Friday, February 1, 2008

Plastic Madonna

Fifteen years ago David and I spent a couple of weeks in Italy. We wandered through church after church, noticing the same phenomenon: gorgeous chapels featuring paintings by medieval and Renaissance masters remained dark and unvisited, while banks of candles blazed before simpering Madonnas.

“Why?” wailed David (who is both an evangelical Protestant and a lover of fine art). He gestured toward a man lost in meditation before an apparently plastic statue of the Blessed Virgin.

I think I know. St. Peter's is cavernous and cold. Power is in its massive stones. Standing before the high altar, I sense a God who thunders and smites.

The little plastic girl, her arms open to embrace her children, does not belong in such a place.

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