QUAERITUR: Selling a rosary and other sacred things

Several readers have sent similar questions about the selling of sacred things.  I will simply answer rather than post excerpts of the questions.

Let’s start with the most sacred of all, the Eucharist.  Selling the Eucharist would be a terrible sacrilege.   The Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church uses the word “nefas” (“really really really bad”, “intolerable”).  The Eucharist is sacred in Itself.   If you sell the Eucharist, you incur automatically an excommunication.  The lifting of the censure is reserved to the Holy See or a confessor with a faculty from the Holy See.

Selling a relic also has he word “nefas” applied to it in the Code.  Relics are sacred things in themselves, because they are the remains of saints or blesseds or, if they are not part of the body, were objects associated with the saint.  If they are sold, they remain holy things.

Selling blessed objects is not necessarily a sin.  There are various decent reasons why one would sell a blessed object.  There are bad reasons as well.  Some things, such as statues or things of various age or artistic merit will have great monetary value.   Other things have a particular rareness or association which makes them valuable, even though they in themselves are not much to look at.

Selling of sacred offices is also a sin and a crime in the Church’s law, for obvious reasons.

Selling of “smaller things”.  When I go to a religious goods store, people will sometimes ask me to bless things such as small statues, rosaries, books, medals, etc.  I am happy to do so, but only after they have been purchased.  If you sell a sacred thing which was blessed with a constitutive blessing, it loses its blessing and must be reblessed or reconsecrated.  If I were to sell my, for example, chalice which was consecrated by the late Card. Mayer, the purchaser would have to have it reconsecrated.  The same would go for a rosary.  However, there is no question of “reblessing” something like relics of Sts. Nunilo and Alodia rescued from Ebay or a flee market: relics are sacred in themselves.  The reliquary, however, would be duly reblessed.

I hope that helps a little.

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28 Responses to QUAERITUR: Selling a rosary and other sacred things

  1. Scott W. says:

    I think what many had in mind is that on Ebay, there was a rosary owned by Fr. Corapi going for $5000. [Do you think that?] The defense was that it was an auction in support of a Catholic ministry, but it seemed dodgy [?] because of the great lengths the description went to highlight the rosary’s graces (Owned by Fr. Corapi, blessed by JPII, touched the tomb of St. Peter, etc.) [Any facts here?]

  2. JuliB says:

    What about the buying of certain things? I purchased a 3rd degree relic of Pope St. Pius X off ebay. I did so for two reasons – 1. he’s my patron saint, and 2. to get it off of ebay. Is buying it a sin?

  3. gloriainexcelsis says:

    In parish book/gift shops there are available for purchase small holy cards with the picture of a saint, a prayer and a third class relic. Proceeds of all shop sales go to support the parish. Since no profit is realized, I have always thought there could be no problem. Then I wonder – what about the source of purchase by the gift shop? Does that source make a profit? It’s a small thing to question perhaps, but I wonder. I have always had rosaries, medals and statues blessed after purchase. Purchased scapulars need no blessing, since the blessing is on the person who has been initiated into the scapular. Hmm. As usual, I begin to make things complicated in my own mind.

  4. spock says:

    So at a local Parish near me, They were selling blessed candles after candlemas. ($2.00 for two in a long thin box). If I read Father Z. correctly, they would need to be re-blessed ?

  5. A lot of these things are supposed to have… insulation. Like, “Buy this nice holy card, and we’ll throw in these holy relics for free” or “Give us a donation of $2, and we’ll give you a gift of blessed candles.” It’s easy not to notice this, or for someone at a parish or E-bay to forget this insulation. But usually it’s there, somewhere, and it does make a great difference in terms of reverence. Sometimes you can just assume it, but you should remind people to be careful about this.

  6. APX says:

    Hmm, this makes me wonder about selling larger things such as churches. We sold our church to a Mennonite sect, but we’re sharing it now until we move into the new cathedral.

