In the past week, three separate but similar incidences have occurred with people connect to this parish. The details of all three are mixed together in order not to embarrass those involved.
It goes something like this: “Father, I received a phone call from my sister. They found my mother in a closet and want to know if I want her. If not they are just going to start throwing everything, including her, into a dumpster. What should I do?”
This is becoming less and less rare a conversation. (Life as a priest is interesting.) The reason it is becoming less rare is twofold: 1) The Church relaxed its rule against cremation and 2) the continued loss of respect for the dignity of the person including and especially the body.
The first: Now that the Church is no longer fighting the heresy concerning the resurrection of the body (there were those who were using cremation as a theological statement against the Church’s teaching – go figure) it no longer feels it is necessary to have a moratorium on cremation.
Unfortunately that coincided (secondly) with a growing mentality of the person as an object rather than a subject (brilliantly pointed out by a priest friend at a recent meeting. Hi O) While living, the respect and dignity that we owe other human beings because of their inherent nature of being made in the likeness and image of God (even if they don’t look “right,” or are too small or have thrown in it away . . . ) has greatly diminished causing human beings to be objects to be used. The greatest promoter of this mentality is porn. No, if you look at porn today, you will not be a destroyer of humanity tomorrow, but nationally it feeds a mentality that some people can be used and then discarded.
Abortion double feeds this. It allows a woman (and in some incidences a man) to be used to fulfill a personal sexual need and when everything goes according to Hoyle and another person is conceived, the baby may be aborted thus cutting any natural ties you may have had with the woman and any responsibility toward the child. I can walk away. For much the same reason contraception is frowned upon.
A long list could be developed here but that will suffice.
So now there is Great Aunt Feefee’s ashes. Instead of treating her body with great reverence and giving ancient custom of respectfully burying the body (even if it is only ashes), the body becomes an object to be used. It is made into jewelry, passed out like party favors, or kept on display on the mantle until it ends up in a closet and someone else divesting an estate comes across it and throws it in the trash.
OF COURSE holding on to ashes is done with the best of intentions. People have the desire to be close to their loved one and to have a connection. But as Catholics we believe in the communion of saints. The connection we have through prayer is far more real and immediate. A body is much different than holding on to a rosary or picture or piece of jewelry. We owe our loved ones the dignity of being a subject in their own right and to treat their body as a former Temple of the Holy Spirit, not an object of our desire to be turned in to a conversation piece.