76. Church Matters

You cannot walk into an old church anywhere in Italy, and fail to see something beautiful, whether it’s a priceless Caravaggio or a “simple” ceiling mosaic. Non-Catholics are often scornful of the expense and effort that went into religious artistic expression, high and low, when that wealth could have gone towards more worthy, concrete needs here on earth, branding them as mere conspicuous consumption for popes, Medici and their ilk. Is there no value, then, in artistic express meant to inspire awe and faith, and to educate a preliterate population?Whenever I have euro coins in my pocket when I’m traveling in Italy, I light a candle for a “special intention,” or for the “dearly departed.” I notice that Mary is a particularly popular choice for this.I love the scene of these Vatican groundskeepers, all of whom I’m sure are Catholic, having a smoke and yucking it up while the Pope (visible on the TV screen at right) is saying Easter Mass, arguably the most important religious celebration of the year. Just another day at the office for them…As eighty-five percent of Italians are Roman Catholic, by birth and training at least, it is the air they breathe, but no one seems to take it too seriously. These morning commuters are off to work, the grandeur of the Vatican just part of the wallpaper of everyday life.

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