As has been reported elsewhere, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has published an instruction regarding burial and cremation, approved by Pope Francis earlier this year.
The time of dealing with families after a death is one of the great privileges of the priesthood and yet one that seems increasingly fraught with elements that clash with a truly Christian understanding of what is happening. Like a "good death" a "good Requiem" can be the source of great comfort and a glimpse of something both beautifully divine and truly human, a revelation about God and life - eternal life.
So often it is a time when priests come into contact with those who are lapsed from the practice of the Faith and there is a natural desire to share the truths of the Good News with those who have perhaps been far away from them and yet it is also a difficult time to begin explaining, what might seem to them, obtuse points of doctrine. We all make compromises at such times. Yes, you can carry in the giant sized betting slip represented in flowers; no you really can't have Johnny Cash singing "Ring of Fire" at the crematorium. Yet in our hearts we know that they are missing out on the real content and value of what the Church has to offer. There is nothing so comforting, hopeful and powerful as a Requiem Mass celebrated with dignity and solemnity for a practising parishioner where the family is also believing and a great many of the parishioners are present.
Sadly, the vast majority of funerals do not fall into this category. Sadly as well, that the "new" Rite of Funerals caters for almost every eventuality of death except the one most frequently experienced by priests in this county - that of providing for the lapsed. There are prayers should a husband and wife have died at the same time; prayers for those who were catechumens at the time of death but nothing for those whowere not ""faithful sons and daughters" (even with their sins) but were lapsed for many years.
Celebrity and secular funerals are the template in the modern mind - even quite often, of practising Catholics (and Catholic celebrity funerals have not always helped in these cases). It seems that more and more bizarre and empty rituals to "celebrate the life" of the deceased are what come to mind for the bereaved. To my own mind this "celebration" falls down on two points.
1. That usually it canonises the deceased, leaving them bereft of prayer to assist their final journey, and depriving the mourners of a means of giving practical assistance to those who have passed beyond this earthly life (which is surely a great psychological help for them as well - something practically that they can actually DO in the helplessness of grief).
2. The "celebration" is all of the past (ironic for those who reject tradition). It is all memory and nothing of the present or future. A bleak celebration indeed, devoid of the beauteous hope given to us by Our Lord.
3. Then there is the dreaded "Eulogy". 99 times out of 100 devoid of any reference to faith. Sometimes bringing to light embarrassing - even scandalous - elements about the deceased.
All in all, what is actually being requested is far from Christian Faith, full of pagan and invented rituals, where what is wanted is not a priest but a DJ.
So, all in all, anything that recalls us to focus on that hope must be a good thing. So this Instruction gives us the chance for a teaching moment, especially as we are approaching the Feast of the Holy Souls and the month of November. I've managed to reproduce most of the Instruction on this week's parish Newsletter. To get the message across outside the all too sensitive time of bereavement - at least to those coming to Mass.
You can see the Instruction on the Holy See's site and I reproduce it below in full.
CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH Instruction Ad resurgendum cum Christo regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation
1. To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must “be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). With the Instruction Piam et Constantem of 5 July 1963, the then Holy Office established that “all necessary measures must be taken to preserve the practice of reverently burying the faithful departed”, adding however that cremation is not “opposed per se to the Christian religion” and that no longer should the sacraments and funeral rites be denied to those who have asked that they be cremated, under the condition that this choice has not been made through “a denial of Christian dogmas, the animosity of a secret society, or hatred of the Catholic religion and the Church”. Later this change in ecclesiastical discipline was incorporated into the Code of Canon Law (1983) and the Code of Canons of Oriental Churches (1990).
During the intervening years, the practice of cremation has notably increased in many countries, but simultaneously new ideas contrary to the Church’s faith have also become widespread. Having consulted the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and numerous Episcopal Conferences and Synods of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has deemed opportune the publication of a new Instruction, with the intention of underlining the doctrinal and pastoral reasons for the preference of the burial of the remains of the faithful and to set out norms pertaining to the conservation of ashes in the case of cremation.
