Disposing of old sacramentaries

From the just-arrived Newsletter of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship: how do you dispose of an old sacramentary?

Though little is written about it, it’s an important topic. The Book of Blessings says that the sacramentary, lectionary, and other liturgical books are to be blessed, although the official Latin (De Benedictionibus) doesn’t mention the missal explicitly in this regard.

The BCDW recommends burying the old sacramentary on church grounds or in a parish cemetery. Other possibilities are placing the liturgical book in the coffin of a deceased person, as is done in various Eastern Churches, as a sign of the person’s devotion to the liturgy. One could also do ‘cremation’ (my term, not theirs) and bury the ashes on church grounds. Suggestion: keep one copy of the book for the parish archives.

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41 comments

  1. I’d hang on to them if I were you. You never know what might happen in the next year or two.

    And in any case you’re going to need them for the EPs for Masses with Children, for which the existing translation can continue to be used until other provision is made.

    The idea of burying a book, with all the associations of mourning and grieving associated with burial, strikes me as either quite bizarre or a hilarious admission that dispensing with what we are currently using is going to cause damage and hurt to people, and they will indeed be grieving. Probably not what was intended by those proposing this ritual gesture.

    And on this subject, in another forum this question was asked:

    “This line from the accompanying letter to Summorum Pontificum (which was quoted in this latest document on the extraordinary form) states: What was sacred for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well, and cannot be suddenly prohibited altogether or even judged harmful. With such a statement from the Holy Father himself, how can we convince our people that when the third typical edition of the Roman Missal is promulgated, they cannot still use the second typical edition?”

  2. How about a variation on the way Osama bin Laden was reverently disposed of? Strap a pile of them to the entire Vox Clara Commission and slide them all into the Tiber?

    1. You seriously think anyone from “the immensity of” Vox Clara wouldn’t sink without the books?!

      To paraphrase a line from Gone With The Wind: They been lunchin’ with the Pope. And they ain’t never going to be no eighteen and a half inches again.

    2. How about we take the entire rotten hierarchy and dump them in the Tiber! Isn’t that what the Roman people used to do when they would rise up against oppressive “popes”? 🙂

    1. My copy of the sacramentary will remain on my bookshelf where it has always been. It forms a nice decorative as well as reference element.

      I suspect that in most parishes there are people who would be glad to give a copy a honored place on their bookshelves.

      Some parishes are likely to encourage people to donate a New Missal in memory of loved one. Perhaps giving them a Sacramentary might be a nice gesture.

      They might also be used to honor a person who has served in some liturgical capacity, e.g. choir director, perhaps suitably mounted with some indication of the reason for the honor. Could become a heirloom like a family bible.

      I would bury the BCDW suggestions, or a least cremate them.

    2. Dude. Keep ‘em on the book shelf.
      Don’t people believe in a reference library?

      We have about six copies. (Not counting personal copies that some of our liturgy team own.) Some of them quite worn. We don’t need to keep all of them.

  3. They should indeed be maintained for study purposes.

    And many of them will continue to be studied weekly, at the altar, with candles alight and microphones turned on . . .

    After all, as Paul Inwood reminded us above: What was sacred for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well, and cannot be suddenly prohibited altogether or even judged harmful. (Oh I suspect we’ll see that one a few times before the rapture!)

      1. Well, that WAS one of the raptures to which I was alluding, Cody, but I’m not entirely certain of the timing.

        I mean, I might know where all the bodies are buried (and who put them there) in this ridiculous Missal / Sacramentary process . . . but I leave things like “rapture” to those who know, or think they know, oh, and, of course, with a different kind of rapture, there’s always Allan McDonald’s rapturous reading of that gem of English translation (on his planet – called, I believe, “Veri Probati”) the Maryknoll Missal.

      2. See, and here I thought you were counting on the rapture tomorrow, and the end of it all on October 21. The idea of God thus intervening to stop the introduction of the new missal translation in November is the only thing that has given me pause to take this whole rapture business seriously.

      3. Oh Chris, do you ever stop thinking about Fr Allan?

        Perhaps tonight God will intervene and make the Maryknoll Missal the official one again – it actually is better than what we now have and what we are getting. Who cares if it was originally just meant to be read quietly?

