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How often have you prayed to the Madonna this month?

Pope Francis is keen to see the continuance and revival of traditional devotions, such as praying to Our Lady, especially in the month of May

By on Friday, 31 May 2013

Pope Francis greets the crowd outside after praying the rosary at the Basilica of St. Mary Major earlier this month. The Pope led the crowd in chanting "Viva la Madonna" Photo: CNS

Pope Francis greets the crowd outside after praying the rosary at the Basilica of St. Mary Major earlier this month. The Pope led the crowd in chanting "Viva la Madonna" Photo: CNS

The Holy Father has just done for the first time something that his predecessors were often wont to do – make a pastoral visit to one of the parishes of the Diocese of Rome. You may remember that when he appeared on the balcony after his election he emphasised the importance of the Diocese of Rome and his role as its bishop, as well as talking of the necessity of evangelising ‘this beautiful city’.

The parish that the Pope visited – and I reckon nothing this Pope does is by accident – just happens to be in Prima Porta. It is called St Elizabeth and St Zachary, and this is its not very informative website, in Italian. Mind you, they have a facebook page, which can be seen here and there is also a Wikipedia page too.

As you can see, the parish is very modern, and of recent construction. Thereby hangs a tale. Prima Porta is a suburb of Rome that has very few facilities. I went there some years ago, and there were no pavements and no street lights, just lots of blocks of flats, built without the necessary infrastructure, and probably without planning permission, as is almost always the case in what is called la periferia di Roma. Hence, though people may have been living in this part of Prima Porta for some time, they will have been living without a Church of their own until the foundation of this parish in 1985, and the building of the church in 2007.

The anti-clericals in Rome love to write ‘meno chiese, piu case’ on walls in the city (‘fewer churches, more houses’), but the Church believes you can in fact have both, and has long campaigned against the housing shortage and for the building of new churches in the periferia, which is where the tourists never go, and where most Romans now live.

The periferia is not a nice place. If you go out to places like Tor Bella Monaca, you see that Rome is substantially a Third World city, a bit like Nairobi, with all the same problems, though not to the same degree. The social problems in these soulless suburbs are considerable, and these places are in dire need of evangelisation. So, the Pope, in choosing to go to Prima Porta, is practising what he preaches. He is showing us that we need to evangelise and that we need to start in difficult and challenging places.

And what shall we say to people, as we try to evangelise them? Again we could do well to follow the Pope’s example. He spoke about the necessity of praying to the Madonna! Once more, the Holy Father shows us that he is keen to see the continuance and in some cases the revival of traditional devotions. May is now ending, and it would be good to reflect on just how often in this month we have all prayed to the Madonna in private and in public. One also sees that the Pope heard confessions too. Clearly that is something he wants to encourage as well.

As for all those who say that traditional devotions and confession are not the way to go – the Pope does not agree with you. As for me, I am with the Pope on this one!

  • Tim

    Wouldn’t it be lovely if the Holy Father were to add the title Mother of the Poor to the Litany of Loretto.

  • Laurence

    Having spent some time in Rome recently, I am somewhat taken aback by the unfortunately named Tor Bella, athough I disagree with the comparison with Nairobi (just look at what the residents of Tor Bella have on their doorstep).

    Nevertheless, the very interesting discussion regarding evangelisation by tradition is not lost on me, videlicit: I have been approached very by well meaning Christian evangelists of my acquaintance recently, promising gifts of the Holy Spirit through communion with their fellowship. In common with most Irish Catholics, however, the power of the Holy Spirit is a somewhat alien concept that does not sit well with our view of the life as essentially something to get through… :) . Nevertheless, I believe that our wonderful Church, unlike this Christian fellowship, never makes empty promises and in reality we know the Truth of the Celtic faith: the slave can be no better than his Master.

  • Benedict Carter

    Let’s have a return to the old form of the ancient prayers.

    The Litany of the Saints is a case in point. The new form (WHY did we *need* ANY new forms???) has many of the old prayers missing.

    The Stations of the Cross is another example. Vatican II-ised. It’s like a kiss of death.

  • andHarry

    ‘I have been approached very by well meaning Christian evangelists of my
    acquaintance recently, promising gifts of the Holy Spirit through
    communion with their fellowship.’

    Were these ‘well meaning Christian evangelists’ Charismatic Catholics? I was there for a while before going Pentecostal. I was radicalized:)

  • Laurence

    I was taught how to follow the Stations as a child; it is a wonderful prayer, assuming the Church has some art worthy of the name. (My vote goes to Saint Nicolas’s in Amsterdam as the best.)

  • Laurence

    No, Revival Fellowship or some such (a silly question etc etc..)

  • Alban

    I always go to head office.

  • $26306623

    Nairobi? With its greenness, wildlife reserve in the city, abutting steel towers and a multicultural society? Its youthful, zany energy and new century life? The city where any European with real cash has bought an apartment or house? Compared to the soul-less, faceless Tor Bella? Quelle scandal!

  • Laurence

    Sure anywhere on earth is marvellous if you’ve got the money…