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Why a Parish Columbarium is a Bad Idea

  /   Saturday, November 05, 2022   /   Comments(0)

During this month of November, I wanted to write about something that I’ve been seeing pop up in a number of parishes – the building and maintenance of a columbarium for the interment of cremated remains. I first saw these when I lived in North Carolina, and now there are several in Tennessee (but only one in a Catholic parish in the Nashville area). I want to highlight why this is a bad practice.

I’m not so much against the building of a columbarium as part of a Catholic cemetery, even a parish cemetery. The Church requires the interment of cremated remains in a sacred place such as a cemetery. To make this possible for Catholics who choose cremation for legitimate reasons, it makes sense to have them available. My main concern here is with a columbarium located on parish property that has no cemetery associated with it. I’ll explain why . . .

To get a greater understanding of the Church’s teachings on cremation, please check out this 2016 Document from the CDF regarding the practice. The Catholic Church once prohibited cremation as it was often done as a way to show opposition to the resurrection of the dead. In 1963, a new instruction named Piam et Constatem was issued that did allow for cremation. It’s important to note that, once cremated, the ashes are required to be buried like a body would be.

However, this instruction said that the ordinaries (eg bishops) were to ensure, through proper instruction, that “the faithful refrain from cremation and not discontinue the practice of burial except when forced to do so by necessity” and that “the Church’s adverse attitude toward cremation must be clearly evident.” In other words, the practice is not something the Church wanted to encourage but only to permit when necessary. Cremation is to be the exception rather than the rule. Burial remains the preferred practice of the Church. In fact, the need to encourage burial instead of cremation when possible is more pressing today in light of the false ideas regarding the human body that are presented by today’s society.

However, when a parish builds a columbarium, they are, by means of a bad example, essentially encouraging the practice of cremation. After all, they are allowing people to be laid to rest on the grounds of their church, but only if they are cremated. People who can and wish to conform themselves fully to the mind of the Church on this matter have to be buried elsewhere. This really sends the wrong message to people regarding the respect and reverence that is due to the body of the deceased, which was and will be again a Temple of the Holy Spirit.

In one diocese where I lived, there was a rule that, if a columbarium were built, it must be accompanied by instruction that burial is really the preferred practice. However, this is unlikely to be effective. At the same time this instruction is being provided, people are being told that they can choose to be cremated so that their remains can be interred at their church. This also communicates to people that they can feel free to disregard the customs of the Church and do whatever they prefer, which is way too common among American Catholics.

Someone once told me in (sort of) defense of the practice is that a parish was noticing that people were choosing cremation and then doing things prohibited by the Church such as scattering ashes or keeping them in their home. The columbarium was being built so that people would at least bury the ashes properly. This was a well-meaning argument, but I don’t agree. I believe it provides too much accommodation for people’s attitudes to be formed by the surrounding culture rather than by Christ and his Church when really, the truth needs to be preached.

In fact, I remember a priest, preaching at the funeral of one of my family members, tell us that what was in the casket was not our family member. I now know that is not a correct statement. It is a pagan/gnostic attitude that I’ve also heard repeated by a Protestant, though I don’t think the priest realized this. As human beings, we are made to be body and soul. When the soul separates from the body, neither are complete. The body that will decay is not the complete person, but guess what – neither is the soul! The souls in Heaven are longing for their bodily resurrection. Our bodies are not some costume or machine that we inhabit and need to be free from. They are an integral part of who we are.

There may be some people who need to choose cremation, and they need not feel as though they are incurring guilt for doing what the Church permits. However, the local parishes should not be building something that has such a potential to encourage that which is not what the Church prefers. We would be much better served by better catechesis about the body and reverence it required, not to mention our hope of the resurrection.

Category: Response


Reading Catholic Classics

  /   Sunday, October 30, 2022   /   Comments(0)

I admit I haven’t had the best time trying to read the classic Catholic writings of the saints. I read the Imitation of Christ a long time ago but wasn’t really ready for it. I didn’t even appreciate St Therese of Liseux’s Story of a Soul when I read it. I gained a greater appreciation for her reading other stuff about her. I read an abridged version of St Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout life, and that went much better for me.