  4. “The idea of burying a book, with all the associations of mourning and grieving associated with burial, strikes me as either quite bizarre ”

    As one who has dealt with books in the past I agree but for selfish reasons. I don’t know how many times I’ve only had three copies of a breviary set because they had buried the copy of the breviary being used at the time of the priest’s death with him.

    I’ve managed to get used to this with Latin breviaries but I’ll never get over the time I came across three of those Stanbrook breviaries and learned that the missing volume was buried with the former owner. The evil thought did cross my mind to…but I resisted temptation.

    1. Oh Brian! I’m so glad your two great teachers, Father Reginaldus Foster and Professor Xavier Rindfleisch, imparted a little morality to you, along with all that Latin.

      Talking of Stanbrook, translations, graves and the coming Pell-Moroney-Ward Missal, I had the privilege of praying at the grave of Dame Maria Boulding at the new Stanbrook Abbey a while back. You’ll remember she’s the ONLY woman (well, female) to have worked on the 2008 Missal, and her work, the translation of the Exsultet (and that alone, I believe), survived intact with no tinkering from the Vox Clara vandals.

      (The Nuns left the cemetery as it was at the old Stanbrook Abbey when they moved out, and sold up – I wonder what they buried with Dame Laurentia . . . When are you coming to Europe again?)

  5. If anyone has a sacramentary they need to get rid of, feel free to email me. I currently don’t have one on my personal bookshelf, and would be more than happy to provide a good, safe home for yours.

    1. Same here, except I’ll hang onto it and flog it off for a fortune on eBay when the pennies drop all over the English-speaking world that we were, in fact, better with “the devil we knew” . . .

  6. Is it also permissible to cremate a liturgical book, dissolve the ashes in water, and then pour the dissolved ashes down a sacrarium?

    I don’t see the difference between that and the burial of ashes.

  7. Paul—-I’d hang on to them if I were you. You never know what might happen in the next year or two.
    —-

    Paul I and Paul S and Chris G’s comments betray a sentiment which Praytellers supposedly do not share. i.e. a strong attachment to the 1973 translation and all its flaws.

    When asked directly, no one owns up. But this string’s oblique approach reveals the heart of what many of this blog’s contributors are all about…….keeping the 1973.

    1. Rubbish. You have no idea, and neither of the Pauls nor I’ve given any indication what we think of 1973. The coming Pell-Moroney-Ward Missal is a train-wreck waiting to happen, for many reasons, but saying that gives no indication at all about what I might think about 1973. You might as well pretend it gives you a clue as to what I think about 1998, or, for that matter, Cranmer’s Prayer Book of 1549 – it doesn’t!

      How did you come to this incorrect assumption, anyway? Overcome by Paschal joys or what?

      1. I have to disagree. Applying the pope’s EF quote — “What was sacred for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well, “— to the 1973 translation, does indeed give clues to how you feel.

        for many, the 1973 translation has been a burden and a cross to bear. For you and Paul it is has been ‘sacred and great’.

      2. Are you saying that the Sacramentary was not sacred? Interesting notion. The rapturous evaluation of it is merely application of the Pope’s words to the concern of the bishops about proper disposal. Apparently you do not care for their suggestion that it merits special handling?

        And now I am off to contemplate the mystery of your last paragraph. Are you saying that because it was a cross, it is therefore not sacred? Or that because it was a cross, it is sacred? This metaphor sure undercuts what I thought you were saying, so maybe you mean something else?

    2. George – what I hang onto is the liturgical organic developmental process set in place by Vatican II. 1973 can only be judged by taking into consideration its goal; the change that it ushered in, etc. and the context and time this happened. (Monday morning quarterbacking and cheap shots does nothing)

      Subsequent to 1973, a process began in which significant folks from 11+ conferences, experts, and ICEL/ICET began to improve, update, and expand our liturgy.

      This process may have borne good fruit and began a structure and format that would have allowed for “real” organic development rather than constant liturgy wars.

      Instead, sniping, ignorance, ideology, and power corrupted a process.

      Rather you can admit or not, any survey, data, or information from over 2,000 bishops starting in the late 1960’s indicated that this liturgical process and its results were met with overwhelming approval and agreement. (that doesn’t mean that I am saying everyone liked everything)

  8. Aren’t the old ones supposed to self-destruct five seconds after the new ones are blessed? Oh wait, I’m confusing liturgical conundrums with Mission Impossible once again.

