What can you do with an old Sacramentary?

What can you do with an old Sacramentary? November 6, 2011

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“There is relatively little written about exactly what to do with liturgical books which have been replaced by updated or revised editions, but some related writings, as well as some common sense, can provide some context…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Regarding outdated hymnals and other participation aids (such as hand missals) some copies may be kept for archives or might be “offered to parishioners for their own private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.

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18 responses to “What can you do with an old Sacramentary?”

  1. Perhaps stored with other non-abrogated books, waiting for the indult to celebrate the “original” Mass of Paul VI.

  2. “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.” LOL!
    About the outdated hymnals, yes it is a good idea to offer them to parishioners. My mom was an organist in our hometown when they got rid of the St. Gregory and St. Basil hymnals. She saved several copies; I have them now. I use them for some accompaniments, especially Lenten devotions. I have picked up hymnals from just about every denomonation at garage sales. The most unusual is probably the shape-notes hymnal from the Ozarks, published in the 1930’s. The parish we are in now has a box of old Polish hymnals from years gone by; the choirs dust them off and use them every Easter and Christmas. We saved our “Glory and Praise”, too. Hymnals are part of our heritage.

  3. What happens if the “Old Sacramentary” is memorialized? I believe it then Should be stored in the Rectory.

  4. I like collecting books, so I’d keep it. I recently was given an old pre-vatican II missal. Being able to compare old versions of something to the new version is fascinating. The old versions are part of Church history, after all 😉

  5. Why not just keep it on a shelf in the rectory library or the pastor’s office? It’s possible that one might, at some point, wish to refer to it.

    On Fr. Z’s blog, someone snarkily suggested that the soon-to-be obsolete Sacramentary should be treated with the same respect shown to the old Missals in many parishes after Vatican II. (I believe a lot of them were, horribile dictu, just thrown in the trash.)

  6. “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.”

    Lol! Wow Deacon, this was funny! Good to see you have a great common sense when it comes to what was and is sound in the Church (including liturgy).

  7. I know that the new Roman Missal is going to be released in an app for the iPad and Rome has allowed its use for the celebration of the mass. I would suggest that if this option is going to be used, then glue the pages of old sacramentary together, then cut out the center to allow the iPad to sit inside it, out of sight. I think that this would be a good use for the old sacramentary and allow the iPad to be used, but still have the feel of using the liturgical books.

  8. Part of the revision process should have been to include disposition instructions for the old ones! Ha! Has Rome recommended anything?

    If the parish is cash-poor, I wouldn’t toss/remove/banish/destroy these summarily. Sometimes, one needs an extra missal and doesn’t have resources to replace every single book in one shot, particularly if where there are many. These can be an invaluable resource, when the prayers/instructions are the same as in the old missal. Alternatively, if I lived close to a university/seminary theology program, they might be donated to their library for research purposes for theses and the like, though if everyone did that, the school would be inundated.

    I like the Easter Vigil idea, as long as the reason for doing so was carefully explained to the congregants, rather than have it look suspiciously odd. One would have to insure incineration was complete rather than have it be for show only (cf Matthew 6:1). What seems to be the simplest thing to do is to retire them to parish archives of some sort or bury them in the parish cemetery, if there is one, or, with permission, some other Catholic cemetery. If the cemetery has an outdoor altar set up, an area contingent to that could be just the place!

    Sorry, but I think the iPad app holder, while practical, is just strange! We should be careful not to do things just to be seen as being good (cf Matthew 6:1).

  9. The idea of burying obsolete sacramentaries seems a bit much. Of course a sacrarium is the proper thing for disposal of regurgitated hosts, etc., and disposing of sacred oils in the ground is entirely proper IMO; but to elevate a sacramentary to the same level as the sacred species and the holy oils seems excessive. Unless the burial is to invoke the intercession of Pope Paul VI to make the property sell.

  10. naturegesetz–I never heard of the intercession of P6 to make the property sell. What’s the story there?

  11. Notgiven,

    That was a satire on the superstition some people have of burying a statue of St. Joseph to get a property to sell.

  12. Yeah, that one I’ve heard of! Ha! I thought maybe you had another angle there.

    Though, there are people who bury St Joe with complete faith asking for his intercession on the sale of their home…and not as a superstition, then repose him in a position of honor in their new home. Then, there are others who do it exactly as a superstition. I dare say, the good saint knows the difference and God has a way of bringing good even out of such situations.

    Have a blessed evening!

  13. Wait! Why exactly are “Feeling in Felt: Making Banners for Church Celebrations! and The 1974 Guide to Pantsuits for Nuns” in the basement still? They should have been burned years ago just to be safe.

  14. A tempting solution, along with Deacon G’s. But as a confirmed bibliophile it is very hard for me to countenance the destruction of (almost) any book. Keep it in a good liturgical library, for historical reference. Under lock and key, of course.

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