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Thursday, 5 May 2016

"Holy" Cards

Image result for holy card "sorrowful mother" sepia
I am next thing to a hoarder, never can bear to give anything away if I think I might want it later, never can bear to throw anything away if I think someone else might have use of it, and if the right person or charity does not occur to me at the moment - well, there that item will sit. And sit. And sit.
That old faux shearling coat, that I hope never again to be cold enough to wear? It would make a swell pillow.
I hate vertical blinds, took them down immediately - but don't the long cream colored strips look like candles? Add yellow construction paper flames and let each child in Sunday school write the names of people they would like to remember in prayer during the month of All Souls,
I can't throw out scrap metal, I know there are people around who will take it,

I understand there are people who buy expensive garments they've never worn, or replace electronics with newer, faster devices - but then find that they can't bear to pitch that for which they spent so much money. But that's never been my problem - I spend very little on clothes, (I won't even go to the thrift store usually except on sale days,) and technology keeps its place in our household until it completely gives up the ghost, (sometimes after spending a long time on life-support.)

But I do find it difficult to divest myself of books and scores and scripts -- and all those photocopies.
Not so much for what they cost in monetary terms, but in effort. Out of print chant books, and reference works that were the result of hours combing, first, of used book stores, and old libraries, and later the internet - so many hard won volumes or articles or scores are freely available online now.
But I'm getting a bit better at that.

Which leaves us with the matter of holy objects.
I have disintegrating and dilapidated Latin prayerbooks, French antiphonals, a Polish Missal, broken Rosaries, crucifixes rescued from bins at Goodwill, a stack of "pew cards" for the new Holy Week changes, (when did that happen? that's right, before any of us were born.)

I will have a bonfire at some point, soon, I will.

But there are other things that whoever is stuck with clearing out my house will have to find and sort and dispose of, (don't worry, I'll do my best to make certain it won't be the hired henchman of some atheist nephew.)

I am fascinated by the Holy Cards.
They are such a a part of my family and religious history.
I see cards reminding me to offer prayers for the soul of someone I never knew, never met, dead before I was born, who lived half a world away in some cases - I think that's beautiful.
The changing styles fascinate me as well - the mawkish Edwardian lithos of the Virgin Mary no worse nor better than the saccharine pastel-colored saints and angels from between "the" wars.
And both are a damned blessed sight better than the garish '70s asymmetry of graphic artists in thrall to the concept of negative space, or the Kincaidesque landscapes with carefully worded "spiritual" messages, guaranteed not to offend adherents of any religion, or even of none at all.

I had brought some in to the last Sunday school class, curious if these children had encountered such things - I loved them when I was little, to be given something so grown-up, so jewel like, (the print shop at the Rosary Shrine was special,) that so connected me to history, (which, as far as I could imagine, stretched back months and months!)
One of them was an emblem of my very first memory - the dead body of an elderly man lying peacefully in a big box, in a charming little stone house attached to our church. Ah, that must have been the wake of this priest.
Another was for an aunt I remember very well, but strangely couldn't remember dying -I realize now it was because my Mother was in the hospital at the time being delivered of a younger sibling of mine, of course that would have occupied all my attention.

I am well aware that the devotions, the sacramentals, the little, (even from time to time kitschy,) uniquely Catholic practices and items are no all that important in and of themselves - but properly understood, I believe we should think of them as "gateways" to the Sacraments and to an entire right conception of the Faith - to its breadth and its homeyness and corporeality and personalizability, ('zat a word?) to its diversity and mystery and, yes, fun, and perhaps most especially, to our praiseworhty individuality within our praiseworthy interconnectedness.
They are all part of the "Catholic identity" that so many fear our failure to transmit.

Well, some, perhaps most of the 10 year olds knew what they were, one actually owned some, and every single child was fascinated with the very idea. and wanted to have them.
Some had a vague idea of to whom the face on my most recent acquisition belonged.
So we made our own Holy Cards. I gave them a number of psalm verse and prayers as suggestions, and they chose one, unanimously.
O Lord God of hosts! let Your face shine on us, that we may be saved!
(Oh, and this really threw me for a loop - if we had time and supplies for a second card, (after they each made one from themselves and we made 2 dozen for "the kids in juvie," as they like to say,)?

I love that "glory" prayer at the beginning of Mass, can we do that?.... and they all agreed.

Ohm and I believe I may have discovered the secret to engaging them - lamination.
(Dollar Tree, a true dollar store? five sets of the sheets, enough for ten or even 15 cards depending on size and shape. Bookmarks, maybe.)

Yes, laminating is an adventure.
I'm going to use that knowledge next year for enchanting the learning of a chant, and perhaps for memorizing the Works of Mercy, or an Act of Contrition, or the Latin and Greek names of the parts of the Ordinary.

One last thing, I loved this from the memorial card from an uncle who died when I was a young, from St Ephrem (a patron saint of mine.)
I call for the prayers of all those who have known me, of all those who have loved me.
(Isn't that better than, "do not weep for me, I'm in a better place and I'll see you at the other end of the rainbow? I know which one I would rather people read as they cart me off to the boneyard.)

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