Q. Lent is not that far away. I have some old palms from last Palm Sunday that are drying up and withering. How should I dispose of them since they are blessed objects?
A. Your question is a good one, and it shows that you desire to show reverence for sacred things. When we speak about blessed objects, it’s good for us to take a step back and look at the purpose of blessings within the context of God’s saving plan for us.
Jesus has established the Church as the Body of Christ with the mission of uniting all people into communion with God. Jesus instituted the seven sacraments as channels of grace, which bring about this union. The
Church has the authority to institute sacramentals, which are distinct from the sacraments, but also bear a resemblance to them. Sacramentals do not confer sanctifying grace, but they are sacred signs, which, like the sacraments, signify effects. They are signs that dispose us to receive and cooperate with God’s grace.
There are various kinds of sacramentals. A blessing is the prime example of a sacramental. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Every blessing praises God and prays for his gifts” (CCC 1671). Since everything that God creates is good, nearly everything in creation may be blessed, insofar as it will be used for a good purpose.
Some blessings are intended for persons, such as the blessing bestowed upon a member of a religious order or a consecrated virgin. A blessing may be given to a newly engaged couple as they discern the vocation of marriage leading up to their wedding day.
Places and objects are also blessed. Churches and Catholic schools are blessed as a places where people will gather to meet the Lord. It is a good practice to bless rosaries, crosses, statues, and all religious artwork so that we will be reminded to use them to glorify God and assist in the salvation of souls.
The use of sacramentals corresponds to our human nature. God has created us with a soul and a body. We need material things to perfect our minds and our hearts. Our prayer and devotion can be aided by these kinds of objects that are perceived by the senses. We recall that God himself entered the world as the Word made flesh, perceptible to the senses.
Canon Law states that “Sacred objects, set aside for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated with reverence” (Can. 1171). Having a reverent heart should guide us toward the proper disposal of a blessed object. Church law does not regulate the disposal of a statue, a broken rosary, or damaged piece of religious art. If an object is blessed, it would be appropriate to give the object due reverence in its disposal. There is a pious custom of burning or burying objects that have been blessed. This, again, is a pious custom and not a matter of Church law. If one is able to show reverence in this manner, it would be laudable. You may also offer the palms to your parish priest to be burned for ashes on Ash Wednesday.
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