2. The resurrection of Jesus is the culminating truth of the Christian faith, preached as an essential part of the Paschal Mystery from the very beginnings of Christianity: “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve” (1 Cor 15:3-5).
Through his death and resurrection, Christ freed us from sin and gave us access to a new life, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rm 6:4). Furthermore, the risen Christ is the principle and source of our future resurrection: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep […] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:20-22).
It is true that Christ will raise us up on the last day; but it is also true that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. In Baptism, actually, we are immersed in the death and resurrection of Christ and sacramentally assimilated to him: “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col 2:12). United with Christ by Baptism, we already truly participate in the life of the risen Christ (cf. Eph 2:6).
Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning. The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church: “Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven”. By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. In our own day also, the Church is called to proclaim her faith in the resurrection: “The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live”.
3. Following the most ancient Christian tradition, the Church insistently recommends that the bodies of the deceased be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places.
In memory of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, the mystery that illumines the Christian meaning of death, burial is above all the most fitting way to express faith and hope in the resurrection of the body.
The Church who, as Mother, has accompanied the Christian during his earthly pilgrimage, offers to the Father, in Christ, the child of her grace, and she commits to the earth, in hope, the seed of the body that will rise in glory.
By burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body, and intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity. She cannot, therefore, condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the “prison” of the body.
Furthermore, burial in a cemetery or another sacred place adequately corresponds to the piety and respect owed to the bodies of the faithful departed who through Baptism have become temples of the Holy Spirit and in which “as instruments and vessels the Spirit has carried out so many good works”.
Tobias, the just, was praised for the merits he acquired in the sight of God for having buried the dead, and the Church considers the burial of dead one of the corporal works of mercy.
Finally, the burial of the faithful departed in cemeteries or other sacred places encourages family members and the whole Christian community to pray for and remember the dead, while at the same time fostering the veneration of martyrs and saints.
Through the practice of burying the dead in cemeteries, in churches or their environs, Christian tradition has upheld the relationship between the living and the dead and has opposed any tendency to minimize, or relegate to the purely private sphere, the event of death and the meaning it has for Christians.
4. In circumstances when cremation is chosen because of sanitary, economic or social considerations, this choice must never violate the explicitly-stated or the reasonably inferable wishes of the deceased faithful. The Church raises no doctrinal objections to this practice, since cremation of the deceased’s body does not affect his or her soul, nor does it prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life. Thus cremation, in and of itself, objectively negates neither the Christian doctrine of the soul’s immortality nor that of the resurrection of the body.
The Church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased. Nevertheless, cremation is not prohibited, “unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine”.
In the absence of motives contrary to Christian doctrine, the Church, after the celebration of the funeral rite, accompanies the choice of cremation, providing the relevant liturgical and pastoral directives, and taking particular care to avoid every form of scandal or the appearance of religious indifferentism.
5. When, for legitimate motives, cremation of the body has been chosen, the ashes of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place, that is, in a cemetery or, in certain cases, in a church or an area, which has been set aside for this purpose, and so dedicated by the competent ecclesial authority.
From the earliest times, Christians have desired that the faithful departed become the objects of the Christian community’s prayers and remembrance. Their tombs have become places of prayer, remembrance and reflection. The faithful departed remain part of the Church who believes “in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church”.
The reservation of the ashes of the departed in a sacred place ensures that they are not excluded from the prayers and remembrance of their family or the Christian community. It prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten, or their remains from being shown a lack of respect, which eventuality is possible, most especially once the immediately subsequent generation has too passed away. Also it prevents any unfitting or superstitious practices.
6. For the reasons given above, the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence is not permitted. Only in grave and exceptional cases dependent on cultural conditions of a localized nature, may the Ordinary, in agreement with the Episcopal Conference or the Synod of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, concede permission for the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence. Nonetheless, the ashes may not be divided among various family members and due respect must be maintained regarding the circumstances of such a conservation.
