Pray for Us Holy Cards from the John J. Burns Library Collections

Holy cards—small images of saints and shrines, often with a prayer or scripture verse on the reverse—have been part of Catholic life since the 15th century. Used to commemorate religious events such as pilgrimages, sacraments, or memorial Masses, they work as spiritual mementos that can be carried or stored in bibles, books, wallets, mirrors and other easily accessible places. Also known as prayer cards, these small, devotional objects have been collected as works of art, a means to learn specific prayers or scripture, reminders of spiritual life in a secular world, and other devotional expressions.

Holy cards are almost always smaller than 3 x 5 inches. This exhibit, drawn from more than a dozen collections within Burns Library, highlights holy cards of different styles, eras, locations, and subjects. We made selections based on visual appeal and an attempt at gender and geographical equality (within the limits of the holdings), so please explore this sample now, and the rest of the holy cards available for research at your leisure.