  9. This sort of advice is all very well if you live in a rural area, but just try to bury or burn some big fat hardcover books in the city of New York, and you’ll get a summons. I’ve had people ask me about disposing of old Bibles too, and there is just no convenient graveyard for books. Putting them in people’s coffins sounds reverent and nice, but however many priests’ funerals you have in a year, you are going to have many more books than dead priests. And how many lay people want to be buried with a Sacramentary?

    I am not opposed to keeping reverence for blessed objects. But one has to be realistic. How many people have the wherewithal to dispose even of, say, their blessed palms by burning or burying them? Some parishes do collect and burn them for the next year’s Ash Wednesday ashes, but I must confess I’ve never known one and I’ve known a lot of parishes. I mean, how realistic is all this? Does anyone bury old liturgical books even now? And do we run the risk of according more honor to our liturgical books than to Holy Writ, if similar guidelines are not in place for Bibles?

    Additional questions arise as well, such as, if it is our duty to assure a reverent burial for old books, is it permitted to sell them second-hand, if such reverence can’t be guaranteed by the buyer — which it can’t.

      1. Karl,
        The office of worship was closed here some years ago. But you are giving me ideas! How about if everyone sends their old sacramentaries to Vox Clara, care of Msgr. Moroney… postage due? 🙂

      2. Rita

        Sounds like a plan of…non-violent cooperation….who could possibly object?

  10. “And do we run the risk of according more honor to our liturgical books than to Holy Writ, if similar guidelines are not in place for Bibles? ”

    Until recently very few dealers would bid on bibles at auctions here in the Granite State. I was told it was a matter of respect for God’s Word.

  11. George Andrews :
    I have to disagree. Applying the pope’s EF quote — “What was sacred for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well, “— to the 1973 translation, does indeed give clues to how you feel.
    for many, the 1973 translation has been a burden and a cross to bear. For you and Paul it is has been ’sacred and great’.

    You might take that application as a clue, George, but you’ve nothing concrete to base it on. And, in addition, you’re wrong.

    I’ve been accused, pretty equally, of being a fan of 1973, the (non-ICEL English and USA, separately) drafts that preceded it, 1998, 1549, 2008 and indeed everything except Allan McDonald’s beloved Maryknoll Missal and the fiasco which the Pell-Moroney-Ward Missal has turned out to be.

    Amazingly, none of this playing-the-man-and-not-the-ball really matters, though: bad translations, and awkward, unproclaimable texts remain just that.

    The issue here is not which translation I prefer, but the disaster that is being foisted upon us.

    As Sister used to say in primary school “Almighty God deserves our best.” Well, George, the Pell-Moroney-Ward Missal is NOT our best!

  12. Box, package and address redundant volumes to:
    Office of Vox Clara, Rome.
    Postage to be paid by the recipient.
    Let them see the real size of the problem we now face.

    1. Hang onto them. If this pontificate has taught us nothing else, it’s taught us that there is no such thing as a redundant liturgical book.

      To quote Our Lord The Pope, gloriously reigning: What was sacred for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well, and cannot be suddenly prohibited altogether or even judged harmful.

  13. George Andrews :

    I have to disagree. Applying the pope’s EF quote — “What was sacred for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well, “— to the 1973 translation, does indeed give clues to how you feel.
    for many, the 1973 translation has been a burden and a cross to bear. For you and Paul it is has been ’sacred and great’.

    OK, I’ll come right out and say it. I love the 1973 translation. It has been present my entire life and has nourished me spiritually and led me to a deeper relationship with the Creator. The language IS beautiful, the lines flowing, and structure is easy to understand and thus easier to pray.

    The 73 Translation, which many fine men and women, lay and ordained fashioned with love and excitement with the guidance and care of the Holy Spirit. It really has been “an offering” which has allowed the Church to worship “in spirit and in truth.”

  14. My archivist’s heart nearly skipped a beat. Destroy them, all? Let’s hope not! I’ve a shelf full of Sacramentaries and Breviaries, in Latin, in English, old and new, provisional translations and approved.

  15. Based on my experience, I strongly suggest that each church keep at least two Sacramentaries. Also, let us thank God for allowing us to have them.

  16. I think the old one is so much better than the new one. It was good enough for my mother, it was good enough for father–it’s good enough for me!

    If something’s not broken don’t fix it. Why in the world make these changes
    now. They’re awkward and don’t sound good. At least that’s the way I see it.
    But who am I to question wiser people than I?

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