As I was making my way back, laden with shopping - wine and fruit juice for the Sunday after service apertif - a clock struck midday. Instead of the Angelus, recorded bells playing the tune I know as the chorus to the Walsingham Hymn crackled out over the Piaza Sta Caterina. Nobody seems to have time to punctuate the day with real bells. But the curse of modernity might be leavened a little with better quality audio. However, I did hear a young mum singing along as she pushed her infant along in a buggy. Wherever I go, I notice small shrines to the Virgin built into house facades, not neglected relics, but well tended - so all is not lost of traditional culture, before Berlusconi.
I notice there are more statues of Mary praying than there are of Mary presenting Jesus. I says something about the widespread reception of first Vatican Council dogma about Mary. A week tomorrow is the feast of Immaculate Conception which dates from then. How it is observed locally is something I look forward to discovering. I used to wonder why the image of Mary praying had become the more popular one over the past couple of centuries. It doesn't much appeal to me. I prefer the ancient and traditional iconography of Mary as God-bearer. I understand that the Mary praying image reflects the habitual use of the Ave ... ora pro nobis in the common prayer of Western Catholics.
No matter what you think of papist dogma about the intercession of the saints on our behalf, even if you disapprove of it, this is a gentle image - one of influence rather than of force. Perhaps that's why it retains its place in popular religion in societies still dominated by masculine power games. It's an unconscious protest against the violence in this world which we fail to eliminate.