Catholics who frequently use sacramentals (brown scapulars, St. Benedict medals, blessed rosary beads, etc.) 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?
The word sacramental, comes from the Latin verb sacrare , meaning “to consecrate, make sacred, or dedicate.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines Sacramentals as "Sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy" (CCC 1667)
BENEFITS OBTAINED BY THE USE OF SACRAMENTALS
Sacramentals obtain favors from God through the prayers of the Church offered for those who make use of them, and through the devotion they inspire. They are means of obtaining actual graces; They aid forgiveness of venial sins; They are means of obtaining indulgence; They give us health of body and material blessings; and protection from evil spirits.
WHAT IS THE PROPER MANNER OF DISPOSING WORN /OLD SACRAMENTALS?
As Catholics we believe that blessings from ordained ministers have real spiritual power. This is most evident in the seven sacraments, where the words of the priest can bring about a spiritual transformation. This therefore means that once a sacramental has been blessed by a member of the clergy, then it needs to be treated with due care (cf. Canon 1171).
Thus, Catholics are instructed to dispose of old sacramentals in a way that shows due reverence. All sacramentals can be either burned or buried in order to properly dispose of them. This type of disposal honors their sacred purpose and returns them to the earth in a dignified way.
When a material sacramental becomes so worn that it can no longer be used as a sacramental, one should not casually toss it into the trash. To prevent desecration, the sacramental should be returned to the earthly elements. Holy water, for example, should be poured into a hole dug in the earth, in a spot no one would walk over.
Combustible sacramentals, such as scapulars and holy books, should be burned and then buried. 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 however, a person is unable to do either, the sacramental may be dropped off at the parish office and It will be taken care of.
We often forget that the physical things we see are only one part of a much larger universe. There exists a spiritual world around us that we cannot see, but which constantly affects our daily life. By treating sacramentals with respect, we recognize this basic truth and honor the heavenly blessing that was placed on the object by a priest or deacon.
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