Question Corner: Disposing of religious articles and receiving the Eucharist during the pandemic
Sep 2, 2020
Q. What is the proper way to dispose of the medals, rosaries, small crucifixes, etc., that many Catholic organizations mail out unsolicited?
A. Perhaps surprisingly, Church law on disposing of blessed articles of devotion is not very specific. Canon 1171 of the Church's Code of Canon Law says simply that "sacred objects, which are designated for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated reverently." Traditionally, when no longer usable or wanted, they are buried or burnt.
But the articles to which you refer – which arrive unsolicited – have presumably not been blessed at all. Therefore, you are free to dispose of them as you wish.
What I do personally, when they have begun to accumulate, is to send them to an organization such as the Propagation of the Faith, which can use them for missionary work in foreign lands. Or, as an alternative, you could simply leave them at the entrance to a Church, to be taken by anyone who might want them.
But please don't feel that you are duty-bound to do either of these; you never asked to receive these objects, and you are free to dispose of them as you would any unwanted mail.
Q. My husband feels that, for the safety of our family, we should not attend Mass right now at our home parish. This is due to the fact that many of our parishioners are receiving the Eucharist on their tongue. My husband is firm in his belief that reception in the hand is safer for all and that we should abstain from Mass and Communion while we have the dispensation to do so. I very much want to go back right now to regular attendance at our parish, but I have followed my husband's lead. If I go by myself to Mass and receive Communion, would that be considered a sin?
A. I, too, believe that Communion in the hand is safer. But some Catholics feel that receiving on the tongue is more reverent, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has recommended that people should maintain the right to that option.
So, what we are doing in the two parishes that I serve is this: We ask those who prefer to receive on the tongue to wait until others have taken Communion before coming forward. That way, the priest can sanitize his hands once more – and again before each person who receives on the tongue.
Now, to answer your question: I understand and admire your deep desire to receive Jesus physically in the Eucharist. Like most people I feel that an act of "spiritual communion" can never match the experience of physical reception.
And no, it would not be a sin for you to go to Mass by yourself and receive. But for the sake of family harmony I’m not sure that this would be the wisest course.
If you feel that you have done everything that you can to convince your husband how much you miss the Eucharist and feel the need for its strength, and if he still feels that for the safety of your family you are best off refraining from Mass attendance while you have the dispensation, then perhaps it would be best for you to make that sacrifice.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at [email protected] and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.
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