October 8th is the feast of St. Dominic, founder of the Dominicans. A biographer mentions something about him that’s true of all the saints, I think. It’s one of the signs of holiness– Saints look redeemed. Dominic had a joyful face, which came from a joyful heart and a soul at peace. He believed God was with him.
“He was a man of great equanimity, except when moved to compassion and mercy. And since a joyful heart animates the face, he displayed the peaceful composure of a spiritual man in the kindness he manifested outwardly and by the cheerfulness of his countenance.”
That same “cheerfulness of countenance” seems to be what people remark about Pope Francis. That doesn’t mean you have to smile continuously, but joy is our “default,” it’s the attitude usually there. Fra Angelico seems to capture the peacefulness of Dominic in his portrait of the saint. (above)
One of the critics of Christianity, I think it was the 19th century philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, once said he didn’t think Christians looked redeemed. In other words, they were sad-sacks: dour, worried, self-engaged people.
Might be a good test to look in a mirror and ask myself: “Do I look redeemed?” But another question–why do artists often make saints look so sad? They’re not.