We now come to the last of the Corporal Works of Mercy in my occasional series for this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. I hope you are being inspired by Pope Francis and the Holy Spirit to practice mercy more consciously and more fully this year!
The last of the Corporal Works of Mercy on the list is to “bury the dead.” This is not a work in which we get directly involved now in our day and time. The two funeral homes that we mostly deal with, and that advertise in our bulletin, have been very good in accommodating the needs of families with limited resources at the time of a funeral. So the actual, physical burying of the dead is not something we are likely to do.
However, there is a more psychological way in which we can practice this work of mercy. And that is to bury the past resentments and slights and insults and other hurts that are past and over, but like the undead zombies, keep haunting us. Sometimes we need to let go of those past hurts if they are now truly over and resolved. We need to bury them in order to go forward with life. So if you are carrying around a load of past stuff that is truly over, let it go. Bury the dead of your past hurts and humiliations. You can practice this work of mercy for yourself.
And while we are on the topic of burying the dead, I hear from our local funeral homes that cremation of a person’s remains continues to grow in popularity. A couple of parishes in our Diocese have a columbarium (a structure for the repose of the cremated ashes) and several of our parishioners have requested that we have such a structure as well. Some of our parishioners have even written to Bishop Joe Vasquez requesting permission for us to construct a columbarium. However, their request has been denied. The response from Bishop Daniel Garcia, the Vicar-General of the Diocese, states:
“the Church allows cremation, but still has a theological preference for burial of the body without cremation. According to the guidelines we have received from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, columbaria should not be established apart from cemeteries. Since St. Austin Parish does not have a cemetery, our diocese does not intend to grant permission for the establishment of new columbaria there.”
I believe that people will continue to opt for cremation, partly because of cost, partly because of concern for the environment, and partly because families are spread out all over the country and do not visit cemeteries any more. Parishioners should plan how there remains will be respected and taken care of.
On another note, this weekend is national day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Please pray for vocations, especially for the Paulists! If you know of someone who would make a good priest, sister or religious brother, tell them so. You could be the voice the Holy Spirit needs to plant this idea in the person’s heart.