to say the second Antiphon. The brother is holding his mouth, looking away to the wall. By this time, I'm not even able to completely pray the second psalm. Everyone is looking at us, thankfully smiling and not with angry faces. I was literally sweating cold. When I was not holding my breath, trying to control the overwhelming surge of laughter that screamed to get out of my lungs, I probably looked terribly afflicted, embarrassed.
By the time of the third Antiphon, I'm not even able to say it smoothly. Words are competing with laughter. For the Antiphon for the Canticle of Mary, I'm not even able to finish the Antiphon. Father looks at me with amusement, as if saying "What's going on with them?". He did not know how the laughing nightmare started. Father crosses himself, continuing with the Canticle of Mary without me finishing the Antiphon. In his effort to control the laughter, and find the right bookmark, a bunch of loose paper gets out from the brother's prayer book. Afflicted, he picks up the papers, and he laughs at himself. Finally, for what it seemed like an eternity, the prayer ends.
I wonder, has this happened to any of you? Or am I (along with the brother) just an immature kid? Perhaps I am. But if it had happened to you, I would love to hear your experiences.