Twilight Twitches

fetscherDear Family,
For a while I have wanted to reflect a bit on cremation. For over thirty years, now, the Church has allowed cremation. When I was growing up, that was a big taboo. Later, I understood the reasoning behind the prohibition. It related to European Freemasonry which encouraged cremation as a sign that there was no afterlife. Masons aren’t there now, at least in the U.S.

The bigger issue is the reverence the Church has always had for the body. As I’ve said at many funerals, “our bodies are living breathing walking talking temples of the Holy Spirit and God lives in us.” Credit St. Paul for that inspiration.

The Church would always like to have the body present at the funeral “since the presence of the body most clearly brings to mind the life and death of the person.”
That would be in an ideal world where funerals and all that attends them wouldn’t be so expensive. As a celebrant of funerals, I can tell you it makes a difference when we can have the liturgy of Christian burial in proximity to the death of the person. It becomes an integral part of very essence of the death/grieving/healing process. Waiting for the ashes to come back from the crematorium often makes it hard to even plan a funeral. Then it becomes a “let’s wait until everyone can get to town” situation. Funerals become a 7-11 event... convenience store burial. (I guess you can tell I have some strong feelings about this.)

A good funeral director will always try to find ways to have people reduce costs. (You’ll find one in our choir loft... that’s good director, not ways.) Surely, cremation is one approach.

Let me quote a little from the Order of Christian Funerals, Appendix B: Cremation.

“The Catholic Church commends its deceased members to the mercy of God by means of its funeral rites. It likewise asks that the Christian faithful continue to offer prayers for the deceased family members and friends.”

The Order continues, “The cremated bodies should be treated with the same respect given to the corporeal remains of the human body... (including) the manner in which they are carried... and their final disposition.”

“The practices of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires.”

So then, what should we do with the cremated body? This is where the reverence for the remains comes into play. In a word, the Church does not want ashes scattered. (By the way, the remains are really small pieces of bone and not ashes.)

Again, ideally, we want cremated remains in a sacred place, worthy of the dignity that belongs to the body. Our cemeteries have places for urns and the like. For some families, cost can be a factor.

Need I say that pre-planning your funeral and burial is about the most sensible thing you can do? That should include chaffing with me about your options if we have the privilege of celebrating your funeral.

Why burden others with wondering what you want? And then there is the, “we don’t want to look cheap” factor. Trust me. I’ve seen it.

Anyway, now I’m going to get on with the business of living.

Last week, I wished you a Happy Labor Day a week early. The wish still stands!

In Jesus,
sign frjim

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