I have bought a new missal to follow the new translation of the Mass. How should I dispose of my old one?
The Code of Canon Law (1171) says that “Sacred objects, set aside for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated with reverence. They are not to be made over to secular or inappropriate use.” This canon primarily refers to such things as chalices and vestments used in the Liturgy, and indeed the Church building itself. The “alienation” of such things is forbidden unless the proper process is observed, for example if a Church has to be closed. Otherwise, such sacred objects should always be kept for worship.
The devout laity have followed this rule in spirit also with objects of private devotion, especially those that have been blessed. Parents teach their children to treat holy things with respect and I try to support them – for example, I encourage children to take home a palm but stress that they should not use it to have a pretend sword fight. Similarly we would not use holy water to wash the dishes, a missal to prop up a table or a rosary to hang up a coat.
This respect for sacred objects poses a dilemma when such things wear out and we want to dispose of them reverently. Traditionally, this was done by the object being buried, broken (so that it is no longer a crucifix, for example) or burnt. With a hand missal, there is a problem in that most of us do not have easy access to an open fire nowadays. I think that it would not be irreverent to take the book apart and to put the pages into a recycling facility (rather than with the general rubbish.)
You may want to think of alternatives to disposing of the book. If you have room to keep it, it will be of interest in years to come. The translation will show how much the recent change was needed, and if your missal has artwork from the 1970s, it will be a fascinating example of a particular period in modern Church history.
Catholic Dilemmas column published in the Catholic Herald
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