ASK FATHER: What to do with broken, worn out blessed objects?

From a reader…

Quaeritur:

My family has accumulated over many years lots of religious items, many of them now broken i.e. rosary’s, statues, loose medals.

We’ve never really thrown them out because we’ve been unsure as to whether you can throw out religious items, especially if they may have previously been blessed. What’s the best thing to do? There’s quite possibly boxloads…

One of the simplest solutions could be to bury them.  Once upon a time, before synthetic fabrics and plastics, vestments and wooden and otherwise combustible objects could be safely burned and the ashes them buried in the earth.

I can think of a lot of vestments and other objects which ought to be burned, but beware of polyester: melts before it burns.  And the fumes are nasty.

It could be that where you are there are local laws about burning things outdoors, and you may have drought conditions.

Another solution which could be a little more complicated to achieve could be to contact those in charge of construction of a new church and have your items incorporated somehow in the foundation.  I heard of cases of this when people were trying to figure out how to dispose of obsolete liturgical books after the current English translation came into force.

I am glad that you have a sense that the sacrality of blessed objects is to be respected.  Blessed objects should not be simply cast onto the rubbish heap.

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Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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25 Responses to ASK FATHER: What to do with broken, worn out blessed objects?

  1. CrimsonCatholic says:

    This is good to know, I have honestly never thought of this before. I will now bury my blessed objects should they become broken, etc. Thank you for the helpful information Father.

  2. Bea says:

    Thanks for this post and reply.
    We too have drawers full of Blessed objects from even my parents and aunts who had various medals, images, pictures, rosaries, scapulars etc, which I imagine MUST have been blessed.
    We, too, have drought conditions where even leaves and branches are picked up by the city trash and cannot be burned for fear of starting “forest” fires.

  3. OrthodoxChick says:

    The reader mentions items such as medals, broken rosaries, and statues. Another potential idea is to jump on the “upcycle” bandwagon. It’s all the rage on Etsy. When I find myself with tons of medals, I rumage through my jewelry box for old charm bracelets. I take off the charms from old fads I don’t care for anymore (fish, birds, dolphins, etc) and with a simple pair of pliers and a pack of jump rings (available on the cheap at Walmart, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and online) I attach my religious medals and end up with a religious charm bracelet that I can wear and enjoy. If the medals aren’t new and shiny looking, just grab an old toothbrush that you’re about to toss and use toothpaste and water to polish them up. That’s if the medals are “mystery metal” of some unknown alloy base. If you have some very old medals that are actually silver or gold, then polish those accordingly (with tarn-x for silver, etc). If the plate on your medals is really beat-up and some of the medals are special to you, you might consider visiting a local jeweler and enquire about having them “dipped” (re-plated). For items as small as medals, it’s usually not expensive to have them dipped.

    If you really have tons of boxes of the medals, you can buy alloy-based, charmless charm bracelets at a craft store or Walmart and make lots of religious charm bracelets. Then donate them to the parish women’s guild or whomever runs the annual parish craft fair/bazaar. Maybe the ladies’ club can sell them and raise a few dollars for your parish.

    Same advice for the rosaries. If you have all of the beads and just the links are broken, you can pick up findings very inexpensively and repair the rosaries with a pair of pliers. If you don’t think they look new enough to sell at a parish rumage sale or the like, you can always donate them to the missions for free once repaired. If some of the rosaries are missing beads, you can dismantle the rosary with pliers and add the beads to your charm bracelets to jazz them up, or make a smaller, 1 decade style rosary. You can also add the crucifixes to the bracelets or pick up some inexpensive chains and make necklaces out of them. If your parish has an Adoration chapel, another nice idea might be to ask the pastor if you can donate your repaired rosaries to the chapel, free for the borrowing and/or taking for adorers.

    And same advice for the statues. You can get kits at craft stores to mix up some plaster to patch chips and cracks. There are even doll molds available online if you need to recast a hand or foot for some poor saint. The craft stores sell paints of all varieties (water based, oil based, acryllic) so you can paint over the plaster patches. Heck, you can even buy metallic paint and sheets of gold and silver leaf if you need to patch an area that is gilded. And they sell stylish wood plaques in the craft stores if a particular statue needs a new base.

    If you really have a lot, with a little effort, you might be able to give a very nice donation for your parish’s next bazaar.

    I’ve actually been kicking around the idea of setting up a home-based business doing these sorts of repairs so that religious items won’t end up just being tossed, but I haven’t done it because I’m not sure if they can be re-sold once repaired if the owner doesn’t want them back. I see online shops selling religious items all over the place, but I thought we aren’t supposed to do that because it’s sacreligious.