Ascension Press has been putting together some great podcasts with Fr Mike Schmitz’s Bible in a Year, and coming next year, Catechism in a Year. Now, they’ve published a new edition of Introduction to the Devout Life and have a podcast where they are reading through it. From what I have read so far, this is a very accessible edition of the book. If the print version they are selling is too expensive for you, they’ve also published as an ebook. It’s available now, while the print version isn’t shipping yet.

The podcast, by the way, is going to run in seasons. It looks like they are going to spend a period of time reading a certain classic and then stop for a while. From what I see, Ascension must be planning to publish updated translations of a number of classics, and each time they do, we will have a podcast where we can read through it. The season for Introduction of the Devout Life is expected to last 42 days. You can follow along each day as you read the section, and I’m sure for me the days won’t be consecutive. You’ll have an opportunity to catch up on the break between seasons.

If they keep this up, and I hope they do, it’ll be an awesome way to study the classic writings of our faith.

Category: Books, Resources


We Were Not Told to Keep Holy the Weekend

  /   Wednesday, October 26, 2022   /   Comments(0)

I’m not a big fan of some of the semantic games people play.  Many of them seem to be used just to start arguments.  For example, there were some media posts going around that were against saying a husband was “helping” around the house because it’s his job, too.   I’m not sure how having responsibility precludes helping, but really, I digress . . .

There’s one usage I really do wish would die.  I’ve often heard of churches speak of the “weekend Masses.”  Why can’t we just say “Sunday Masses?”  We celebrate the Lord’s Day on Sunday in obedience to God’s command to keep holy the Sabbath and to celebrate the resurrection of Our Lord on Sunday.  Even if you attend a vigil Mass on Saturday night, as my family and I did during the pandemic, you are still going to a Sunday Mass.  The ancient Jews reckoned their days from sunset to sunset, so I think they’d agree.

The weekend is a societal construct.  The Sabbath is a command of God.  At a time where our culture is intent on keeping us always busy, we need to remember to set aside this day.  Even though it’s right next to Saturday, it’s not just part of a weekend.

Category: Catholic, Response


Working with a Christian Worldview

  /   Saturday, September 17, 2022   /   Comments(0)

In my last post, I made some brief comments about “quiet quitting” (which I think is an odd term). I’ve read a number of posts about how some people are quietly quitting and what it means (and it varies a bit). I’ve also read and listened to others who are arguing against the practice. It seems that most of those who were attacking the practice were actually attacking a straw man and not what many of the proponents of “quiet quitting” were actually doing.

For a Catholic like me, this presents an opportunity to really reflect on the meaning and purpose of work and how I should approach my work. The truth is that work is essential, and everyone needs to do his fair share. If no one worked, there would be no farmers to produce food. There wouldn’t be builders to build houses. There wouldn’t be doctors to provide needed health care. We just don’t survive without work.

As a matter of justice, we need to do a full day’s work when we receive a full day’s pay. Christian charity demands that we work with a view towards meeting the needs of our employers and our customers. Working as a Christian means that our work is more than just transactional. We aim to serve and to do good for others as best as we can.

With this being said, much of the trend towards “quiet quitting” needs to be understood as a reaction, often righteous, to what was called the “hustle culture.” The term “hustle culture” simply means having to pretty much always be working. It’s true that there may be cases where someone has to work ridiculous hours for a period of time. For example, a rescue worker during a disaster may not be able to just stop working without leaving people in danger.

However, in most cases, work is becoming an idol, either to the employer or the employee (or both). I remember reading some articles on some career site that suggested the need to hide from the employer the fact that you stop working to attend your son’s baseball game. This is truly unhealthy, and any employer who has that kind of attitude doesn’t deserve its employees. It is absolutely immoral for an employer to consume a disproportionate share of the employee’s time and energy that needs to be devoted to his family.

Work has a proper place in life that should neither be diminished nor exaggerated. Many of the “quiet quitters” are reporting not that they’ve stopped trying to do a good job but that they’ve realized that there is more to life than work. People just want to be able, and should be able, to live their lives. Leisure is an important part of life. I was absolutely not surprised to find out that many people who decided to realize that now believe themselves to be more productive in their work. I’m betting that more of them are.

