Burial of old vestments/liturgical books


Greetings all. I’m having an ongoing discussion with a few others about the proper disposal of clerical vestments and outdated or severely damaged liturgical books. I can remember being told by a priest that the proper way to dispose of them was to simply bury them in a casket with a member of the faithful at his/her funeral. Others have said no, that they must first be burned and then buried on their own. I have found some resources that do affirm burning and then burial. I have not found anything to back up what I remember hearing a long time ago regarding simply burying them with the dead. Looking for direction one way or the other. Many thanks. God bless.


Perhaps @frdavid96 or @don_ruggero will know.


Ours here were burned.


There are missions that want your old vestments! The Mary Mother of God Mission Society has volunteers who take old vestments and re-purpose them into missal covers, book marks, etc that are then sold to support their mission work. PM me for contact information, or, just google them.

With modern embalming techniques, the last thing I would do is put them in a casket with an embalmed body.

Burning the books is easiest. If your parish or Knights of Columbus does not have a chiminea or a fire pit of some sort, contact the Boy Scouts or the VFW. Both organizations offer to properly dispose of American Flags when they are no longer usable and burn them. They would certainly help your parish by burning these items.

Your Diocese also would have a method in place for disposal of old books, you could take or ship them to the proper office there.

Lastly, you can simply bury the books directly in the ground in part of the parish lawn, flower beds, gardens.


Wow. Thank you. Is it lawful for old vestments to be turned into things like bookmarks and covers?


I don’t know of any definitive answers to any of these questions. I think that cloths could be burned so that they would not be misused. Remember, churches sometimes just burn down or are intentionally demolished, without scrupulosity. The Psalmist says the whole earth and everything in it belong to God. and ashes to ashes, dust to dust. We are forbidden to make idols of objects, too. Don’t sweat it. Maybe the Church should publish instructions in every Bible or book on how to dispose of it, if it were a matter of grave concern. Take them to another church and let somebody else worry about it. These are not fetishes or totems with alleged power in them.


Yes. The MMOG Mission Society is extremely faithful.

ETA at my parish we use the old damaged or stained white altar cloths to make “white garment” baptism bibs for infants.


We keep are old vestment and used those priest who have died


I’ve always heard ‘burial’.


As for books, try donating them to a library first, especially if they’re important books like old altar Missals or Roman Ritual, something of historic or academic importance. Secular libraries probably won’t want them but Catholic college libraries might have a place for them even if they need re-binding or other repairs.

If they’re just paperbacks and truly need to be disposed, it’s true that the old recommendation was to burn them. There are many people today who think it’s more responsible to put them into the recycling system. Personally, I think it’s equally respectful because either way the text is still destroyed rather than simply allowed to rot away or be put in with other truly dirty trash. Recycling is truly better for the environment and we should take that into account.

Decades ago, everyone had a fireplace or a wood stove, so burning things was rather easy. Today, not so easy for many reasons.

When vestments were made of natural fibers (cotton, linen, silk etc) they were biodegradable and burned easily or just returned to the earth if buried. Today’s synthetic fibers don’t act that way, and if burned will often just turn into a big lump of messy plastic (not good if someone does have a wood burning stove). Bury a polyester vestment today and it will still be there 500 years from now.

Once a thing is disassembled so that it’s no longer what-it-was as a whole, it ceases to be blessed. Vestments can be cut into strips. They don’t have to be tiny strips, just enough that they’re not vestments anymore. Cut the crosses and any Christian symbols.

My current parish, when I first arrived, was full of old polyester and felt vestments from the 70s. We made light work of them by just cutting them into a few strips then putting the strips into the trash can.

Some Missions like to get old vestments. Some do not. I had a mission parish a few years ago and the last thing I wanted was old vestments—I kept having to turn them away (same for old cheap chalices). If you know of a mission that truly asks for them, by all means send them IF (only if) they’re dignified and usable. If they look like rags, and you wouldn’t wear it yourself, why think a mission priest would wear it?

I like the idea of the Mission Society that takes vestments and uses the cloth for crafts. I think that’s great that someone can get joy from a recycled vestment part.


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