  7. Churches are more consecrated than just a blessed item. There’s a formal ceremony of deconsecration, which I’m sure your bishop/pastor will perform when your parish leaves altogether; but it probably wouldn’t be appropriate just yet. Anyway… what got sold was not the consecrated church, but just a deconsecrated used building and some land. The fact that the church hasn’t been deconsecrated just yet is probably something canon lawyers and regular lawyers got to write about in the real estate contract.

  8. James Joseph says:

    @spock

    The way I read it, too, that is toe-ing the line. Amen. Amen. I say to you better it is to get a bulk rate pricing on waxen candles ahead of time like they do with the Girl Cult cookies; so that, when they arrive they can be blessed and given a minor exorcism.

    Amen. Amen. I say to you. Better still it is to have all the constituent parts blessed; so that, you can assemble the candle thyself…. and have that blessed so that the holy smoke can rise in your habitation.

    The following link has pile of audio-links (some of the links are funky and might need to have their extensions re-named in order to play properly… i.e. .mp3 to .mp2, .mp4 to .mp3…)

    http://www.sensustraditionis.org/multimedia.html

  9. Geoffrey says:

    Some places simply charge for shipping and handling, which I would think is legitimate. A few years back I sent a donation to the Cause of Bl. John Paul II for a 2nd class relic (a piece of one of his cassocks affixed to a prayer card). It was explicitly stated you were donating to the cause / covering the postage.

  10. Ashley says:

    Fr. Z,

    In our parish book store, holy candles are sold for personal devotion. They are blessed before they are sold. Many use them for personal devotion in their home, or at the parish shrine, itself.

    Once these candles are purchased, do they need to be re-blessed?

    Is there documentation for this, if so, that we could present to the pastor?

    Thank you!

  11. St. Rafael says:

    What about the following scenario?

    I was told that this happened during a Catholic conference. Inside the arena, they were selling books written by a certain priest. The priest author was seated near by at a table to sign autographs, bless, and take questions. The cashier selling the books gave two prices for the same book. If he just wanted the book, the price was X. However, if he wanted the book blessed by the priest, the price was going to be Y. The book cost more soley because it was blessed or going to be blessed by the priest.

  12. Scott W. says:

    The cashier selling the books gave two prices for the same book. If he just wanted the book, the price was X. However, if he wanted the book blessed by the priest, the price was going to be Y. The book cost more soley because it was blessed or going to be blessed by the priest.

    I’m no expert, but that sounds highly dodgy and at the very least violates the spirit of the law and probably the letter.

  13. Daniel says:

    The documentation seems to be in regards to indulgences. The use of certain properly blessed pious articles can gain you an indulgence. One of them has to do with a plenary indulgence for praying a rosary blessed by a pope on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. But per the Norms for Indulgences, “An indulgence attached to the use of a religious article expires only when the article itself ceases to exist or is sold.” Some of the earlier norms prior to Pope Paul VI’s revisions seemed even stricter in that you could not give away a blessed article without it losing the attached indulgences, and may have stated more clearly that it would lose the blessing.

  14. amylpav22 says:

    What about receiving something blessed?

    My mother-in-law passed away in April and I received the rosary she used on a daily basis (she was buried with another one, of her choosing). Does this need to be re-blessed?

  15. shin says:

    RE: “If you sell a sacred thing which was blessed with a constitutive blessing, it loses its blessing and must be reblessed or reconsecrated. ”

    From whence comes the weight behind this statement? Please explain further in detail Fr. Z.

  16. Dr. Sebastianna says:

    So, Fr. Z et al….

    Is it OK or NOT OK to bid on/purchase a reliquary and or theca containing a relic on ebay or a similar auction site, to rescue it?

    Some sellers explicitly write that you are bidding on the reliquary and theca and the relic itself is included as a gift. Others do not. What should we do?

    PS I have a friend who calls it “simonebay.”

  17. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Aha! I do remember the “storekeeper,” as we payed for blessed candles, saying that what we “payed” was a donation, not a purchase per se. The same goes for the 50 cent votives to place and light before the Blessed Mother’s or Sacred Heart’s statue. They have also been blessed.

  18. Scott W. says:

    Is it OK or NOT OK to bid on/purchase a reliquary and or theca containing a relic on ebay or a similar auction site, to rescue it?

