This is some very good information regarding funerals for Catholics. It is a delemma that I find myself dealing with almost every day…sometimes twice a day.
Courtesy of Fr. Alan J. McDonald, Southern Orders Blog
T’was a time when someone died when everyone got a Christian burial or at least a burial of some kind even if it wasn’t Christian. Certainly everyone who professed to be a Catholic made sure that their deceased loved ones got a Christian burial.
Today our culture is more and more pagan rather than Judeo-Christian or our Judeo-Christian culture has bought into pagan practices without realizing they have.
Note how we so many now are encouraged to treat their bodies as though they are a material possession,like a car or a house. They do radical remodels on their bodies, such as radical plastic surgery on their faces, and all kinds of surgeries for weight loss or simply to make their body look more “sexy.”
People are now tattooing their bodies in the most extreme ways as well a piercing their bodies in the most unusual of places.
And then when the body is used or spent and dies. It is cremated and tossed aside, not even a proper burial is given. Rather the ashes are stored somewhere as some kind of macabre keepsake having nothing to do with Christian sentiments as body parts being a sacred relic or these are scattering or flushed down the commode or left with the funeral director to discard at his discretion.
The Catholic Church still requires that we give Catholics a Christian burial. Even when there is cremation, Church law requires that the ashes be interred in a cemetery plot or a columbary that has been blessed. The blessed cemetery is a sacramental that shows us that the human body is sacred and even as it decomposes, we look forward to its redemption when the Lord returns and the resurrection of the body occurs. Our bodies will be recreated from the mud of the earth and fashioned perfectly after the risen body of our Savior and Judge. Cemeteries are to life as Advent is to Christmas.
Look at the Blessed Virgin Mary’s relationship with and experience of God. It was not just spiritual. It was physical, in and through her body. By the power of the Holy Spirit, she conceived Jesus Christ in her body. She carried Him for 9 months, in her body. She suckled Jesus at her breasts. She embraced and kissed him, held and cuddled him. She bathed and nurtured him. She saw him crucified and dead and caressed his dead body as he lay in her arms and prepared Him for the tomb.
As Catholics, we experience God in a physical way through our bodies. All of the sacraments touch us in a physical way, whether it be water flowing over our bodies, or oil anointing us, or bread and wine that becomes the body and blood of Jesus becoming a very part of us through eating and drinking. In the sacrament of marriage the Church teaches that husbands and wives experience the very presence of God in their most intimate relationships of lovemaking and life creating. In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, men become “Christ” in a visual sacramental way.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, into heaven is an event of her salvation that shows us that our body and soul are good and are redeemed by Christ.
The following gives a very good explanation of what the Catholic Church requires of Catholics where caring for their bodies after death in a Catholic way:
Question: There are some Catholics who say that the Church allows cremation. Then there are others who say that cremation was always forbidden in the Church. What should I believe?
Answer: The Catholic Church’s preference has always been to bury the dead. The ban on cremation was to oppose the pagan practices that were considered to be anti-Christian. The Romans did not believe in an afterlife. As such, they cremated their dead. The Christians of the early Church avoided cremation because of the connection with the Roman view. To be cremated served the purpose of denying the resurrection and afterlife.
Since Jesus was not cremated, this is another reason why this practice fell into disfavor with the Christians. And also because of the belief that the body is the home of the Holy Spirit and it should be respected as such.
The Catholic Church’s rejection of cremation was never intended to imply that someone who is cremated would never go to heaven. The church has never opposed the cremation of Catholics after disasters such as a plague, earthquakes or floods when mass casualties occurred, making individual burials next to impossible.
The Church also permitted cremation in extra-ordinary situations where transporting a body half way around the world or a very great distance would have created extreme financial hardship.
In 1963, while continuing to maintain a strong preference towards burial, the Catholic Church became more open to allowing cremation. As more and more Catholics became aware of this change in the law, there has been an increase number of cremations among Catholics.
Prior to 1997, cremations had to take place after the funeral Mass so the body could be present during the rite. Since then, the Vatican has granted permission to allow funeral Masses with the presence of the ashes.
To this day, the Catholic Church Law forbids cremation when it is chosen for reasons that are contrary to Christian teaching. These are:
a. Cremation is implemented for the purpose of denying the resurrection of the body.
b. The ashes of cremated Catholics are to be preserved afterwards as a body would be preserved, either in a mausoleum or buried in a Catholic cemetery which is holy grounds.
c. Ashes are not to be scattered.
d. Anything that is contrary to # b above, it is forbidden by the Catholic Church. You cannot decorate your living room with the ashes/urn of the dead. Nor can you keep the ashes in your basement, buried in your yard or in the yard at the cottage, and the list goes on.