Before the invention of the printing press credited to Johannes Gutenberg in 1450, Prayer Cards also know as Holy Cards were individually handcrafted by Catholics. These cards contained a depiction of a religious subject or place and were crafted using wood with hand-colouring. In addition to the obvious reason of using such cards for prayer, they were also put on notarized forms to show legitimacy and put into trunks to ward off thieves.
During this period Prayer Cards were handed out by priests and the content of the cards required approval from a bishop.
The oldest surviving Prayer Card is of St. Christopher and dates back to 1423.
With the invention of the printing press and then the invention of lithography in 1796 by Alois Senefelder, Prayer Cards were able to be mass produced. Prayer Cards were most commonly made approximately the size of a playing card and eventually became common place at Church services including baptisms, communions, marriages and funerals.
In the 1900’s when funeral homes started to become more modernized as we know them today, funeral professionals began to purchase Prayer Cards from vendors and then add the name of the deceased along with his or her dates of birth and death to the cards with type setting and thermal printing devices or typewriters. These cards were known as In memoriam cards and were handed out at funeral services and wakes.
As technology progressed and desktop publishing became available in the 1980’s, more Prayer Card options became available and the demand for them greater. In addition to names and dates, cards would eventually be able to contain photos of loved ones and families would no longer be restricted to only a few prayer choices or religious images when making a card selection to commemorate their loved ones.
Funeral professionals are now presented with the task of keeping up with the demand for personalized Memorial Cards, but graphic designers they are not. Restoring old photographs and setting up a composition for print is not part of the curriculum for one pursuing a degree in mortuary science.
Although with good intention many funeral professionals make an effort to produce Memorial Cards with the aid of computer software, this is one area they should leave to professional graphic designers and printers for numerous reasons.
I can’t begin tell you how many off centered prayers with print so small on the backs of thin flimsy card stock with perforated edges I’ve seen handed out at funerals. What’s more mind boggling to me is that all of them have had the funeral homes name printed on the bottom of them. Funeral homes who are putting out low quality Memorial Cards for visitors during calling hours are missing an invaluable opportunity to make a lasting impression on the family members of the deceased and those who come to pay their respects. A professionally designed Memorial Card with their funeral home name printed on it is like putting an impressionable business card into the hands of everyone who enters your place of business and should not be overlooked.
Luckily, companies such as A Loving Memory www.alovingmemory.com provide professionally designed Memorial Cards for both funeral homes who want to offer their families the very best quality personalization products and to families who want higher quality cards than their funeral home is offering.