“Fr. Petros, when the rosary breaks or the crucifix falls apart, what should be done?” – Nancy
Dear Nancy, it is true that Catholics who frequently use Sacramentals, often run into a problem when the object breaks or wears out. What should be done with these holy objects? Is it okay to simply throw them in the trash?
Sacramentals are anything set apart or blessed by the Church for the purpose of sanctifying our lives and leading us to the sacraments. They are sacred signs and provide for us grace (spiritual help) through the intercession of the Church. Some of the Sacramentals are: holy water, salt, incense, candles, blessed oil, ashes, palms, crucifixes, medals, rosaries, scapulars, and images of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, and the saints etc.
Regardless of what it is, if it has been blessed by a member of the clergy, then it needs to be treated with due care (cf. Canon 1171).
As Catholics we believe that blessings from ordained ministers have real spiritual power. We believe that when a priest or deacon blesses a religious object, something changes. We may not be able to see it, but at times we may feel the spiritual weight of a sacramental that has been blessed.
WHY USE SACRAMENTALS?
Sacramentals are channels of grace and can obtain for us these benefits:
- Actual graces.
- orgiveness of venial sins.
- Remission of temporal punishment.
- Health of body and material blessings.
- Protection from evil spirits.
Consequently, Catholics are instructed to dispose of old Sacramentals in a way that shows due reverence.
DISPOSING OF SACRAMENTALS
When a sacramental becomes so worn that it can no longer be used as a sacramental, one should not casually toss it into the trash or sell it. REMEMBER: it is forbidden to sell blessed objects, it is sacrilege, see Canon 2121. To prevent desecration, the sacramental should be returned to the earthly elements:
A. Holy water, for example, should be poured into a hole dug in the earth, in a spot no one would walk over.
B. Combustible Sacramentals (able to cash fire and burn easily) such as scapulars, rosaries and holy books, should be burned and then buried.
C. Larger Sacramentals that do not burn should be altered so that their form no longer appears to be a sacramental (for example, a statue should be broken up into small pieces) and then buried. Objects made of metals can be melted down and used for another purpose.
If you are unable do these methods on your own, then give the Sacramentals to a Priest, Nun or Sister to dispose of them for you.
Items lose their blessing or consecration if they are desecrated, if they are substantially burnt or broken such that they can no longer be used for their sacred purpose. By treating Sacramentals with respect, we recognize the basic truth and honor the heavenly blessing that was placed on the object by a priest or deacon.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. Washington DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000.
Coriden, James A., Thomas J. Green, and Donald E. Heintschel. The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary. New York: Paulist, 1985