A few people have wondered about what to do with the old liturgical books on November 26. (At my parish, the sacristan cracked the other day that we should just keep them and wait another 40 years or so until another generation of liturgical experts decides to bring them back…) But the USCCB, meantime, offers some guidelines:
In the March-April Newsletter of the US bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, the Secretariat responded to questions about the disposition of copies of the current Sacramentary once the new Roman Missal has been implemented. Following are excerpts from the response:
“There is relatively little written about exactly what to do with liturgical books which have been replaced by updated or revised editions, but some related writings, as well as some common sense, can provide some context…
“Whether or not the Sacramentary has been blessed by an official rite, it is appropriate to treat it with care as it has been admitted into liturgical use. Its disposal should be handled with respect. The Secretariat recommends burying the Sacramentary in an appropriate location on church grounds, or perhaps in a parish cemetery if there is one.… In lieu of burying old liturgical books, they could be burned, and the ashes placed in the ground in an appropriate location on church grounds. It is advisable to retain a copy of the Sacramentary for parish archives or liturgical libraries”.
The Newsletter mentions the new Missals may be blessed before use, and that this “could take place during a Mass on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, at the last weekday Mass prior to the First Sunday of Advent, or outside Mass at a separate gathering of liturgical ministers or other parish leaders”.
Regarding outdated hymnals and other participation aids (such as hand missals) some copies may be kept for archives or might be “offered to parishioners for their own private devotional use, or donated to other small communities that could effectively make use of them”, the Newsletter said. However, annual hymnals and periodical participation aids should be discarded after their prescribed period of use and cannot be retained for other uses.
Given the choice, I’d prefer burial to burning, since the burning of books has a lot of disturbing connotations and, after all, isn’t very safe. But perhaps the best place is a box in the church basement, alongside such classic texts as Feeling in Felt: Making Banners for Church Celebrations! and The 1974 Guide to Pantsuits for Nuns.