As the busy fall season comes into the forefront, I am always on the lookout for small ways of brightening my days. The new rosary, custom crafted by one of my best friends, tucked into the center console of my car for easy praying on my commute. The picture of my family, with the addition of a mysterious dog that we do not own, that my daughter recently colored for me, tacked up onto my office wall. As I look around my daily work space, the reminders that are there are of the things that I treasure most in my life: my faith and my family.
In that vein, there is something quite prominent that I keep in my office that always cheers me up. I don’t know about you, but I love and collect holy cards, and I keep a large display of them pinned up onto a French style memo board that hangs just above my desk. These are our friends and family rooting for us up in heaven: our great cloud of witnesses! I wouldn’t say that I’m a person that is very knowledgeable about art in any form, but the imagery that is so pervasive in Catholic churches and such sacramentals has always appealed to me. I’m a cradle Catholic, and growing up the images that I’d see in church: the statuary, stained glass, Stations of the Cross plaques, paintings of the saints … all of those things captured my imagination when it would wander during Mass. And holy cards depicting these scenes in a smaller form were always present in the Catholic gift shops I’d go to with my mom, or receive in my religious education class. I also remember receiving a few holy cards when I made my First Communion.
As an adult, I have the memo board on my desk at work, and I both admire them and pluck one off occasionally to use as a bookmark. I frequently buy them for my son, who loves saint pictures and uses them similarly. I got him a few of his favorites for his First Communion, including St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Dominic Savio. I pick some up nearly every time I’m in a Catholic gift store.
And so what exactly are the significance of these cards, for those who may be less familiar with them? There is always an image on one side, depicting either a religious scene from the Bible/Tradition, or a specific person. The reverse will include a prayer invoking the intercession of the featured saint, or for a cause relating to the scene in question. Their purpose is to provide a visual reminder of important events and people in our faith, and encourage us to pray. They may help us to remember traditional prayers when we want to use those, such as the Our Father or Hail Mary (very useful for young children or those new to the Catholic faith) or the Act of Contrition when we are availing ourselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As well, a person struggling with a particular problem or ailment may have a holy card for a saint who is patron for those bearing this cross. For example, someone diagnosed with cancer may carry a St. Peregrine holy card and use it daily to ask for that saint’s intercession and prayers for healing.
I just love these visual cues that are a part of our faith. I find them inspiring and a perfect call to prayer.
Do you collect prayer cards? Do you display them, or carry them with you in some way? I would love to hear about your traditions in the comments!
Copyright 2016 Tiffany Walsh.