Most importantly, rest is actually commanded by God. God gave the Sabbath to the Jewish people, and now Christians celebrate it on Sunday. God commands us to cease from our labor most of all to worship. This is because, ultimately, we all belong to God himself.

Category: Response, Uncategorized


Dictatorship of Relativism

  /   Sunday, July 31, 2022   /   Comments(0)

I remember then-Cardinal Ratzinger in 2005 cautioning against a “dictatorship of relativism.” I thought I knew what he meant then. However, it’s far worse now. This comes to me after having just been at the Defending the Faith Conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it.

Those who are knowledgeable about the Catholic faith understand that we know that faith and human reason are not by nature opposed to each other. God is not arbitrary. He is truth and love itself. If someone asks you whether something is good because God says it is or if God says something is good because it is good, the answer is neither. God is neither arbitrary, nor is there a standard above him to which he conforms. The goodness is his very nature.

Relativism has been around for a long time now. However, it has more recently become more of a dictatorship that one could ever imagine. Our secular society is moving in a direction in which someone can declare their own truth, and it is true for them even if it is completely out of touch with reality. Even in the past, people were looked down upon if they insisted on an objective truth. The thing that makes this more of a dictatorship is that now one can be ostracized for so much as questioning someone else’s view of reality, especially regarding matters of sexuality.

People involved in the dictatorship won’t even engage others who disagree. If they come to speak somewhere, they shout him down with nothing but emotionally laden statements. They won’t engage in reasoned debate. They won’t make their case. This has been going on before to an extent, but now it has reached dictatorship status.

This presents a very unique situation in trying to explain and defend the Catholic faith. It’s going to take a lot of praying to change hearts. I think we have to start with restoring the very idea of having a reasoned debate. We have to be able to show it’s reasonable to belief the Catholic Faith, and there is a basis for it. We can substantiate what we believe simply on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Category: Response


The Missing Link on Abortion

  /   Wednesday, July 27, 2022   /   Comments(0)

On the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we were given a great gift from God. Roe vs Wade and subsequent bad decisions were overturned by the Supreme Court. We know this is just one step, albeit a very large one, in the fight to end abortion. There is a lot of work to do.

A lot has been written in the days leading up to the decision (thanks to the leaked draft) and after the decision. I can’t tell you how many left leaning articles I read talking about how lives will be totally ruined by this decision. I’ve also read a number of articles about how we are going to need to be ready to care for a lot of these babies if abortion is illegal. Well, we do need to be ready to care for both mothers and babies and to show that life doesn’t end with pregnancy, but there’s something missing from both sides here.

It’s very important that we as Catholics are willing to preach the authentic truth about human sexuality and to preach it as a positive good. We want to help bring God’s mercy on those who have fallen into sin, but even then, we need to help them to know the truth that will se them free. There are two false views of human sexuality that have caused serious problems in society which I will call the puritanical view and the libertine view. As with anything in the spiritual life, the truth lies between these two extremes.

Although it’s much less popular in our day and age, I think it’s important to reflect a bit on the puritanical view of human sexuality. I don’t know the exact view of the Puritans here, but I use this term because of the popular notion that the Puritans viewed all pleasure as at least suspect, if not downright sinful. Many in society may think this is the true Christian view of sex, and many trying to live a holy life are influenced in some way by it. Sex is often viewed as dirty or shameful in this view. You can do it when you are married, but it’s more of a concession to us dirty, rotten people.

This view is sometimes part of a larger view of life, mentioned above, that enjoyment of any kind is sinful. We need to simply never enjoy anything in this life. That has to be saved for Heaven. However, I have never understood how anyone would be happy forever in constant presence of a God who is a complete killjoy. Really, how is that supposed to work?

More common in today’s society is a libertine view, or at least a view that leans in that direction. In many cases, it may just be a reaction to the Puritanical view. This view suggests that sex is just a recreational activity. Everyone has a right to use and enjoy their sexuality and even determine it’s meaning in their own lives. People holding a libertine view believe they should be able to do what they want and be able to determine what the consequences and even what other people’s reactions will be. If it feels good, do it, except for one thing . . .

