Cremation Gets Funky
I don’t think people like to talk about their own funeral preparations. The Pope and most religious have to make theirs on the first day of their office. The rest of us are free to do whatever whenever, and some never even consider it leaving it to family to figure out. I know one thing: I do not want to be cremated. I want a pine coffin with a cross on top and I prefer to buried somewhere with no vault thereby making it easier to get back out, if I want. Like Piotr, if some Saint comes by and needs my assistance and calls me back out of the grave to testify (yes, this is a real story of St. Stanislaus), then I’d prefer not to deal with the vault. But it’s not that easy, so maybe that part cannot be avoided.
Other people want to be cremated. I don’t understand why, but hey, Mother Church has said it’s fine, so if they want that, good for them. Not surprisingly, though, the Catholic urge for the dead gets weird. Unlike the stories of people tearing parts of saints bodies off for relics (as poor Saint Francis Xavier had to deal with when translated to Rome — a woman tore his toe off when they were in procession with his incorrupt body!), people are doing some strange things with cremated remains. Monsignor Charles Pope writes urging for policies to be made. Says Msgr Pope:
I was shocked a couple of years ago to discover that a certain Catholic family still had the cremated remains of an uncle on the top shelf of their closet. The delay centered around who in the family was going to pay for the burial lot and debates about whether burial was even necessary at all. Perhaps the ashes could just be scattered out in the woods.
Without the urgency to bury the dead, the burial is often given little regard.
But things have gotten even worse.
Many funeral homes are now offering “jewelry” made from the cremated remains of loved ones or with the remains sealed within the jewelry. If you don’t believe me, click HERE, HERE, or HERE. The ghoulishness and bad taste are surpassed only by the shock of how suddenly such bizarre practices have been introduced. One can imagine the following awful dialogue: “Hey, that’s pretty new jewelry! Was that your Mom’s?” “Well, actually it is Mom!” Double yikes!
I’m not surprised.
I like the Big Lebowski, but I always get a little unnerved when they try to scatter the ashes of their friend on the beach. I think scenes like that aren’t merely art, but coming from stories people relate over the years. It seems that cremation of people invites strangeness. I can’t explain it.
Although I think the Monsignor has good intentions, I don’t see how policies are going to make things better. It’s just a thing that invites the problems he notes, and other weird things as well.
Traditionally, Mother Church had some pretty strong issues with cremation. Says my trusty old catechism:
As Christians we have a higher esteem for the soul, which partakes of the divine nature, and consequently for the body, which is the servant and tool of the soul. No true Christian can fail to shrink from the horrors of cremation; only those who are lost to all sense of the dignity of human nature, to all belief in the truths of religion, can desire it for themselves. Let us remember that Christ, our great Exemplar, was laid in the tomb and rose again. For pagans such considerations naturally have no weight; they disliked the sight of the sepulchral monument, the mound raised over the dead, because it reminded them of death, which would put an end to their earthly enjoyments. For the same reason unbelievers in our own day advocate cremation. Burial suggests to them too strongly the immortality of the soul, whereas cremation appears to promise the annihilation that they desire as their portion after death. Yet let no one imagine that the Christian dreads the destruction of the body by fire as an impediment to its future resurrection, for God can effect the reintegration of the body after it has been dissolved into gaseous elements. In the interests of justice destruction of the body by fire is highly reprehensible, since, if a body is buried, it can be afterwards exhumed if this is necessary for the detection of a crime, such as murder. By this means many a murderer has been brought to justice; after cremation this is impossible. Those therefore who speak in favor of cremation befriend criminals, inasmuch as they aid in the removal of all traces of their crime.
(Catechism Explained, 3d ed 1920).
They make a note about exhuming the body to inspect for crime, although I’m not so worried about being exhumed for forensic investigation. I’d like to available should St. Stanislaus or some other saint need my assistance and wake me back up.
This article, Cremation Gets Funky is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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