Friday, 23 October 2015

Holy Cards, by Barbara Calamari and Sandra Didasqua

Barbara Calamari and Sandra Didasqua, Holy Cards, 2004 Abrams, New York

Holy cards are one of those great Catholic traditions, one of the ways in which Catholicism gives us a means to foster constant devotion. A reproduction of a religious painting, plus a short prayer on a card that can easily be carried in a wallet. The Protestants have nothing on this. I have my own small collection of holy cards and I try to say two of the prayers daily. I particularly like my St. Helena card, partly because I bought it at Westminster Cathedral on a special occasion.

This book offers readers and art lovers a chance to appreciate the wonder of these mass-produced masterpieces. It provides printed reproductions of a range of holy cards. They are divided into various categories of saints, such as missionaries and martyrs, with each one given a brief account of who the saint was.

The emphasis here is on the range of different saints. There are only a handful of cards which feature the Lord Jesus or His Blessed Mother. I think the book ought to have included a chapter on cards featuring the Blessed Virgin Mary, as she has been depicted in so many different and beautiful ways under different titles.

There are other things that are not included in this book. No details are given about the date and country of origin of he cards, which rather limits historical appreciation. There is also nothing about the prayers in the cards. I understand that most readers will be more interested in the artwork, but is not the prayer a fundamentally important part of the holy card? Some examples of the major novenas and prayers ought to have been reproduced. Nevertheless, this is a book of truly wonderful art pieces. It will demonstrate how things that are mass-produced can still be beautiful and holy.

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