My husband and I went to Saturday evening Mass tonight, as is my usual routine. It was short one altar server, but the Deacon was present and provided the homily. At least it was supposed to be the homily. Rather than relate the Gospel reading to everyday life, he said a few words asking all to pray for the retiring Pope and for the Cardinals in the upcoming Conclave. That actually made some sense, but then he launched into the discussion of death, cremation and the Church’s views on the matter. We were all advised that upon death we should be buried, not cremated. The Church has allowed for cremation since Vatican II, however, those who are cremated should have those ashes interred in a Catholic cemetery. Anyone who has ashes of loved ones in their homes should consider removing them from their home and interring said ashes in a Catholic cemetery. For anyone who needed any information regarding funeral planning, the representative from the local Catholic cemetery was available after all masses this weekend.
As I sat favorite pew listening, I was quite shocked and completely unsure what to think. While I know that planning for this eventuality is important, was this really an appropriate topic for a homily?
As we walked out of the church, I noted that the rep from the cemetery was sitting behind us.
My late parents were both cremated. Their respective ashes are in a “companion” urn that resides on the mantel in my living room. My mom had wanted to be cremated and have me keep her ashes with me to spare me the necessity of visiting her grave in a cemetery. Mom was never able to visit her own mother’s grave. She passed away first and my dad died four months later. He had told me that he also wanted to be cremated and his ashes were to be with my mother’s and I was to keep the urn with me forever.
Are my actions sacrilegious? Perhaps to an ultraconservative Catholic, they may be but I do not agree. I see this as following my parents’ wishes and keeping the commandment of honoring thy mother and father. While I fully expect to spend some time in that lime gelatin with pineapple chunks that is purgatory (for reasons that have nothing to do with cremation), I highly doubt that failing to inter my parent’s urn in a cemetery will send me to hell.
Lent has begun again and the simple reminder that only God needs to know of your good works. “…But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right hand is doing…” Matthew 6:1-6, NAB
I recall being told this many times by my late father. He believed that when you give of your time and/or money, you should never attach your name to your efforts. You know and God knows and sometimes you have to tell the IRS if you need that tax deduction, but overall, no one else really needs to know. Why is that, you may ask? Well, as I see it, to attach your name or “blowing your own horn” diminishes the whole point of the efforts. In my almost fifty years of time on this planet, I find that humans have a hard time with this concept.
It is everywhere in society…it is all about the world knowing what you did or that it was your money that paid for such and such building or funding some social program and the like. It is a frequent occurrence in the higher education world. A really good example is the university I attended. Keep in mind; this is a Catholic school that was founded by a religious order. Whenever someone donates money that builds a new building, their name goes on it and we all know who paid for that building. Is that really necessary? This particular school has also renamed buildings when a donor has given money to “upgrade” an existing structure. They just recently renamed an athletic field that was originally named for a long-time coach to someone else’s name. Why? Money was donated and as a “perk” (or possibly a condition of the donation) the donor has their name slapped on the sign outside the field.
On the other hand…I suspect that people who make large donations don’t subscribe to my belief that good works are to be a quiet effort, such as the individuals who have buildings named for them at my alma mater. I also note that this doesn’t apply to the corporate world. Now, I am not speaking of the local dry-cleaning establishment sponsoring a softball team, but in terms of advertising. For example, the sports arenas around the country that have corporate names on them. These change so fast that I do not even keep track of them anymore.
I have made a concerted effort to instill “quiet giving” to my daughter. I think it is an important personal value to have and be part of one’s daily life. I think she “gets” it and I am sure that my dad is watching from heaven and is pleased.