I am cleaning up the house and happened upon some mail that I wanted to ask you about.
Namely, ever since I began attending Mass on a regular basis, I have been receiving donation requests from various Catholic organizations and charities. Actually, I have two questions. First, is there somewhere I can go to read reviews about different charities? I'd really like to choose one or two to support, but don't have any way to evaluate them all. Second, several of these organizations send sacramentals with their request. I know I'm not supposed to throw away a sacramental, but these aren't things I have asked for or really have a use for. What should I do with them? The most recent example is a small prayer folder containing a relic of St. Padre Pio. It's a little plastic folder, so I can't burn it or bury it. What do I do with it? There's a prayer chapel in town with 24-hour adoration. Would it be appropriate to just leave it there so someone else who would like it can pick it up? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.
You mean THIS small prayer folder containing a relic of St. Padre Pio?
This is a great question. (What are sacramentals? Find out here.)
As you point out, blessed objects should not be thrown away. For disposal, they must be buried in the ground or burned (and then the ashes returned to the ground). However, that only applies to objects that have actually been blessed, not all objects with a religious theme to them. The disposal of religiously-themed objects is not covered in canon law or in the catechism or official doctrine of any kind. Therefore, it's up to each of us to make a decision based on our consciences. So, unless you've had them blessed, or you have reason to believe that they were blessed before you received them, you are free to dispose of them in any way you wish.
Unless it specifically says otherwise, the things that come from those charities are not blessed, and so could be thrown out. The St. Pio one is a special case, since it appears to be a relic. (It's probably just a tiny piece from a bolt of brown cloth touched to his tomb, and therefore third class, but still.) If I didn't have kids who wanted to cherish it (I do), I would probably take it out of the plastic sleeve and bury it in the yard. It can just hang out there, making the yard a tiny bit holier. Or, as you suggest, I'd take it to church with me and put it in the adoration chapel or on the table in the vestibule that has fliers on it. That's a completely reasonable thing to do with all that stuff sent by charities. You never know, SOMEONE might want it.
As for which charities to donate to, that's a very personal decision. And I'm sure everyone who reads my blog has her own opinion on which charities are worthy and why. But for us, we really try to give our money where it can have the most impact. So we try to look for organizations with the lowest overhead. We have personal contacts at both the Missionaries of Charity and Opus Dei, and we know that pretty much every single cent of what you send them goes to their work. The Missionaries of Charity support the poorest and sickest and most vulnerable all over the world. Opus Dei focuses on solid spiritual direction and Catholic formation for children and adults of all income levels.
Probably related to the lack of a staff or an office building, both are kind of hard to track down. In both cases, we called a residence to get a mailing address for them, because we couldn't find anything online.
The US Motherhouse for the Missionaries of Charity is:
Missionaries of Charity
164 Milagra Dr.
Pacifica, CA 94044
Opus Dei has many residences, all work in their local communities. Here's one:
The Woodlawn Foundation
770 S. Windsor Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90005
That's not to say that charities with more overhead are up to no good, we also sometimes contribute to Catholic Charities or Catholic Relief Services, when there is a special fund set up for a specific disaster. We just feel especially comfortable giving to charities where we can personally vouch for at least some of the people involved.
And if you're interested in helping one specific person fulfill one specific dream, you could send a few dollars Emily's way, to help her become a missionary in Denver. Read more about her journey and how to donate here.
Hope that helps!
Mailbag Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.
If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.