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Newsletter of Mater Dei Seminary
November 2003

Other articles in this newsletter:
Moral Theology: Property Rights
Indulgences for the Month of November

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

How often it seems during the month of November that nature provides a beautiful atmosphere fur the theme of the liturgy for this time of the year! As the autumn gives way to winter, our days are shorter and the skies are often overcast which reminds us of the four last things (death, judgment, heaven and hell), and our need to pray and sacrifice for the souls of the faithful departed.

It is quite providential at this time that we have finally completed all of the legal formalities for the establishment of a Catholic cemetery at one of our churches here in Nebraska (St. Theresa’s Catholic Church just south of the small town O’Neill in the north central part of the state). This will be our third cemetery for the priests of our congregation (Mt. Calvary Cemetery at Mary Immaculate Queen Church in Rathdrum, Idaho, and Holy Rosary Cemetery at Mt. St. Michael in Spokane, Washington).

Having a church and cemetery at the same location will he a great blessing for this entire parish. Whenever they come to church for Holy Mass or for a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, the cemetery will be a constant reminder to the parishioners, not only to pray for the faithful departed, but also that one day they also will make that important journey from this life into eternity.

Although the practice of locating a cemetery in close proximity to the church is not common in the United States, we frequently see this arrangement in many Catholic countries of Europe. And this was done for a very particular reason.

How spiritually profitable it is for the faithful to visit a Catholic cemetery to spend time in serious meditation and reflection! Such a visit can help us to comprehend more profoundly the words of Our Lord, “For what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but suffer the loss of his soul, or what will a man give in exchange for his soul” (Mark 8:36).

Furthermore, the inscriptions on the headstones are a forceful reminder that death can come at any time. For how many people, God’s call to eternity came in the flower of youth and even infancy.

Catholic parents should realize that there is nothing morbid or morose about taking their children to the cemetery. There they can teach them about this reality in the world — that we are here on earth for a short time in order for us to merit eternal happiness in heaven.

This can also be a cure for AID (Adolescent Invincibility Disorder) in which young people, especially teenagers, think they are invincible and going to live forever. Afflicted with Adolescent Invincibility Disorder, young people neglect their spiritual lives and the things of eternity. No, death is not just for old people; it comes to people of all ages. And this is an important lesson one can learn by a visit to a Catholic cemetery.

St. Theresa’s Catholic Cemeteiy has already been measured off as to its perimeter and as to the sections where the faithful will be buried. In the simplified diagram below, each of the sections are so arranged as to form a cross.

cemetery diagram

As we consider this topic, it is important for our faithful to remember that as members of Christ’s Church they have the right to ecclesiastical burial, as long as they don’t forfeit that right.

Among the impediments to ecclesiastical burial, it is very important to list cremation, which unfortunately has become a very widespread practice. The Catholic Church forbids cremation, and those who are cremated cannot be given ecclesiastical burial.

In the 1917 Code of Canon Law we read: “The bodies of the faithful deceased must be buried, and their cremation is reprobated (c. 1203, 1). If a person has in any way ordered that his body be cremated, it is illicit to obey such instructions; and if such a provision occur in a contract, last testament, or in any document whatsoever, it is to be disregarded (c. 1203, 2).”

We find the reason for this in the book Canon Law, A Text and Commentary, by T. Lincoln Bouscaren, S.J., and Adam C. Ellis, S.J.: “Nearly all peoples have regarded the disposal of bodies of the dead as a religious act, but not all disposed of them in the same way. Both burial and cremation were in use among the ancient Greeks and Romans; cremation was also practiced among the Germans, Celts, Hindus, and Japanese. The Egyptians and the Jews buried their dead. Christians followed this practice for two very weighty reasons: because of their faith in the resurrection of the body, and out of respect for the body as a member of Christ. Of course, cremation can in no way impair the hope of resurrection; yet it was supposed to do so by some of the early persecutors of the martyrs.”

Although the majority of this letter has treated of the topic of cemeteries, I don’t want to neglect to exhort everyone to pray for the souls of the faithful departed. As we read in Sacred Scripture, “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins” (2 Machabees 12:43-46).

Let us remember that this is a spiritual work of mercy to pray for the dead, and that the souls of our relatives and friends may be in dire need of our spiritual assistance in order to be freed from their sufferings in Purgatory. We have helped them in life: let us not forget them after their death.

Lastly, these reflections on Catholic cemeteries and Purgatory should not leave us downcast, but should give us hope. The Preface for the Requiem Mass beautifully expresses the proper Catholic attitude that we should have in this regard:

“It is fitting indeed and just, right and helpful to salvation for us always and everywhere to give thanks to Thee, 0 Holy Lord, Father Almighty, Everlasting God, through Christ our Lord. In Whom the hope of a blessed resurrection has shone upon us, that those whom the certainty of dying afflicts, may be consoled by the promise of future immortality. For unto Thy faithful, Lord, life is changed, not taken away; and the abode of this earthly sojourn being dissolved. an eternal dwelling is prepared in heaven....”

With my prayers and blessing,
Most Rev. Mark A. Pivarunas. CMRI

Other articles in this newsletter:
Moral Theology: Property Rights
Indulgences for the Month of November

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Printed copies of Adsum, a publication by the seminarians of Mater Dei Seminary for the reading enjoyment of friends and benefactors, are sent free of charge to all who request it. Most issues also contain photos of recent events involving the seminarians. If you would like to put on this mailing list, please use this form.

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