    Reiterating my non-authoritative status, I’d say that even though one intends to rescue such things, objectively one is creating more demand and the seller says, “Hey! That sold. Where can I get more to sell?”

  19. Allan S. says:

    I often buy rosaries I likee off eBay, and then have them (re)blessed. I have always questioned why re-blessing is required. If the object had previously been blessed then that cannot be “undone”. The ontological character of the scramental was changed for all time at the point of original blessing. Of course, additional blessings will not do any harm.

    I gather that the Church has decreed that sold blessed sacramentals must lose their blessings so as to remove any profit incentive associated with selling the “blessing” part of the sacramental. But this approach does seem to be at odds with everything we are taught about ontological change and the true nature of things. You can’t unring a bell either.

  20. Mike says:

    I mentioned Nefas to a Latin teacher I work with, and he said that the word stems from “fas” to say something, and “ne”, not, to not…hence, unspeakably evil—nefas. Also, the word is undeclined…and actually unspeakable according to normal Latin usuage.

  21. Elizabeth D says:

    I’m against buying relics on eBay, especially first class. It obviously contributes to creating a market for sale of things which, considering our belief in the resurrection of the body, it is unspeakably wrong to sell. It’s nonsense that $500 on eBay for a relic of a popular Saint is buying the theca. It seems people are buying and selling bits of St Teresa, and the market is flourishing partly as a result of devout people who feel they are “rescuing” relics.

  22. Jim_Sheridan says:

    A fairly well-known local Catholic apologist passed away recently in Southern California. He left his entire collection of relics (and their beautiful reliquaries) to his local parish, and they are displayed beautifully in the parish’s Adoration Chapel. There’s about 100 of them, including the 11 Apostles (plus Mathais). It’s quite a site to behold!

  23. Daniel says:

    For those looking for a link, http://www.catholicliturgy.com/index.cfm/FuseAction/documentText/Index/2/SubIndex/0/ContentIndex/549/Start/547 has a slightly out of date English version of the Norms for Indulgences in which the appropriate Norm is 19.2 . The more current version is available in Latin on the Vatican website at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/tribunals/apost_penit/documents/rc_trib_appen_doc_20020826_enchiridion-indulgentiarum_lt.html in which it is now Norm 16.2

  24. Ulrich says:

    Father, you asked about the rosary of Fr Corapi. [I did? Where did I ask about that?] Here is the link:
    http://cgi.ebay.com/Fr-John-Corapis-Rosary-Blessed-John-Paul-II-/160588110925

  25. I now understand why people were asking about selling a rosary.

    It is not wrong to sell a rosary. But if a person buys a rosary, he should have it blessed.

    For example, were I to sell this rosary, put into my hand by Pope John Paul and then blessed by him during a different private audience, I would slightly the wealthier and someone would have a new rosary. But that rosary would have to be blessed.

    But if I were to sell this “spare” first class relic of St. Pope Leo I – I have another in a larger reliquary – I would be a horrid sacrilegious scrub who had committed a sin..


  26. Oleg-Michael says:

    Father,

    In the Russian language… or, at least, among Russian Catholics… or, at least, among some of Russian Catholics… there is a very clear distinction between two words: “to bless” and “to consecrate” (“?????????????” and “????????”, in case if someone here can read Russian). The latter is used for objects that are dedicated solely to sacred/ecclesiastic use, such as a chalice, an altar, vestments, a rosary, a holy image and so on – the idea is very close to the Hebrew stem kodesh, meaning “to separate from secular use for godly needs”. The former word is used when we talk about blessing secular objects (a car, a meal, a home…), and we are taught never to confuse one and the other. Is there such a distinction in English and/or Latin, and in the Canon Law or any rubrics? Thanks.

  27. Oleg-Michael says:

    Oops, sorry – looks like Cyrillic letters have turned into ??? in my previous post. OK, I meant “blagoslovljatj” and “osvjaschatj”.

  28. For characters in other languages, convert the special characters to HTML with a site such as this.