When I arrived at the wake for Aloy's dad last night there was a group saying prayers for the dead. I sat with some of my colleagues from work, also there to pay their respects, as the prayers went on for quite some time. It was a Catholic chapel we were in and for some reason the repetition of the Hail Marys somehow stood out for me. I realised that it had been years since I'd heard the prayer, or at least found myself paying such attention to it. (I suppose it must have said at Mum's funeral, but I really don't remember it, or any of the prayers said then, even though I was struck by the symbolic beauty of the service.)
Thinking about the prayer afterwards it struck me that in its own way it was probably my favourite prayer as a kid, not that one really thought in such terms. We used to have to chant it in Latin, along with the Pater Noster and Agnus Dei (I think), before each lesson in Xaverian College - up to Sixth Form, that is. Can't remember if it remained the practice then. Even the mindless (and generally super-quick) repetition didn't diminish its oddly comforting magic.
I felt some of that yesterday, a recognition of both the beauty and oddness of the prayer. I suppose that's something true of all religious observance of all religions, to those who are sympathetic to this area of human experience. Must say, I feel a kind of quizzical sympathy thinking of those who find themselves unable to respond so.