Welcome back to Msgr. Brennan who had gone to Ireland when he got the sad news of his sister’s passing away. He is grateful to our community for remembering Brigid during our Prayers of Intercession at all our weekend Masses and for the loving support we offered him.
We know that the feast of St. Joseph is on March 19 [today]; but this year it is postponed to March 20 [tomorrow], because it is falling on a Sunday, the Lord’s Day. As I discussed last week in this column, some traditions are changeable with the changing situations. Thus the doctrine on St. Joseph and the honor we give him with a Solemn Feast can be seen as Primary Traditions that will not be changed; but the date to celebrate this Solemn Feast can be considered as Secondary tradition and so can be changed if a need arises as it happened this year.
This reminds me to share with you another question that we priests are asked often: What to do with old and unusable sacred items? Many people have holy objects like broken rosaries, holy cards, statues, pictures of Jesus and saints, etc., remaining in a clutter box in many houses, in a state of permanent limbo as people don’t know how to dispose of these items. Some do have an attachment to these sacred objects, even if they are broken or unused. But many, in my understanding, hold on to broken or unused holy items due to unspoken guilt. A fear that something can happen if they simply discard these sacred items. People fear that something can go wrong if they fail to handle these religious items properly.
The Church does provide guidance on this. The rule of thumb for the disposition of these items is that anything that has been blessed should be burned or simply buried. Now, If you’re reading this and feel anxious about the palms, rosaries, and prayer cards you’ve thrown away over the years, there’s no need to lose sleep over it.
One important thing we need to understand is this: all sacred objects are means to an end. They are tools for our spiritual growth. If the water flow in our faucet is faulty, we call the plumber who will replace the parts or the pipe. The old parts and pipes will be discarded. God uses created things as channels of grace. That means grace is coming to us through these channels from Jesus Christ who is the source of our life-giving water, as he told the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:11). Therefore, if these channels or tools are no more usable, they need to be discarded.
I liked this explanation from the Diocese of Superior in Wisconsin: “It is not a sin to throw away blessed items, but out of proper respect, one should dispose of them in this way. If devotionals have not been blessed, such as some of the holy cards and such that come through the mail, those are simply pictures and can be thrown away. If you feel uncomfortable throwing them away, you can burn or bury them as well.”
Jesus said: “Know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32). May we all seek the truth and experience true freedom in Jesus Christ. His truth will bring us true joy. And, today is “Laetare Sunday” when the Church is inviting us to be joyful in anticipation of the approaching celebration of Easter.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal