Only one of our depictions of saints in our church has a smile. The rest are all deadly serious. St. John Vianney is the only one who looks like he just got away with stealing a cookie from the cookie jar. The rest look like as though they are in a heavy rain trying to make out the license plate of a rapidly receding car that had just side swiped them.
Now, of course someone like St. Sebastian, who is usually depicted as having arrows stuck in his side, would look far out of character with a smile on his face. One would wonder what pharmaceuticals he must be on rather than the depth of his love for God. That being said, I think we have done ourselves a grave disservice equating holiness with severeness of demeanor. That is not to say that there is not a place for a stern approach from time to time, but holiness should lead to joy. You can’t have holiness without an underlying joy (even if it is through tears and pain) and you can’t have true joy without holiness.
There are those that are joyfull, but the faith underneath it is at best full of empty calories and covered with lots of powdered sugar. When really tried, it fails to give you the strength you need and the joy (which would be closer to happiness than real joy) fades and so can, and usually does, the faith.
At the other end is person with faith who is also as grave as the grave. This person tends to look down upon those who do not live up to their standards of (at least outward) holiness. Their type of faith might be strong, but it is unattractive and unfruitful. Who wants to join anything that will make you constantly appear constipated?
So last week (I will share more about it later) I was going to a place that has a reputation for being a “holy place.” I had some trepidation about it. It was certainly orthodox from the rising of the sun to its setting, but I had concerns about the temperament of those I would encounter. “Would I not be ‘Catholic’ enough for them? Would I be made to feel like a second class Catholic?”
I am happy to report that such was not the case. The joy that I experienced there from the priests, nuns, and brothers bubbled over. They were extremely welcoming and accommodating. There was an excitement to share what they had freely and openly, and a sense of underlying joy that was attractive and tempting.
If your faith is not leading you to joy, something is wrong. If you faith is not attractive, something is wrong. (Notice I am not talking about happiness which is merely an emotion. Joy is an inner strength and conviction, knowledge of meaning and the blossom of hope.) If you do not have joy, you do not have what Jesus wants for you. If you do not have joy, your faith will not be as fruitful as it could be. If you do not have joy, something needs to change. We do not need any volunteer statues in church.
P.S., Yes, I know the title should be "Hey Horse!"