One thing NOT to do with the obsolete “Sacramentary”. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

At CNA there is an article picking up on earlier commentary on the USCCB about what to do with the now happily obsolete – that feels so good to write –  copies of the book called the Sacramentary, which has to old, now obsolete ICEL translation.   The bottom line is that, while some could be archived, they may be buried with or without being burned (I opt for the burning).

However, the piece includes this snippet:

“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.”

Let this word of warning go forth…

If anyone…anyone… puts a copy of the obsolete ICEL Sacramentary in my coffin, I will haunt that person until the end of his subsequently miserable days.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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    Fr. Z., such a foolish person would deserve both the haunting — and the subsequent miserable days!

  2. guatadopt says:

    How about if we buried you with the old Sacramentary, the Book of Blessings and the latest newsletter from FutureChurch…LOL

  3. sacerdosinaeternum says:

    A few of us (Priests) are planning a bonfire now…

  4. irishgirl says:

    Haha, that WOULD be a good one, Father Z!
    Haunt ’em like the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow! (I am from New York State, after all!)

  5. pelerin says:

    Reading that Future Church newsletter link nearly had me spluttering my coffee all over the keyboard. I had only vaguely heard about Future Church before and had to smile when I read that it was celebrating its 20th anniversary. I’ll stick with the Church and its 2000 years of history.

  6. A priest at my parish suggested that simply making the book unfit for use at the altar (by, say, cutting off the cover) makes it OK to just dump in the trash. Anybody else heard that?

  7. guatadopt says:

    Pelerin…our former bishop (Diocese of Cleveland) allowed this group to thrive and even use parish meeting space. I once attended an ordination where they were out protesting…some women even dressed in liturgical garb. Said former bishop waved and smiled at them. Im all for pastoral niceties, but not in public outside the cathedral where hundreds of other faithful were watching the procession and seeing this take place. It just confuses people.

  8. Phil_NL says:


    One wonders though, what if the old translation is put in the coffin of a deceased who is subsequently cremated? Would that also count as an occasion for haunting, or – as the book will burn faster – be counted as a last act of expressing the deceased low opinion of the old texts…?

  9. Fr Deacon Daniel says:

    I was going to suggest burning them along the banks of the Ganges and then scattering their ashes to see where their karma leads them.

    Perhaps they will return in a future life as an editorial page of The Tablet?

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  10. Alan Aversa says:

    Are you going to buried with your ordination chalice, instead, Fr. Z? [No.]

  11. Legisperitus says:

    Ten years later, Fr. Z’s body was found perfectly preserved, while the former Sacramentary had decayed into a small pile of peat.

  12. Gwen says:

    I imagine that Fr Z would much prefer to be buried with his ordination tambourine.

  13. Dr. Sebastianna says:

    This brings up a related question about disposal of other books: What should be done with the disposable missalettes each time they “expire?” And what about the tons of hard back hymnals (often containing the texts of the Mass) that had to be discarded because of the new translation? Are these “sacred objects” because they contain Scripture and Mass texts? What constitutes a “sacred object?” They’re not blessed…

    I have always felt badly about just throwing the old missalettes away, since they contain the Gospel readings. As a liturgical musician, I always notice stacks of them in the back of the church each time we get new ones, awaiting trash or recycling. Are there applicable Catholic canons or traditions for disposing of booklets containing excerpts from the Gospel? Maybe recyclying is better, since they won’t go into a landfill somewhere?

    Also, I have wondered about the phenomenon of “disposable” missalettes for years. When did these come into vogue? Did people have these before Vatican II? Whenever I attend an EF Mass, I notice that people use their own missals; if they don’t have one, they use booklets provided by the Church, but these booklets are not “disposable.” I have no idea what life was like before Vatican II…

    Is the “disposable missalette mentality” a byproduct of (misinterpreted) Post Vatican II thought?

  14. Dr. K says:

    You could always donate an outdated Sacramentary to the various schismatic communities who continue to live in the 1960s.

  15. I know of a priest who literally ripped the pages out of all the old sacramentaries, LOL, I don’t know if he was taking out his grievances or what.

  16. disco says:

    A polterZeist?

  17. albinus1 says:

    Is the “disposable missalette mentality” a byproduct of (misinterpreted) Post Vatican II thought?

    I sometimes wonder how much the average parish spends on those disposable missalettes every year, year after year, and whether it wouldn’t be more cost-effective in the long run — particularly since we’re not going to be seeing another new translation for the foreseeable future — just to invest in some hand missals for the pews. It could be another reason to hold a pancake breakfast, bake sale, etc.

  18. JaneC says:

    When our pastor came out and stood in front of the congregation on Saturday and said, “Please join me in bidding farewell to the old Sacramentary,” I thought he was going to burn it right then and there. But it turned out that he was just saying a prayer that the parish liturgist either made up himself or found in one of those newsletters he reads. There was also a “welcoming prayer” for the new book. [blech]

  19. Supplex says:

    I don’t understand why they need to be burned or buried to begin with. Are they blessed or consecrated? Someone, please help this Catholic newbie understand!!

  20. Elizabeth D says:

    Photo caption courtesy of the 1st Book of Kings (I don’t know what translation):

    At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word.
    “Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.”
    Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the Sacramentary and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
    When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “We praise you,
    we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father. Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, You take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.”

  21. APX says:

    @ Supplex
    I don’t understand why they need to be burned or buried to begin with. Are they blessed or consecrated?

    I assume they’re blessed, as the new one had to be blessed at the start of Mass. (And yes, the book was actually blessed, not the people who use the book.)

