Wednesday, August 7, 2013


The arm fell off of Jesus.  A scapular that is thoroughly worn.  A rosary that has broken so many times that it really can’t be repaired anymore.  What do you do with these things if they have been blessed?  It seems wrong simply just to throw them in the trash.
A blessed item means that it has been set aside for service to God and therefore needs to be treated differently than your apple cores and used tissues.  Here are a couple of stand-by rules:
First, they cannot be made over into secular purposes.  The arm of Jesus cannot be used in your son’s diorama of a Halloween cemetery.  The rosary shouldn’t be made into costume jewelry.  The banished glass chalice cannot be used for dinner. 
There is no canon law concerning the disposing of religious articles however and so some of the determination has to do with the sensibilities of those who are in charge of disposing.  Somewhere in between the above uses and simply holding on to them forever is the answer.


Then general rule of thumb is: burn or bury.  Old palms, wool scapulars, books, etc may be thrown on the fire.  Other objects such as rosary beads and statues may be buried.  The holy oils at your parish at the end of the year are either burned or buried.
It should also be kept in mind that there are those who collect these very objects, especially pieces of rosaries and often statuary, in order to repair them and give them away or sell them.  You might want to contact such a person.
On the other hand, failing to find someone who wants your stuff (for the right reasons) and having something that will not burn and is not biodegradable, what do you do? 
There was a tabernacle that was stolen from a parish once and recovered.  It was disassembled and placed along an anonymous tomb in one of our cemeteries.  When the fad of glass chalices passed, the question was what to do with the 8 packs of glasses from Kmart that were no longer going to be used.  Can’t burn and exactly where can you bury glass?  At one institution the glasses were wrapped and smashed (as reverently as possible) and then disposed of.  I imagine that would be a similar thing to do with plastic statues and plastic rosary beads – dismantle them as much as possible, perhaps wrap them in old newsprint, and then dispose of them. 
Or you could just hold on to them for life in a box in your closet and let your kids figure out what to do with them when you’ve gone.


Anonymous said...

This is a great post, Father! I always wonder what to do with the palm leaves from Palm Sunday as I assume they are blessed. This year my cat got to it first and destroyed it for me (Oops!).

Anonymous said...

I have just refurbished a tabernacle, the fabrics were heavily coated with a glue that I felt was on a level chemically with burning plastic rosaries...not an option in case of toxic fumes!
I buried the fabrics.

Anonymous said...

We get a tone of cheap religious items in the mail. I had always heard if it had been blessed, them you burn or bury. The many rosaries/crucifixes, etc that come in the mail do go into the trash.
I try to find homes for the items, but knowing that most are not blessed it doesn't hold the same as a blessed object, right?
I was told this after a Church had been sold and converted into something else. They didn't bury the Church. It lost it's sacredness when it was sold for other purposes. Or what I was told.

Pat said...

Regarding unwanted religious items that come in the mail, give the nice items to the parish school or the parish CCD program or the RCIA program.

The teachers would be happy to have these items as gifts or prizes for good work.

Talk to an individual teacher--don't just drop them at the school office.

Cathy Mungo said...

I repair and make rosaries. I'd be happy to have them!

Unknown said...

"The arm of Jesus cannot be used in your son’s diorama of a Halloween cemetery." THAT made me laugh. And thank you for the lesson: I've always burned my palms but didn't know about burying rosaries and the like. (I've been working on that box for the kids to deal with.)
So, being a REALTOR, and seeing the photo, what do you have to say about burying a statue of St. Joseph? I was told long ago that IF someone did it (and I don't sign onto it personally) to instruct them that after the home sold they were to dig up the statue and put it in a place of honor in their new home.
Your thoughts?