Most people think of spring cleaning, but here it is late autumn, and I am hard at it. It started with my bedroom, then my study. Aside from a few odds and ends, the clutter is principally in one category: reading material. Once I throw out the magazines, file the articles, and put the maps back, that leaves: books.
Books I read and loved, books I started and never had the oomph to finish, books I swore I would get to, and books I cannot figure out why I have; books I pulled to check a point for a homily, favorite books I revisited after many years, and books I never want to see again. They all have to go somewhere. I shelve them, share them, or most painfully of all, sometimes just get rid of them.
This fall, though, this project extends from my shelves to the sacristies, since in two weeks time we begin using the new English translation of the Missal. The new Missals for the church, the chapel, and for our offices have been coming in over the past few weeks, and they are wonderful – large, beautiful, well made liturgical books. But that presents a dilemma of its own – what to do with the old ones?
We have two in the sanctuary of the church, and one on the altar in the chapel. But we also have old copies in the sacristy cabinets that wore out or began to fall apart and were no longer fit to be used in the Sacred Liturgy. Nobody rebinds books anymore – trust me, I have looked. Not only missals, though, but also lectionaries accumulate. We changed lectionary translations back in 1999 (remember that?), and it comes in different volumes – Sunday, weekday, Years A, B, & C, etc.), so we have piles of the old version stored, plus newer ones that already were used to the point of disintegration.
I hate to throw away any books, but these are sacred books, so they cannot just go in the trash. So we have kept them. But with this new change, we just don’t have the room for more of that.
We will continue the parish practice of keeping an archival copy of these important books. We still have a 1965 Missal, which is the version from right after the Second Vatican Council that has both Latin and English in it. Hardly anyone even remembers those; even fewer actually have one. We will keep one copy of the old lectionary, and at least one copy of the Missal that will conclude its forty years service this month. I will carefully save any other volume that could be historically significant. On my shelves, I’ll keep my personal copy that Cardinal Hickey inscribed and gave to me the day he ordained me a Priest.
But all the others are stacked and ready to be disposed of properly. How is that, you ask? Some authorities have suggested burying them in the church cemetery. We don’t have a churchyard, so I am going to take a page form my Boy Scout training and burn them, with decorum and respect. We have a high regard for these books, after all.
The Missal that I bought for myself in Rome as a seminarian so I could begin learning how to say Mass, I will consign to the flames. We have been using it at the chair in church since its predecessor became unusable a few years ago. I knew the change was coming and saw no need to pay for a new one or keep that copy on my shelves.
All this cleaning because we are getting new books. After the initial awkwardness of changing the language we use at Mass, the new Missal translation will kindle a new awareness in all of us of the beauty, riches, and depth of our most perfect and powerful prayer, the Mass. So I expect this fall cleaning will bring about a new springtime, after all.