Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Hand-Painted Holy Card

I received this beautiful holy card in the mail a few weeks ago.  It's from France and has been all hand-painted.  The inscription on the bottom reads "Souvenez-vous do moi dans la receuillement a la prière." which translates as "Remember me in contemplation before prayer."  On the back is written "Souvenir d'affecteuese reconnaissance ~ Sr. Adelphe" meaning "A souvenir of affectionate remembrance ~ Sister Adelph".  So I'm assuming that Sister Adelph painted this holy card for a dear friend, or possibly a student (if she was a teaching nun).

The cross in the center looks like it's made out of celluloid - it's shiny and almost iridescent - and it's outlined by a chain of little pink roses with a purple and yellow pansy or violet in the center.

During the 19th century people were very aware of the meanings of different flowers.  Red roses stand for love of course.  (As anyone who watches the bachelor would know! :)  I looked up "pansy" and saw that it stands for remembrance.  Even more interesting, in French the word "pansy" is "pensée" which means "thought", so the pansy meant "thinking of you".  The pansy is also a symbol of the holy trinity with it's three colors, purple, yellow, and white, symbolizing the father, son and holy spirit.  The specific colors also were symbolic:  Purple = loving memories, yellow = kind thoughts, and white = souvenirs.  And then to pile symbolism on top of symbolism, a woman who retired from the world and became a religious was thought to be the pattern of humility and was associated with the violet, the most humble of flowers.

I have to believe that Sister Adelph was familiar with the language of flowers because she couldn't have chosen a more perfect on to be the center of her lovely holy card.

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