Sacrilege

Hello, everyone (and I pray you all have had a blessed Christmas, as well as happy new year). I wanted to ask a question about sacrilege (and whether I have committed it).

Last night, I attended Mass, and I received Communion (following Confession). After Mass (for the First Saturday devotion, although it was the Sunday Vigil Mass), as I was saying my prayers (in which I silently pray the Ave Maria, the Salve Regina, and the Prayer to St. Michael), I noticed a woman taking a piece of hay from the Nativity scene, and it reminded me that my grandmother had asked me to take a piece of the hay for her (for “good luck,” although I try not to believe in such things anymore). I took a (albeit small) piece of hay, but as I was walking out, I felt as if it may be stealing (my grandmother, however, told me—when she asked me to take a piece of hay either prior to Christmas Mass or the Mass for the First Sunday of Christmas—that it wasn’t stealing—as I had thought it was, because I refrained from taking the piece of hay—because her brother had been told by the priest that he could take a piece of the hay, and the reason they don’t “announce” people can take a piece of the hay is that they would have no hay left if they did so), and so I returned to one of the religious education teachers and asked her if it was allowed, and she said she “couldn’t see anything wrong with it,” and so I left.

Today, I asked my mother her opinion, and hearing the teacher didn’t have an issue with it, she said it was not stealing, and I was able to receive Communion (which I did as I attended Mass today). However, I still have an “uneasy” feeling (I intended to ask the priest his opinion following Mass but he left before I was able to do so), especially after reading the article on sacrilege from the Catholic Encyclopedia, and so (essentially for peace of mind), I wanted to ask:

Was it stealing to take a piece of hay (from the Nativity scene in my church) my grandmother asked me to do (and which she said I could do as her brother was allowed by the priest), and was it sacrilege to receive Communion today?

(By the way, I wanted to add, I feel I do suffer from scrupulosity at times, particularly over matters concerning the Holy Eucharist. I wanted to add this before it is suggested that I have scrupulosity because I am already aware I show tendencies.)

**One piece of straw is essentially worthless. If there is any temporal punishment for a piece of straw taken, it would be almost nothing. ** However, I recommend asking a priest, to put your mind at rest. It was not yours and nobody gave it to you, and you took it willingly, however you believed that it was alright because “her brother was allowed by the priest”.

The gravity of stealing depends on the total value of the items stolen over a period of time, for example, theft totaling worth less than $300 is defined (by Florida) as petty. The church has the same view so that smaller thefts are not grave matter. If not grave matter, then not grave sin either.

Compendium: vatican.va/archive/compendium_ccc/documents/archive_2005_compendium-ccc_en.html

**396. When does one commit a venial sin? **
1862-1864
1875
One commits a venial sin, which is essentially different from a mortal sin, when the matter involved is less serious or, even if it is grave, when full knowledge or complete consent are absent. Venial sin does not break the covenant with God but it weakens charity and manifests a disordered affection for created goods. It impedes the progress of a soul in the exercise of the virtues and in the practice of moral good. It merits temporal punishment which purifies.

In my church, we always put extra hay in the manger set up. It is a tradition to take some hay from the blessed manger in church to place in your home manger. Some people leave a donation by the Nativity set when they take some hay, but it is not required. It is not a sin to take some of the hay, many churches encourage it. God bless.

It was definitely not stealing at all! I suffer from scruples as well, my friend. I understand your uneasiness and worry. At Christmas Mass, my priest announced to everyone before the closing prayer that we were welcome to take some hay to bless our houses, as it was an old tradition. Your parish didn’t announce because they didn’t want all the hay taken, but you are more than welcome to take it! Riding off what dear friends have told me, and my own judgment, if scruples are directing your life, why not seek our a priest you feel comfortable with and talking with him? I pray that you have a nice day!

  • SnowAngels

Listen to your mother and your respected teachers. Trying to ask questions like this of your priest after Mass is not the best time in many cases. Wait until the next time you go to confession to bring up whatever may be troubling you. Until then, take the advice of your mother and your trusted teachers and be at peace.

Thank you all—you all have put my mind at ease! I was, essentially, terrified I had committed sacrilege against the Holy Eucharist (as I said in my post, my scruples generally come from fear of committing sacrilege against the Holy Eucharist). My mother has said that my grandmother “always” (in quotations as I am not sure that she does it every year) takes hay from the Nativity, and my mother, herself, does not see it as “stealing.” At my next Confession (for the First Saturday of next month), I will mention it to my priest and see his input, but I feel at peace with all of your words (also, I wanted to add that I also suffer from OCD and frequently seek reassurance from multiple people, so it may appear as if I am “beating a dead horse,” if you will).

God bless you all.

Perhaps this might be of assistance. I was told, by a confessor, that while you do not wish to indict yourself of a wrong, if you have any doubt always make it a point to say that you have what might be doubtful matter and then continue by saying " In so far as I have incurred any guilt, I wish to confess… (state your offense)

Interesting. In my Confession, if I am doubtful of a sin, I simply ask my confessor if it indeed is a sin (and he answers accordingly).

Thank you for the information, and God bless. :slight_smile:

Scrupulosity is a terrible and heavy burden to bear. The internet is not the place to ask for help. You need to find a confessor who is trained to deal with the issue, then a) stick with him and b) do exactly what he says and c) stop asking others for their opinion.

Sorry, this is blunt; but what you are doing (the internet) only exacerbates the problem. If you are aware of the problem and no one has suggested otherwise, then please look past the bluntness; I only seek to help. And if you have been told the above before, then go back, read it again, and follow the advice given.

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