A Message from Monsignor Jay…
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Each year as we enter into the final weeks of Ordinary Time our liturgies direct our attention to the important hopes and promises of faith: life, death, holiness and eternal life.
I recently discovered a new definition of sainthood. Saints are those individuals who steadfastly hold onto the grace and mercy of God in the face of all that would help them embrace something else. Saints are not perfect people but they allow God’s grace and mercy to make them holy. They are not always easy to get along with, but they accept God’s love and allow it to gather them into the communion of saints. Saints are like us: baptized and called to holiness. Their lives teach and encourage us to seek holiness in the face of all that would offer us something else. Holiness is not the imagined tranquility of heaven. It is the hard work of God’s grace in our earthly lives. Follow the example of the saints—those the church recognizes and those we know—hold onto God’s grace and leave a realistic attainable example of holiness for future generations to seek in God’s mercy and grace.
Our Catholic faith teaches us the importance of burying the dead. The early Church Father, Tertullian wrote: “The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live.” Our practice of placing the human remains, either a body or cremains, of our loved ones in graves or tombs reflects our belief in the resurrection of the dead at the end of time when Christ returns in glory to unite our souls with our glorified bodies. Even though death appears to take our loved ones from us, their graves are places where our relationships with them continue. There we visit and pray for them; we remember them and honor their importance to us, and we reflect on the importance of their lives and our lives to one another.
An Irish tradition refers to burial as tucking the dead into their final resting place on earth until Christ raises them at the end of time, just as parents tuck their children in at night so that they can rest until the morning sun greets them. At Christian burials, we acknowledge that the three days Christ spent in the tomb made our tombs holy places of promise and hope. This is why the church teaches us to honor our dead with Christian burial. There are a number of cultural practices that do not honor the integrity of our loved one’s bodies or acknowledge that they were temples of the Holy Spirit. Cremains are not to be divided among family members, placed in lockets or jewelry, scattered in gardens, forests, fields or seas, or kept in closets or on mantle pieces. We bury our loved one’s remains in cemeteries or place them in columbaria so that they are not lost, misplaced, or forgotten.
In this month of All Souls, visit your loved one’s final resting places on earth. Remember and pray for them. As we honor and respect one another in life so we honor and respect our loved ones for eternity. We can be confident that as we pray for them, they also pray for us. We live with hope; we die with hope; our hope is Christ. This is how we live our belief in the resurrection of the dead.
May God’s Peace be Yours,