7. In order that every appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism be avoided, it is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects. These courses of action cannot be legitimized by an appeal to the sanitary, social, or economic motives that may have occasioned the choice of cremation.
8. When the deceased notoriously has requested cremation and the scattering of their ashes for reasons contrary to the Christian faith, a Christian funeral must be denied to that person according to the norms of the law.
The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect on 18 March 2016, approved the present Instruction, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation on 2 March 2016, and ordered its publication.
Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 15 August 2016, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Gerhard Card. Müller Prefect + Luis F. Ladaria, S.I. Titular Archbishop of Thibica Secretary
 AAS 56 (1964), 822-823.
 Roman Missal, Preface I for the Dead.
 Tertullian, De Resurrectione carnis, 1,1: CCL 2, 921.
from around the world gathered in Rome last week for the three-yearly
We celebrated Holy Mass in the papal Basilica of St Lawrence outside the Walls.
There has been a church on the site since about 580AD, first commissioned by Pope Pelagius II.
There is a very beautiful chapel in the Basilica where
Blessed Pope Pius IX is buried.
It is well worth a visit.
The procession in to the singing of the Veni Creator Spiritus.
Mass was celebrated by His Eminence Dominic Cardinal Duka,
Grand Chaplain of the Order.
The music and chant of the Mass was all in Latin, very fittingly for an international gathering. Introit, Communion Antiphon,, Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Credo, Pater and Agnus Dei all led by a splendid choir (such do exist, for those who think Italy is bereft of such a thing). Some parts of the Mass were in Italian (the event was organised by the Grand Priory of Italy) but the Eucharistic Prayer and all the Communion were in Latin.
I was presented with a new vestment this from the altar servers and young people of the parish morning, which is lovely - all the way from Poland, I think. It is my Silver Jubilee of Ordination later this week, when we are celebrating in fine style with High Mass in the presence of Archbishop Malcolm but today was a surprise organised as an event for just the parish family to celebrate.
My thanks to everyone and especially our musical director, Anthony, who arranged for a little Schola to come and sing at the 10am Mass. Unusually for us here, an English Mass setting today - the Festival Setting of the Eucharist in C by John Ireland, which was rather nice. We also rejoiced in Arcadelt's Ave Maria and Elgar's Ave Verum, as well as a couple of Newman's great hymns in recognition of his feast day. Thanks to the singers - Emma, Dean, Lynn and Anthony and to David Scott-Thomas as visiting organist, making our organ (with new speakers) sound really terrific.
A blast from the past. Ordination 25 years ago by Archbishop Derek Worlock at English Martyrs parish in Litherland.
Some photos from the Mass this morning.
Not taking a leaf out of Blessed John Henry's book, with his notoriously long sermons, a very short sermon today on Newman.
Presentation of the vestment and picture after Mass.
Robert Cardinal Sarah's new book. Some extracts below need no comment from me!
From “"La force du silence", Fayard, 2016.
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.
“THE BODY OF JESUS FOR ALL, WITHOUT DISCERNMENT” (par. 205)
Some priests today treat the Eucharist with perfect disdain. They see the Mass as a chatty banquet where the Christians who are faithful to Jesus’ teaching, the divorced and remarried, men and women in a situation of adultery, unbaptized tourists participating in the Eucharistic celebrations of great anonymous crowds can have access to the body and blood of Christ, without distinction.
The Church must urgently examine the ecclesial and pastoral appropriateness of these immense Eucharistic celebrations made up of thousands and thousands of participants. There is a great danger here of turning the Eucharist, “the great mystery of Faith,” into a vulgar revel and of profaning the body and the precious blood of Christ. The priests who distribute the sacred species without knowing anyone, and give the Body of Jesus to all, without discernment between Christians and non-Christians, participate in the profanation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist. Those who exercise authority in the Church become guilty, through a form of voluntary complicity, of allowing sacrilege and the profanation of the body of Christ to take place in these gigantic and ridiculous self-celebrations, where one can hardly perceive that “you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26).