    Anyway, if the reader wants me to post some links for where to get good deals on findings, beads, doll molds, and Catholic organizations that collect rosaries to send to the missions, I’ll be glad to. Just let me know.

  4. slainewe says:

    Is there any rule for disposing of UN-blessed published prayers and holy images? I was taught to tear them up (destroying the image or prayer) before disposing of them. I still remember when missalettes first made their appearance; the church janitor would rip them all in half before placing them in the barrel. I still try to do it when disposing of church bulletins that contain the English version of the readings or various prayers of the season. But everyone else just throws them out whole. Was what I was taught only a pious local custom?

  5. Rob in Maine says:

    I have a jar full of broken rosaries from the Knights of Columbus. I always carry one in my pocket ( like a good Knight should) and it they get caught up in knots and break.

  6. JayDeee says:

    What about breaking up something and recycling it? That way it doesn’t go in a landfill and cannot be misused. E.g. from a rosary, plastic beads that are too beat up to be used in other things as OrthodoxChick suggests (those are good suggestions, by the way!)

  7. majuscule says:

    Father mentioned liturgical books…and just yesterday I purchased a new lectionary for our church because the priests had said we were still using the old translation. What is to be done with the old books? We’re they blessed to begin with?

    Hmmm, should the new (one volume edition) be blessed? I guess our priest will know…

  8. frahobbit says:

    I would love to have them and remake them into usable rosaries. I’m always looking for used rosaries at thrift/consignment shops. When patching rosaries, the beads don’t have to match perfectly just be close in color. I recently rescued an Infant of Prague statue from a second hand shop. My friend recently obtained another Infant statue at a yard sale for free. I gave my friend the tattered outfit for sizing. She sent the pattern with the materials I’d bought to her mom, who made about 16 outfits, 8 for her and 8 for me by combining white lace, white material, gold lame, deep red, deep rose-purple and violet materials (some had a cross pattern), jewel-tone sequined rick-rack etc. I used the gold tissue and tiny rows of craft “jewels” to cover the old crown. I wish I had real jewels to put on. I repainted the globe in the left hand, which was faded and chipped. He now stands against a gold lame tissue backdrop, wearing two chains that if not 14K, look like it, with a Madonna and Child Icon pendant. The effect is sort of like a Byzantine patriarch. There is always a battery candle in front. My home has been richly blessed ever since.

  9. caputveritas says:

    Every year at my church, when I put out containers to collect last year’s blessed palms, I also put out a container to collect broken, worn out, or unused blessed objects. I sort through the objects (keeping any that catch my fancy–I have always found a treasure or two) and I burn those which can burned, and the rest I place in the bottom of some lucky person’s grave the next time I do a burial.

  10. Fern says:

    Frahobbit beat me to it, however, I make rosaries and give them all away. Any “centers” and “Crucifixes” or all of the broken rosaries can be recycled so I would love to have them. I’m not sure how we get in touch with each other “without” publishing addresses on the internet. Perhaps Fr. Z has a method.
    Fern

  11. OrthodoxChick says:

    frahobbit,

    Do you have access to a gem gauge? If so, if you can measure your fake craft “jewels” and let me know the millimeter size, I can provide you with links to a small parcel of loose gems and/or swarovski crystals or czech glass (depending on your preference and what your budget allows) to replace the acryllic craft gems.

  12. frahobbit says:

    OrthodoxChick, No I haven’t a gem gauge. My Infant of Prague is only 11-12″ high. The largest gem is this size and shape () and the smallest is about o. Michaels sell them in a pre-glued strip arranged in scrolled swirls. In New York City, along 6th Avenue are many findings stores and bead sellers. Partly due to the real estate of their location, the prices are beyond the skyscrapers. Any online sellers might be more reasonable?

    Fern, you’re right, there may be no way to act on the wish to collect these things.

  13. Sliwka says:

    The Sisters of Carmel in Colorado Springs do Rosary Repair. When I was dating my wife, she brought me a beautiful large rosary from Italy. Keeping it in my pocket without a real case for it pulled apart some of the links and it began to fall apart. Send it to them, fixed it up and now it is as strong as ever.

    http://www.sistersofcarmel.com/rosary-repair.php

  14. Good ideas here!

    OrthodoxChick what great ideas! I wish I lived near you, what fun we could have. Even if I am all thumbs, I do repair rosaries with pliers and trips to craft stores. I have some statues to repair that I haven’t gotten around to…uhm for a few years. Company in these pleasant tasks would get em done.

