What Happens to Old Mass Books?
U.S. bishops outline proper disposal of old liturgical books and religious items as new Missal comes into use.
After the switch to a new Mass translation, old liturgical books should be respectfully buried, either intact or after being burned, according to the U.S. bishops.
“Whether or not the Sacramentary has been blessed by an official rite, it is appropriate to treat it with care,” the bishops’ Secretariat for Divine Worship said in a recent response to several queries from U.S. Catholics. “Its disposal should be handled with respect.”
The bishops’ liturgy office recommends “burying the Sacramentary in an appropriate location on church grounds or perhaps in a parish cemetery” after the switch to a new liturgical translation, which took effect on Nov. 27.
“Some have even suggested following a custom used in various Eastern churches,” they noted, “whereby liturgical books or Bibles are placed in the coffin of the deceased as a sign of devotion and love for the liturgy.”
Some Catholics may be surprised to learn that it is appropriate, and even customary, to burn or bury old liturgical books and other religious items.
According to the U.S. bishops’ secretariat, the ashes of liturgical books should be collected and “placed in the ground in an appropriate location on church grounds.”
Catholic tradition offers these means of disposal in order to ensure that objects used in worship are not casually discarded or mistreated even when they are no longer needed for use or reference.
The liturgy office advised parishes to keep a copy of the old liturgical translations in their archives or libraries.
Hymnals and hand missals are also among the types of items that would traditionally be blessed, and should therefore be replaced respectfully after the changeover.
But the secretariat acknowledged it “might be difficult to appropriately dispose of a large number of copies of such books.”
If burning and burial are impractical, non-archived hymnals and hand missals “could be stored for use by prayer or study groups in the parish, offered to parishioners for their own private devotional use, or donated to other small communities that could effectively make use of them.”
The secretariat also noted that the new liturgical books ought to have been blessed using the rite provided in the Church’s official Book of Blessings before their first use on 2011’s First Sunday of Advent, possibly at a weekday Mass the preceding Saturday, or outside Mass at a separate parish gathering.