While having a friend with good strong connections intercede on one’s behalf is a practice that certainly exists the world over, Italy is known to be a place where the right introduction and helpful spintarella (the little push) is often the key that opens up any situation, project, career, etc.
Perhaps it’s due to a long history of a largely ineffectual judicial system… (The irony of this, given Ancient Rome’s contribution to law, should be lost on no one.) This inefficiency means that the chance for fair recourse through a court of law is difficult at best, so folks stick to hiring/working with people they know or who are introduced to them by friends, rather than risk with strangers.
To this day things still work this way, and la raccomandazione (the recommendation) involves a whole set of unwritten rights and responsibilities for the three participants; the person with the power to grant something, the beneficiary of the favor, and the person who speaks the buona parola (literally, the good word) and makes the introduction.
While we in no way wish to suggest that the ancient Roman sisters (and saints) Pudenziana and Prassede were not worthy of their sainthood, one of our favorite figurative examples of la raccomandzione is visible in these mosaics in the church of Santa Prassede in Rome.
On one side of the mosaic in the apse, we see Saint Paul with one arm around Santa Prassede introducing her to Jesus Christ with his other hand, very much the motion of a standard “I’ld like you to meet a friend.” On the other side of the apse is Saint Peter with his arm around Santa Pudenziana, making a similar “introduction.”
Fact is, there’s some historic truth to the mosaic! Pudenziana and Pressede’s father was one of the first Roman Patricians to convert to Christianity given his personal friendship with Peter during the early days of the Church in Rome. So in way, St. Peter did “introduce” his friend’s daughters to the Church and to Christ.