    This brings to mind an idea for a parish group that could do these types of crafty repairs.

    Fortunately I was always taught to treat blessed items with respect when having to dispose of them, usually respectfully burying or burning [or stuffing into a box or back of a packed drawer to be found years later LOL]. But what to do with the holy pictures and items one gets in the mail? – or gosh – never even thought about church bulletin disposal! These aren’t blessed but they do have words and images.

  15. What to do with evil items?
    Along this same subject, I don’t know what to do with a sacramental received from a sketchy apparition site. Some friends that devotedly visit this place and bring home stuff have suffered demonic interference for years. I don’t want anything to do with this place. What do I do with the rosary I was given?

    Having spent time in the Far East around a lot of temples and pagan artwork, I am aware that some items if burned can release the demon. If buried, these items can affect the immediate area. What to do?

  16. OrthodoxChick says:

    Tina,

    Well, if we ever cross paths…

  17. OrthodoxChick says:

    frahobbit,

    Stones that tiny are going to limit your options. I’d suggest going with faceted swarovski crystal flat-backs if you’re looking to upgrade from the plastic craft store “gems”. Here are 2 links to the same store. One is for the flat-backs and the second is for the glue-gun-like tool to afix them. They should work on both your crown and your fabric.

    http://www.firemountaingems.com/itemdetails/H201413AS

    http://www.firemountaingems.com/itemdetails/H203429TL

  18. One of those TNCs says:

    I have a question about taking a blessed rosary apart and then using the various pieces (crucifix, “center”, beads) to form new things (bracelets, etc.)

    If the rosary was blessed (a single blessed object, the blessing intended for the user of the object as a prayer method), does the blessing “leave” the various parts of the object once it is taken apart?

    In other words, is each individual bead blessed and, if taken apart, still retains its “blessedness”?

    Or must the object blessed maintain its original form and function in order to still contain that blessing?

    Because if it can be taken apart and the various parts thereby “lose their blessing”, then rosaries, at least, can be disposed of in that manner.

    Thoughts, anyone?

  19. OrthodoxChick says:

    I have a question for those of you who have lived in Italy. When they put their prices up on products in their shops, I’ve noticed they use a comma instead of a period. I don’t have a pound/euro symbol so I’ll have to use a dollar sign instead. But if an item is priced as $33,60 does that mean that the item costs 33 dollars and 60 cents or 33 thousand?

    I know about converting Euro to USD but what I don’t know is if a comma means the same thing in a euro as it does in a dollar’s pricing.

    Oh, and I hope someone answer’s “One of those TNCs” question because I would like to understand that better too.

  20. Fr AJ says:

    Some things could be buried with a loved one in a coffin. A Missal could be buried with a Priest for example or a Book of Gospels with a Deacon.

    As an aside, with the unfortunate Book of (non) Blessings some things that we may think are blessed are not…just the people who use them.

  21. av8er says:

    How about burying them in foundations of LDS churches or Protestant churches as they’re being built? That plus prayer for conversion I would think would be pretty powerful.

  22. frahobbit says:

    Orthodox Chick, thank you for these great links! I can do so much with these. I did not know about the hot-fix tool. I have four of the Infant of Prague outfits to pass on to a pastor, from my friend, and I can do a little extra for them!
    Thanks again.

  23. frahobbit says:

    re: burying blessed objects: don’t laugh, but I once sought a way to put a Miraculous Medal under an occult store. No luck at the sidewalk level; no crevices near the door. But the subway was right under it. I paced off the number of steps to the subway entrance on the same side of the street, went below ground and counted down steps till I was standing below what I figured was the store. The walls of that platform section were providentially under reconstruction. I found a likely crevice and deposited my medal. Every time I walked slowly by that place, I recited the Miraculous Medal novena prayers. It took about a year but they went out of business.

  24. pelerin says:

    Orthodox Chick – yes in Europe (but not in Britain) a comma is used instead of a full stop when denoting money. Thus €10,50 is 10 Euros and 50 cents. Strangely in numbers it is reversed with 10,000 written as 10.000. In England £10.50 is the norm for ten pounds fifty pence.

  25. OrthodoxChick says:

    pelerin,

    Thank you soooo much! All this talk of rosary beads got me to scouring the internet for real murano beads still made in Italy (not the knock-offs being made in Asia that are flooding the bead market, putting Murano glass artisans out of business). I’m considering making a nice renaisance-styled Venetian rosary, but then I couldn’t understand the pricing system to know if I could afford the beads or not. It’s kind of now-or-never if you want to source affordable, genuine murano glass made from murano cane.

    Thanks again!