Priests unfaithful to the “memory” of Jesus insist rather on the festive aspect and the fraternal dimension of the Mass than on the bloody sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The importance of the interior dispositions and the need to reconcile ourselves with God in allowing ourselves to be purified by the sacrament of confession are no longer fashionable nowadays. More and more, we obscure the warning of Saint Paul to the Corinthians: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill” (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-30).
“MANY PRIESTS WHO ENTER TRIUMPHANTLY. . .” (par. 237)
At the beginning of our Eucharistic celebrations, how is it possible to eliminate Christ carrying his cross and walking painfully beneath the weight of our sins toward the place of sacrifice? There are many priests who enter triumphantly and go up to the altar, waving left and right in order to appear friendly. Observe the sad spectacle of certain Eucharistic celebrations. . . Why so much frivolity and worldliness at the moment of the Holy Sacrifice? Why so much profanation and superficiality before the extraordinary priestly grace that makes us capable of bringing forth the body and blood of Christ in substance by the invocation of the Spirit? Why do some believe themselves obliged to improvise or invent Eucharistic prayers that disperse the divine phrases in a bath of petty human fervor? Are the words of Christ so insufficient that a profusion of purely human words is needed? In a sacrifice so unique and essential, is there a need for this subjective imagination and creativity? “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words,” Jesus has cautioned us (Mt 6:7).
“PROCESSIONS ACCOMPANIED WITH INTERMINABLE DANCES” (par. 266)
We have lost the deepest meaning of the offertory. Yet it is that moment in which, as its name indicates, the whole Christian people offers itself, not alongside of Christ, but in him, through his sacrifice that will be realized at the consecration. Vatican Council II admirably highlighted this aspect in insisting on the baptismal priesthood of the laity that essentially consists in offering ourselves together with Christ in sacrifice to the Father. [. . .]
If the offertory is seen as nothing other than a preparation of the gifts, as a practical and prosaic action, then there will be a great temptation to add and invent ceremonies in order to fill up what is perceived as a void. I deplore the offertory processions in some African countries, long and noisy, accompanied with interminable dances. The faithful bring all sorts of products and objects that have nothing to do with the Eucharistic sacrifice. These processions give the impression of folkloric exhibitions that disfigure the bloody sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and distance us from the Eucharistic mystery; but this must be celebrated in sobriety and recollection, since we are immersed, we too, in his death and his offering to the Father. The bishops of my continent should take measures to keep the celebration of the Mass from becoming a cultural self-celebration. The death of God out of love for us is beyond all culture.
“FACING EAST” (par. 254)
It is not enough simply to prescribe more silence. In order for everyone to understand that the liturgy turns us interiorly toward the Lord, it would be helpful during the celebration for us all together, priests and faithful, to face the east, symbolized by the apse.
This practice remains absolutely legitimate. It is in keeping with the letter and the spirit of the Council. There is no lack of testimonies from the first centuries of the Church. “When we stand up to pray, we face the east,” says Saint Augustine, echoing a tradition that dates back, according to Saint Basil, to the Apostles themselves. Churches having been designed for the prayer of the first Christian communities, the apostolic constitutions of the 4th century recommended that they be turned to the east. And when the altar is facing west, as at Saint Peter’s in Rome, the celebrant must turn toward the orient and face the people.
This bodily orientation of prayer is nothing other than the sign of an interior orientation. [. . .] Does the priest not invite the people of God to follow him at the beginning of the great Eucharistic prayer when he says” “Let us lift up our heart,” to which the people respond: “We turn it toward the Lord”?
As prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, I am intent upon recalling once again that celebration “versus orientem” is authorized by the rubrics of the Missal because it is of apostolic tradition. There is no need for particular authorization to celebrate in this way, people and priest, facing the Lord. If it is physically not possible to celebrate “ad orientem,” a cross must necessarily be placed on the altar, in plain sight, as a point of reference for all. Christ on the cross is the Christian East.