  22. Supplex says:


    I think I misread the post. I was thinking of the older Missals for some reason.

  23. Philangelus says:

    Father Z, I think you’ve found your Purgatory!

  24. seanl says:

    I know a monastery where the younger monks stash the…less aesthetically pleasing vestments in the coffin of their brother monks to conveniently rid themselves of the bother.

  25. JMGDD says:

    Dr. Sebastianna says: “Is the “disposable missalette mentality” a byproduct of (misinterpreted) Post Vatican II thought?”

    I imagine the missalette was/is intended as a aide to “active participation” by the faithful. I grimace when I see a lector valiantly doing his or her best to proclaim the Scriptures to a congregation whose collective eyes buried in a book, when the rubrics call for *listening* actively and prayerfully. And if there’s a page-turn involved…

  26. thereseb says:

    All I can do is warn you not to choose an eco-friendly recycled coffin – just in case……

  27. leonugent2005 says:

    I’m a little confused/ Are we talking about books that were blessed and were once used to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

  28. leonugent2005 says:

    I regard this whole thing as a disgrace and if you had any guts you would ban me for the good of my soul! [Breathe deeply and exercise some self-control. No one has a gun to your head forcing you to read this blog or post comments. If you don’t like it, don’t come here.]

  29. AnAmericanMother says:

    Back in the good old days, according to Kipling (I think), they used to bury a shepherd with a lock of wool in his coffin, so that he could show an excuse for his frequent absences from Church.
    Could this possibly be analogous . . . . ? Nah.

  30. Karen Russell says:

    Dr. Sebastianna —

    “Also, I have wondered about the phenomenon of “disposable” missalettes for years. When did these come into vogue? Did people have these before Vatican II? Whenever I attend an EF Mass, I notice that people use their own missals; if they don’t have one, they use booklets provided by the Church, but these booklets are not “disposable.” I have no idea what life was like before Vatican II…”

    Before Vatican II, most people had their own permanent missals, like you see now at the EF. Hardcover, containing in one (comfortable to hold) volume the text for the Mass and all readings, Sunday and weekday, Saints’ feasts and the like, with much of it in both Latin and English.

    I think the change is because in the Novis Ordo Mass, instead of a one-year cycle of readings, there is now a 3-year cycle for Sundays and a different, 2-year cycle for weekdays. This widely hailed great increase in the variety of Scripture readings has had the often unrecognized side effect of making a single volume Missal for laity far too bulky to hold.

    Equivalent permanent missals for the Novis Ordo are available (though a version containing the new translation is not out yet). The St. Joseph’s set we carry in our Catholic bookstore has one volume for Sundays and two more for weekdays, and is priced accordingly. The monthly or yearly disposable versions are far more affordable., and here most people buy their own annually.

  31. jesusthroughmary says:

    Leonugent2005 –

    Are you asserting that it is irreverent to burn books that were formerly but are no longer approved for sacred liturgy, and had been blessed for that purpose?

  32. jesusthroughmary says:

    Karen –

    His point is that over the course of 15-20 years (a reasonable estimate for the life of a well-constructed permanent missal) one would spend far less by investing in the permanent missal than by continuously buying disposable ones. Not to mention the added gravitas and decorum that comes with praying with a well-made and beautiful hand missal, rather than with a flimsy, stapled paperback that one knows is merely utilitarian and destined for the garbage in a matter of months.

  33. Ecclesiae Filius says:

    I think we should at least preserve some for future generations. that way then can have a good laugh at the monstrosity of the translation. plus, they can learn from our past mistakes.

  34. leonugent2005 says:

    jesusthroughmary no I’m not asserting that at all. What I’m asserting is that it is irreverent to burn books that were formerly but are no longer approved for sacred liturgy, and had been blessed for that purpose in the context of a triumphalistic orgy of self congratulation is irreverent.

  35. leonugent2005 says:

    jesusthroughmary I didn’t much like the liberal whackos who ran the church for 40 years and it doesn’t look like I’m going to like the traditionalist whackos that are going to run it for the next 40.
    But I don’t remember anyone asking me if I liked anything

  36. jesusthroughmary says:

    Fair enough.

  37. David2 says:

    With the greatest of respect, leonugent2005, you have rather missed the point.

    The whole point of this discussion of burying / burning Sacramentaries is that both means of disposal are (and traditionally have been) considered by the Church to be a reverent and respectful means of disposal of books that have been blessed and used to offer Holy Mass, when the same have ‘passed their use-by date’.

    It’s better than them ending up in the trash or being otherwise profaned.

    The attitude of some may or may not be “triumphalistic” but what we are talking about here is reverent disposal according to the immemorial practice of the Holy Church.

  38. Karen Russell says:

    jesusthroughmary —

    Our local Catholic bookstore sells the 3-volume permanent St. Joseph’s Missal I mentioned before for $125. (This is in Canada; US would be cheaper.) We sell the disposable one-year missals for $3.
    At that rate, it would take 42 years to break even on the better Missal.

    I also suspect that many who would be interested in buying a permanent Missal would be aware that a new translation was going to happen at some point, so it would be outdated long before it wore out. The new translation should have a longer “shelf life” and perhaps now a permanent Missal will be more attractive.

    I agree with you completely on the greater beauty and richness of the permanent missals. I have several old ones, both pre- and post-Vatican II and there is no comparison. But I was not willing to invest a large lump of cash on a weak and someday-to-be-replaced translation.

    Perhaps that is another factor. There were two or three major changes in fairly rapid succession after Vatican II and that may also have discouraged the purchase of a permanent book.

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