The one thing the libertines do get right is that to engage in sexual acts without consent is a crime of violence. However, unlike a true Christian view of sex, their views on sexuality tend to weaken their case. They are holding a view that sex is a recreational activity but simultaneously saying that engaging in it without consent is a huge violation of another’s body. It isn’t completely incongruent, but it probably does bear some responsibility for the rise in sexual assault that we see in our society. Really, the bottom line that the libertines completely miss is that consent is an extremely low standard.

Instead of either of the above, we need to foster the development of an authentic view of the human person which leads to the authentic view of human sexuality. Unlike the puritanical view, sex is not dirty or shameful but holy. Unlike the libertine view, sex is not just a pure fun activity but a sacred bond between husband and wife to be treated with reverence. Our bodies are not toys to be played with, and the meaning and consequences of our actions are not ours to determine.

On a purely natural level, we can see that sex is holy by the natural effect it has. By it, a man and a woman cooperate with God in the creation of new human life. This does not happen every time, but deliberately trying to prevent it while still engaging in the act is not giving our sexuality the reverence it is due. We know by the fact that a child needs years of care to be able to grow and develop that a stable commitment is needed. Therefore, the act that brought forth this child needs to be engaged in only when there is the commitment between the man and woman suitable for this, which is marriage.

However, we are not animals that simply “reproduce,” which is why talking about “reproductive freedom” is ridiculous. On a supernatural view, human sexuality is an imperfect image of the love and unity within the Holy Trinity. The husband and wife give themselves unreservedly to each other, and sexuality is the expression of this self giving. This is an even greater reason why husband and wife need to treat their bond with great reverence. God is love, and God is one God in three persons, just as a marriage consists of a man and a woman, who by their love will often bring forth a third (a child).

Is this unrealistic? No, it’s not, but we have work to do. The very intemperance towards sexuality (and also other pleasures) in our society has served to weaken our character. This, in turn, leads to more using of other people for our own pleasure. By recognizing what God has given us in the gift of our sexuality, we can approach it with the reverence, and therefor self control, needed to give us that strength of character that is needed to truly love as God loves. This will eliminate even the very idea of needing “reproductive freedom” as we will view the child not as a curse but as a gift of God given from a married couple’s total self gift to each other.

Category: Morality, Spirituality


Hopefully the Start of the Turning of a Tide

  /   Tuesday, June 21, 2022   /   Comments(0)

I was pretty hopeful hearing of this Supreme Court ruling. The state of Maine had a program that gave parents money for private school tuition in places where there were not public schools available. However, they prohibited the use of these funds for schools that were religious in nature. Someday, I hope to see the end of the idea that the First Amendment was intended to mean that any religious idea or organization is to be excluded from public life.

This decision really doesn’t directly give an edge to faith-based schools. This may be what happens in practice, but it is based solely on the decision of the parents receiving the funding. If Maine wants to give money for school tuition where needed, the Supreme Court decision means that faith-based schools are to be treated on an equal basis with other schools. If they favored only the Baptists or the Methodists, then they’d be favoring a particular religion, and we’d have a constitutional argument. Religion is not and should not be some special category that is verboten, nor should it be discriminated against. It’s interesting that Sonia Sotomayor cites in her dissent a constitutional commitment to separation of church and state when the words aren’t in the Constitution.

What is this all about? Well, in the above article, the state of Maine argued that they wanted education to be something that was education in a “religiously neutral manner” and also “exposes children to different viewpoints and promotes tolerance and acceptance.” Are these anti-religious statements in disguise? They might be, but I do not know. However, I do believe they are a usurpation of parental authority in the education of their children. Education is ultimately the purview of the parents, not the state.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the state will not have some say in the development of educational standards and of what should legally constitute a school. There are things kids need to learn to be able to function in society. Also, we wouldn’t want a “school” that was established solely to encourage children to be violent revolutionaries or something that like. How much authority should the state have? Well, I think that’s up for debate, and I don’t have a clear answer. However, parents do have the right to pass their faith along to their children and to expect their choice of school to respect that. Hopefully, this recent Supreme Court decision is a step in this direction.