“GOD WILLING, THE REFORM OF THE REFORM WILL TAKE PLACE” (par. 257)
I refuse to waste time in opposing one liturgy to another, or the rite of Saint Pius V to that of Blessed Paul VI. What is needed is to enter into the great silence of the liturgy; one must allow oneself to be enriched by all the Latin or Eastern liturgical forms that favor silence. Without this contemplative silence, the liturgy will remain an occasion of hateful divisions and ideological confrontations instead of being the place of our unity and our communion in the Lord. It is high time to enter into this liturgical silence, facing the Lord, that the Council wanted to restore.
What I am about to say now does not enter into contradiction with my submission and obedience to the supreme authority of the Church. I desire profoundly and humbly to serve God, the Church, and the Holy Father, with devotion, sincerity, and filial attachment. But this is my hope: if God wills, when he may will and how he may will, in the liturgy, the reform of the reform will take place. In spite of the gnashing of teeth, it will take place, because the future of the Church is at stake.
Damaging the liturgy means damaging our relationship with God and the concrete expression of our Christian faith. The Word of God and the doctrinal teaching of the Church are still listened to, but the souls that want to turn to God, to offer him the true sacrifice of praise and worship him, are no longer captivated by liturgies that are too horizontal, anthropocentric, and festive, often resembling noisy and vulgar cultural events. The media have completely invaded and turned into a spectacle the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the memorial of the death of Jesus on the cross for the salvation of our souls. The sense of mystery disappears through changes, through permanent adaptations, decided in autonomous and individual fashion in order to seduce our modern profaning mentalities, marked by sin, secularism, relativism, and the rejection of God.
In many western countries, we see the poor leaving the Catholic Church because it is under siege by ill-intentioned persons who style themselves intellectuals and despise the lowly and the poor. This is what the Holy Father must denounce loud and clear. Because a Church without the poor is no longer the Church, but a mere “club.” Today, in the West, how many temples are empty, closed, destroyed, or turned into profane structures in disdain of their sacredness and their original purpose. So I know how many priests and faithful there are who live their faith with extraordinary zeal and fight every day to preserve and enrich the dwellings of God.
Robert Sarah avec Nicolas Diat, "La force du silence. Contre la dictature du bruit", Fayard, Paris, 2016.
I see from news reports today that Mother Marie Adele Garnier, the foundress of the Tyburn Nuns, is to have her cause for canonisation opened in Rome. The Catholic Times has a report. One of my favourite spiritual writers, Blessed Columba Marmion wrote to one of her spiritual daughters, saying, “The special characteristic of your Mother is heroic confidence in the midst of impossibilities.”
If "By their fruits you shall know them" holds true, her heroic confidence continues, as in a time of decreasing Religious vocations, I think they now have eight daughter houses founded from Tyburn. Heroic confidence in our own times is perhaps also a grace we are all in need of! Perpetual adoration is one of the works that the Sisters are engaged in, so perhaps that has kept them on the receiving end of so many graces.
The Martyrs altar in the crypt of the convent,
shaped as a replica of the gallows - the Tyburn Tree.
The original site is just a hundred yards or so away form the Convent. Although it is marked with a plaque in the paving, it is marooned on the hugely bust traffic island opposite Marble Arch. It would be a great improvement and cause for celebration if the London authorities could find a way to make it more accessible.
FATHER, all-powerful & ever-living God,
we give you glory, praise and thanks for the life and virtue
of your beloved daughter, Marie Adele Garnier.
Filled with the riches of your grace
and preferring nothing to the love
of the Heart of Jesus Christ,
she devoted her whole life
to the adoration, praise and glory of your Name;
she sacrificed herself by prayer and penance
for the unity & holiness of your Church;
she loved her neighbour with a charity
full of humility and compassion.
Above all, she found the SUN of her life in the Holy Mass,
and so was consumed with zeal for liturgical worship
and Eucharistic adoration, and abandoned herself with all her heart
to your most Holy Will in all things.
In your mercy Lord, hearken to our prayer
"Glorify your Servant Mother Marie Adele Garnier,
that your Servant may glorify YOU".
We ask you this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son
who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,