I like people’s behavior of asking questions to the priest. Pelas Coelho, a devote Goan Catholic friend, asked: “Father, what to do with old and broken rosaries? How to do away with such religious items?” Christian families have unused religious items waiting for a suitable method to discard them with reverence. Pelas Coelho’s sentiment, I feel, is a concern of many people.
Why do people hold on to broken or unused holy items?
It may be unspoken guilt. A fear that something can happen if they don’t discard these sacred items correctly. People do have an attachment to these sacred objects, even if they are broken or unused. The Catholic concern is: How to get rid of old or broken rosaries or other sacred items that are not used yet remain in a clutter box. These holy items stay in a state of permanent limbo as people don’t know how to dispose of these items without guilt. People fear that something can go wrong if they fail to handle these religious items properly.
What is the ‘Rule of Thumb’ to discard religious items?
As a rule of thumb: most unused or broken holy objects should be burnt or buried – sometimes burnt first and then buried with devotion. Anything blessed should be burnt or buried. You will be safe: free of sin, fear, or guilt. But do it with reverence for the sacred object without causing scandal to others.
How do you properly dispose of unused or broken rosaries?
That’s what our friend Pelas wanted to know. I am sure you will not throw the rosary in the thrash when the use is over or broken with no hope of repairs. The best you can do is cut the rosary into smaller pieces with a wire cutter or scissors. Some people also burn the items and then bury the ashes. You can then bury the pieces of the rosary in the ground. You can keep a stone on top of the filled area to avoid unintended intervention from pets or rats. Make sure the place is not a road or a space where people walk over it.
What is the Rule of Thumb to discard religious items?
Rule of thumb applies. All blessed objects are treated with reverence. So, if you cannot fix the item, or it is no longer in use – you can discard the item by incineration (burning), burial or pious disposal. The unwanted holy items will meet their finale with devotion.
How to throw away old Holy Water?
Catholics do keep Holy Water at homes for pious use. Catholicism does not allow to dispose of Holy Water in the regular plumbing or a kitchen sink. Catholic Churches will have a unique basin called the sacrarium that leads directly to the ground according to the recommended disposal procedure. Although there is no expiry date for Holy Water, the water can get contaminated due to climatic conditions. You can check the water for algae if the water is not sterile. You can pour the water into the earth, around a tree, or into a safe spot.
How to dispose of Holy Oil?
Like Holy Water, blessed oil will have no expiry date. The priest will dispose of the sacred oils used for seven sacraments in a proper procedure via the sacrarium. But people bring holy oil from pilgrimage sites and places of worship to keep into their homes. These oils are considered sacramentals, assisting the devotee to come closer to God. If you want to dispose of unused blessed oil, don’t dump it in the sink. You can pour it into the ground where people, pets and wild animals will not dig the area open. Always do it with reverence.
How to dispose of old holy Bibles?
If you have one, consider donating to churches, libraries or the needy – even homes for the aged. Although the Church gives no specific instruction to dispose of the Bible, you can safely burn or bury it with due respect. It is not a sin to throw away a Bible, but the intention will matter a lot. While disposing of the Bible, avoid being angry, or in haste, or harboring ill intentions. You should avoid adding the old Bible to the other books you set aside to burn or destroy in the future.
How do you dispose of old palms?
You want a palm leaf to keep in your home after Palm Sunday. It is kept along with other holy items. People do keep palms of many years, as they add a new one each year. But there are alternatives to dispose of it. Some churches accept old palms before the season of Lent. The priest will then burn the old palms to create ashes for Ash Wednesday’s service. Ask your local Church for the existing custom. You can consider burning the old palm to ashes or burying it in the ground with due reverence.
How to dispose of the ashes of the dearly departed?
You heard the Catholic saying: from ashes to ashes. The Church has a restriction on spreading the ashes of the dead. The ashes are not to be kept at home, certainly not in the jewelry section. The Church encourages that the cremated remains be preserved in cemeteries or other approved sacred places. So, the proper place of disposal of such ashes is an approved sacred space.
What should people living in apartments do about disposing of sacred items?
People residing in areas with no access to the ground to bury the religious item should either find a safe space or place the ash in a flowerpot. I know people who dispose of the ashes, unused holy water, or oil in their favorite flowerpot.
While disposing of the sacred object, reverence and intention are essential as we part ways with the items that once nourished our faith and brought us closer to God. Another important element for consideration, stop buying sacred items made of plastic. I feel the plastic sacred object should be avoided. Just because it is cheap, one should not compromise the expression of faith.
Tell me in the comments below, how did you dispose of sacred items? People find it difficult to dispose of sacred items made of plastic. Your story can guide others to treat the sacred items with reverence.
About the Author
Feroz Fernandes, a Catholic Missionary, identifies himself as an Uncommon Priest. Father Feroz loves adventure in the apostolate. Check out his debut book The Uncommon Priest: Incredible Stories You Never Read on amazon. And also, the YouTube Channel: Feroz Fernandes promotes a better understanding of scripture.