When Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires became pope, one of the first things noticed about him was the warmth of his smile.
It was an all encompassing facial expression. It was reflected in his beaming, gentle eyes which served as a window into his countenance.
His is a smile that makes one feel better just for seeing it. When the pope smiles, we tend to smile, too.
The same might be said for our own archbishop, Joseph Kurtz, who also has a warm, genuine smile that displays openly and honestly the nature of his personality.
And chances are you’ve noticed a smile on the faces of the priests and pastors who greet you at Mass. Priests smile a great deal; it is in their nature. After all, they are bringing good news to the rest of us.
The point is this: smiles are important, even in these days when they are usually unseen behind masks. We should know that, visible or not, they are there, hiding out of sight to help us overcome the worst health disaster of our lifetime.
Back in 2016, Pope Francis, as if prescient about what lay over the horizon for mankind, ruminated about smiling.
He noted that a desert — literally and figuratively — is a “difficult place to live.” But it is “precisely the place where one can return not only to one’s homeland, but to God, return to hoping and smiling,” he said. “When we are in darkness and difficulty, it’s hard to smile.”
But “hope teaches us to smile,” he said. “One of the first things that happens to people who withdraw from God is that they become people without smiles.
They might be able to laugh out loud — tell one joke after another and laugh — but their smile is missing.”
The pope also reminded us that “when we are with a baby, a smile comes spontaneously because a baby is hope.”
“We smile even if it’s a bad day, because we see hope.”
It is hope we all need in this time of COVID-19 and mounting numbers of the sick and dying. And perhaps, in addition to the pope’s words, we can take some solace in a song written back in 1936 by Charlie Chaplin. (He wrote the music; the words were added in 1954 by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons.)
Put together, they provide a lyrical picture of the world we’re facing now, one filled with plenty of reasons for frowns instead of smiles, fear and foreboding instead of optimism and hope. So …
Smile though your heart is aching …
Smile even though it’s breaking.
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow,
Smile and maybe tomorrow,
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just …
Light up your face with gladness,
Hide every trace of sadness,
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying,
Smile, what’s the use of crying,
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile, if you just …
And remember this: though these days we often can’t see the smiles on the faces of our church leaders, our archbishop and our priests, they are still there. You can see it in their eyes.
Record Editor Emeritus