When your rosary breaks or your crucifix falls apart, what should be done?
Catholics who frequently use sacramentals such as the brown scapulars, St. Benedict medals, blessed rosary beads, and so on often run into a problem when the object breaks or wears out. What should be done with these holy objects? Should they simply throw them in the trash?
Now, here is the thing about this problem;
Most frequently, we forget that the physical things we see are only one part of a much larger universe. There exists a spiritual world around us that we cannot see, but this spiritual happenings constantly affects our daily life. By treating sacramentals with respect, we recognize this basic truth and honor the heavenly blessing that was placed on the object by a priest or deacon.
It is a truth that pictures or an item are not sacramentals unless they have been blessed by a priest. Sacramentals used at home can be any number of religious items that have been blessed by a priest or deacon such as a rosary, medal, crucifix, or even a candle.
But when a material sacramental becomes so worn that it can no longer be used as a sacramental, it is not right as a Catholic to casually toss it into the trash. To avoid desecration, the sacramental should be returned to the earthly elements, such as fire and water and so on.
For example, Holy water should be poured into a hole dug in the earth or soil, in a spot no one would walk over. Combustible sacramentals, such as scapulars and holy books, should be burned and then buried.
There are larger sacramentals that do not burn. These larger sacramentals that don’t burn should be altered so that their form no longer appears to be sacramental. For instance, a statue should be broken up into small pieces and then buried. Objects made of metals can be melted down and used for another purpose.
Note that items lose their blessing or consecration if they are desecrated. They are substantially broken such that they can no longer be used for their sacred purpose, also, if they are publicly sold (if an item is sold by one individual to another for only the price of the material itself with no profit attached, the blessing remains. Example, if you were to give someone, say, a blessed rosary or sell it to him at cost, he would not have to have it re-blessed; but if you sell a blessed rosary to someone for profit, he would need to take it to a priest.
Note that on 23 June — the Eve of the Feast of St. John the Baptist — it is custom to build large bonfires in which no longer useful material sacramentals are burned.
The Blessed Sacrament
In the sacristy (also called “vestry”) of a church is the room where vestments, vessels, and oils are stored. There is a special sink called a “sacrarium” (also “piscina”) which is used for cleaning sacred vessels. This basin’s drainage pipe doesn’t lead to the sewer as do those of most sinks; instead, it goes directly to the earth so that liquid sacramentals, such as Holy Water and oils, or even the tiniest morsels of the Blessed Sacrament or drops of the Precious Blood which might be found on Patent or in Chalices, will be disposed of correctly and with reverence. If the accidents of a consecrated Host or chalice of the Precious Blood were to become contaminated in some way such that it could not be consumed, they are disposed of in the sacrarium.
In summary, sacramentals are anything set apart or blessed by the Church for the purpose of sanctifying our lives and leading us to the sacraments. They are sacred signs and provide for us graces and spiritual help through the intercession of the Church.
Regardless of what sacramental it is, if it has been blessed by a member of the clergy, then it needs to be treated with due care (cf. Canon 1171).
This is because, as Catholics, we believe that blessings from ordained ministers have real spiritual power. This is most evident in the seven sacraments, where the words of the priest can bring about a spiritual transformation. The obvious example is the Eucharist, where through the priest’s words, the bread and wine at Mass become the Body and Blood of Christ. It is a miracle that God brings about through words said by his chosen ministers.
On a much lower but analogous level, we believe that when a priest or deacon blesses a religious object, something changes. Even though we may not be able to see it, at times we feel the spiritual weight of a sacramental that has been blessed. Consequently, Catholics are instructed to dispose of old sacramentals in a way that shows due reverence.
All damaged sacramentals can be either burned or buried in order to be properly disposed of them. This type of disposal honors their sacred purpose and returns them to the earth in a dignified way. If a person is unable to do either of these, the sacramental may be dropped off at the parish office and someone who works in the Church can take care of it.