Another quote from Robertson Davies that caught my attention:
“One of my favorite cultural fossils,” said he, “is the
garden gnome. You have observed them? Very cute objects, very cute indeed. But do people want them simply, for cuteness? I don’t believe it. The gnomes provide some of that sugar in the drink of belief that Western religion no longer offers, and which the watered-down humanitarianism that passes with so many people for religion offers even less. The gnomes speak of a longing, unrecognized but all the stronger for its invisibility, for the garden-god, the image of the earth-spirit, the kobold, the kabir, the guardian of the household. Dreadful as they are, they have a truth you won’t find in the bird-bath or the sun-dial.”
We don't have garden gnomes, but my mother-in-law (not a Catholic nor even particularly religious) had a little statue of St. Fiacre (or St. Focaro, as she called him.) And numerous folks have statues of St, Francis in their gardens. A similar impulse?