Help! I can’t find my Prayer Space anymore!
What are you supposed to do with all the broken, damaged, or worn-out rosary beads, Ash Wednesday palms, holy cards, prayer cards, medals, scapulars, and other religious objects that accumulate and mysteriously multiply? Do you feel guilty about unceremoniously binning them?
If you are feeling totally overwhelmed by all this Holy Clutter, take heart! You are not obliged to hang on to them and there is a way to dispose of them.
Called ‘sacramentals’ your religious objects can include a number of different physical expressions of faith that have been blessed by a priest. For more information see this summary.
They can be very helpful reminders of the presence of God in our daily lives. But not all of them are particularly beautiful or inspiring. Some are cheesy, painfully kitsch, cheap (I’m looking at you, my seventeen pairs of glow-in-the-dark plastic rosary beads) or just not helpful to you or your family in this season of your faith journey.
If you are certain that the object has NOT been blessed by a priest, then it can be thrown in the bin or recycled guilt free! However, if they have been blessed or you’re not sure if they have, then you should return them to the elements by burying them.
But, before burying them, the form of the sacramentals needs to be broken by burning or physically breaking them into unrecognisable parts. Since the blessing is attached to the form of that object, once it is no longer recognisable as a sacred object, it is ‘de-sacralised’ and can then be disposed of without the risk of misuse.
Flammable objects like holy cards, cloth scapulars or palms need to be burned and the ashes buried. Blessed non-flammable objects like rosary beads, medals or statues should be broken into small, indistinct pieces and then buried.
Some parishes have an annual service (traditionally it’s the 23rd of June or the eve of the Feast of John the Baptist) to burn and bury broken, unwanted or unusable sacramentals as a community, but you can also do a simple ceremony at home any time you need to as a family.
Here’s a guide that you could use the next time you need to deal with your unwanted holy clutter:
Holy Clutter Burial Ceremony
- Fire pit or a metal Bucket lined with foil
- Broken/unwanted/unusable sacramental
- Matches, fire starters, extra fuel
- Quiet spot for burial
- Trowel or spade
- Order of ceremony (Download here)
- Build a fire in your fire pit/bucket.
- Make the Sign of the Cross and say the following prayer:
We thank you for the gift of creation and the human hands that made these objects.
We thank you for their time with us as reminders of your love for us.
With gratitude, we now return these sacramental to the elements from which they came.
- Place all your unwanted, flammable sacramentals on the fire to burn. Allow the fire to burn down to ash and cool.
- While the fire is burning down, reverently break down your non-flammable objects. You may need scissors, or other tools to help.
- At your chosen spot for burial and dig a hole large enough for your needs.
- Make the Sign of the Cross and say a simple prayer or use the following:
Father in Heaven,
we return these sacramentals to the elements from which you create life on earth.
Thank you for the way we have been able to use them to receive and cooperate with your grace. Amen.
- Place the ashes and other broken down sacramentals in the hole and cover them.
- Finish with a Glory Be and the Sign of the Cross.