Respect for the Dead

06-25-2023Pastor's LetterVery Rev. Richard C. Wilson, VF, Pastor

Dear Friends in Christ,

“The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.” (Para 2447, Catechism of the Catholic Church)

So, burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy. All faithful Catholics certainly deserve a proper Catholic funeral Mass and burial. All too often, in my short time here, I see that faithful Catholics are not offered a funeral Mass. I don’t know all the reasons for why that happens, but I do know that a Catholic funeral Mass is the highest form of prayer that can be offered for a deceased loved one. Why would a person not want that for someone they love?

As Catholics we believe in the dignity of the human body. “Our identity and self-consciousness as a human person are expressed in and through the body. Indeed, the body is the ‘primordial sacrament’ that makes the life and love of God present in the world. Thus, the Church’s reverence and care for the body grows out of reverence and concern for the person whom the Church now commends to the care of God.” (p. 3, Reflections of the Body, Cremation, and Catholic Funeral Rites, USCCB) Indeed, our respect for the human body come directly from the Jewish faith which revered and respected the human body because it was made in the image and likeness of God.

In 1963, the Holy Office, now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a document that allowed for cremation of the body, as long as it was not a sign of denial of Christian teaching, in particular the teachings on the resurrection of the dead and the immorality of the soul.

Sadly, some Catholics have adopted the secular world’s values regarding the human body. They cremate the body and then scatter the ashes or divide them up into parts, putting some of the ashes into lockets or urns and keep them in their homes.

Again, I quote from the USCCB document cited above: “The remains of cremated bodies should be treated with the same respect given to the corporeal remains of a human body. This includes the manner in which they are carried, the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and the final disposition. The cremated remains of a body should be entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium; they may also be buried in a common grave in a cemetery.” (p. 7, Reflections)

If you have the cremains of a loved one at home, please contact the parish office so that we might arrange for a proper burial. Please know also that if you are planning to scatter the ashes of a loved one after cremation, a funeral Mass for your loved one can be denied.

May we be faithful to pray for the dead, respect the dead and properly bury the dead.

All the best…in Christ,

Very Rev. Richard C. Wilson, VF