Category: Response


Ongoing Formation

  /   Sunday, May 15, 2022   /   Comment(1)

Summer is almost upon us, and with that, I thought I’d share a great resource for Catholics looking for additional formation in the Faith.  I learned about this because one of the featured lectures was part of our formation program to become a lay Dominican, where my wife and I made temporary promises on May 7th.

Anyway, check out the Institute of Catholic Culture.  There are a lot of lectures, events, and even full semester-length courses to choose from.  Best of all, it’s all free (but do donate if you can).  I’m currently enrolled in a Catholic Bioethics live course.  As someone working in health care, it’s vitally important to understand issues regarding human life from the teachings of the Church.

The bioethics course registration is closed, but there are other classes to choose from.  Some will open up for a live online course at a certain time.  Others are self-paced.  The main thing I don’t like is that I can’t find a way to bookmark stuff that I want to listen to.  I like to keep a list of what I plan to listen to.  I’m hoping to dive into some more material on this site as I’m able.

Category: Cathechesis, Catholic


How We Really Celebrate

  /   Saturday, April 30, 2022   /   Comments(0)

I’m thinking of something that God gave me to think about years ago.  The two biggest feast days in the Church year are Christmas and Easter.  The Church, in her wisdom, makes sure we know they are coming and to be prepared to celebrate them to the fullest extent if we will.

I’m thinking of what I’d miss if I belonged to a Protestant church that had neither Advent nor Lent nor a season of Easter or Christmas.  Easter could just suddenly come upon me, and then it would be over the next day.  It could easily pass me by without preparation or without a chance to savor the feast.

In the Catholic Church, we can enter into the season of Advent to prepare for Christmas and Lent to prepare for Easter.  These days won’t just suddenly happen upon us.  We won’t just be going about our normal, everyday business only to have a sudden realization that “Oh, it’s Easter.”  We prepare for it, and we long for it.   It doesn’t end once the day is over.

We have an eight day octave for both Christmas and Easter and a season to follow.  We celebrate Christmas for maybe a couple of weeks after Christmas Day (it varies a bit each year), and we have fifty days of Easter after our forty days of Lent, concluding with Pentecost, the “birthday” of the Church.  This gives us a great opportunity to enter in to the celebration of the very reason for our hope.

Category: Cathechesis, Catholic


When You Hear Some Statistic

  /   Saturday, April 23, 2022   /   Comments(0)

Did you hear that 50% of people who enter the Catholic Church on Easter Vigil are not still in the Church a year later. I’ve heard this. Now, where do you think this information came from. Who found this out? How did this person (or group) obtain their data? These are very legitimate questions, and I am not willing the trust the opinions of anyone who objects to asking them. In fact, I’m not sure of the source of this often-quoted statistic.

In fact, it probably isn’t true. Just take a look at this article from the National Catholic Register.  It points to some research done by CARA that appears to be a compilation of previous studies done.  According to the study, 84% of those who entered the Church through RCIA since 1986, when the Church instituted the RCIA in the United States, still identify as Catholic.

It sounds much better, but I do have to ask – what was the criteria for determining who “identifies” as a Catholic.  If all it takes to identify as a Catholic is to check a box on a survey, then it’s hard to say how useful that information actually is.  In fact, the article goes on to say that 62% of the converts still go to Mass monthly.  That’s right.  It says monthly.  Well, actually, it says “at least monthly.”

Remember that missing even one Sunday Mass is a mortal sin unless one has a serious reason (please stay home if you have COVID).  In other words, anyone who is only attending Mass monthly really can’t be said to be practicing the faith even if he’s technically still Catholic.  We really need to know how many people are going to Mass every Sunday.  I will say, though, that there was more data as to how active converts are in the life of the parish.

What’s my point with this?  I used the Church as an example here, but my point can apply to anything.  Whenever you see these statistics, there are questions that need to be asked.  We need to know the source of the data.  If no one comes up with a source, then it may be completely bogus.  We also need to know who collected the data and how.  Specifically, we need to know what questions were asked what what criteria were used to come up with a classification.  We also need to know who was asked and how many people were asked.  If we don’t think about these things critically, we run the risk of wasting time and energy on a bunch of baloney.

Category: Catholic, Response


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