Saturday, August 29, 2015

Fight Hard

In a translation full of flowery and technical sounding language (most of which I like, mind you), we come upon today's collect for the Passion of John the Baptist in the Roman Missal:

"Grant that, as he died a Martyr for truth and justice, we, too, may fight hard for the confession of what you teach."

To me, that phrase "fight hard" seems so uncharacteristically simple compared with the usual vocabulary of the Roman Missal. I would have expected something more like "contend vigorously." For whatever reason, the translators took the Latin strenue certemus and put it into very simple language, and I think we're better off for it, at least in this case.

In its simplicity, I take fight hard to have a more visceral connotation that speaks to what fighting is really all about. It comes from the gut.

My homily this morning was all about this, but with a warning. Christians don't fight to win, at least not in the worldly sense. John the Baptist didn't win; he got his head chopped off. But he still fought. He pointed at the injustices of the worldly power and screamed repentance from the rooftops. Yet as far as worldly success goes, he was a failure. He did not bring about a change of heart in King Herod, even though Herod liked to listen to him. He did not bring about change in power structures of his day. Those above him were unmoved by his words and actions. He made no vertical impact.

But those on his own level were watching. They saw his actions. They heard his words. They witnessed the disgusting authority of the powers that were react violently to his message of truth, and they preferred his way to the way of the world. They followed his finger pointing at the Lamb of God and became the followers of Jesus.

Such has it been in every age. The Christian (and sometimes the non-Christian too!) fights for justice and truth, even though the fight is in vain. Justin Martyr fought hard in writing his apologies to the emperor, but his real witness came when he lost that fight and was killed for being a Christian. We call him St. Justin Martyr, not St. Justin Writer.* We fight hard because it is right to do so. We fight hard because it is a witness. Others will see the struggle, the dedication, and the virtue of the Christian. At least, that's the hope.

We certainly hope for success in fighting injustice and institutional evil, but most of the time, it doesn't work out. That's nothing new. We fight hard because we want to be a witness for truth and justice, like St. John the Baptist, pointing his finger at the Truth Himself. We'll probably lose, but we're not in it to win. We're in it to be faithful to Him who is faithful to us.

* - This is why there are no doctors of the church who were martyrs. The term doctor of the church started out as a liturgical distinction, a way of honoring fathers of the church who were not martyred. If a father of the church were martyred, he's not named a doctor. Don't believe me? Here are a few ecclesiastical writers-turned-martyr who were never named doctors of the church: Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Cyprian of Carthage. (Though, full disclosure: Cyprian's opinion regarding re-baptism of lapsed Christians was heterodox, and even contested by then Pope St. Stephen. He's maybe not the best candidate for a doctor of the church. But, he's a martyr, so it doesn't matter.)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gregory the Great Destroys Me

So here's Gregory the Great on the sins of priests (including himself):

“We do not seek to gain souls; we devote ourselves daily to our own pursuits, we attend to earthly matters, we strive for human praise with all our will. From being set over others we have greater freedom to do anything we like, and so we turn the ministry we have received into an occasion for display. We abandon God’s cause, and we devote ourselves to earthly business; we accept a place of holiness and involve ourselves in earthly deeds. What is written in Hosea is truly fulfilled in us: ‘And so it will be, like people, like priest.’ A priest does not differ from the people when he does not surpass their deeds by any merit of his own.” 
- Forty Gospel Homilies, 19.

Okay. I need to go to confession.

Pope St. Gregory the Great making us all feel bad.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ash Wednesday without Mardi Gras?

This post is a little late. I intended to get it done in time for reflection during the Carnival season, but alas, we only have a few hours left before Lent. This means it's a little rushed and unpolished, which I suppose makes it even more fitting for Fat Tuesday.

Folly and Death
photo: Carol M. Highsmith
Nevertheless, in these last few hours for those who are still awake and sober, I think it is worth exploring why we feast before we fast. The liturgical principle is the opposite. We fast before feasting: Advent before Christmas, and Lent before Easter. Yet, before Lent gets going, much of the (historically) Christian world has some kind of secular observance during which society "tanks up" before letting go of worldly attachments.

I know very little about other carnival celebrations around the world (and even around the United States for that matter). Apparently some people eat pancakes today...that's pretty under-whelming if you ask me. However, though I am ignorant of most of them, I know there is a wide variety of cultural responses to the liturgical season we call Lent. The one I know is called Mardi Gras.

I was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, a city with a bit of a chip on her shoulder when it comes to Fat Tuesday. Overshadowed by our bigger, younger sister, New Orleans, when it comes to just about everything, especially carnival observance, Mobilians are quick to tell you that our celebration is older, more family friendly, and in general, better. I'm not here to make any of those arguments. (I will readily make them if anyone wants to have that conversation, but frankly it doesn't matter much to me.)

Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday, or rather to me (some of my clergy friends might be shocked by this) Ash Wednesday is the day that follows Mardi Gras. There has not been a single Lent of my life that was not preceded by a big party, and, but for the years I lived away from Mobile, that party was a two-and-a-half-week-long, city-wide party. Sharing in the fun with thousands of other people of all ages (none of whom feel the compulsion to expose themselves...I'm [not] looking at you New Orleans) has a profound effect on a person, especially when the next day, we all go to Mass and receive ashes. I know not everyone is Catholic or otherwise liturgical, but in my experience, you go from Tuesday streets full of people with beads and beers to Wednesday churches full of people with black marks on their heads. The weird transition is there. Many dismiss it as a moral cop out similar to the common dismissal of the Sacrament of Confession: do whatever you want, and you can be absolved right away. In this case of Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday, it's the following day!

Herein we find a problem of perspective. Is there sin and debauchery at Mardi Gras? sure, but not by necessity. So long as you're not underage, nor convinced that teetotalism is the right path, nor perhaps a recovering alcoholic, there's nothing sinful in having a drink. There's also nothing sinful in having a drink in public. Drunkenness and carousing I will readily grant are going too far, and yes, many go way too far at Mardi Gras, but that doesn't mean we discredit the whole cultural phenomenon as sinful or even morally neutral.

I believe there is something good about Mardi Gras, or Carnival, or Shrove Tuesday, or whatever it is you call it. It all has to do with the reality of conversion.

Let's talk about Qoheleth. (If you've never read the book of Ecclesiastes, you need to stop reading this blog and go read it, because it's far more important than anything I'm writing. However, assuming you're already familiar with it, let's proceed.)

Each year during the Carnival season, we live out Qoheleth's discovery of the vanity of all things, especially the vanity of putting off our conversion, our penance, our suffering, and ultimately our death. Those are all things we want to deal with tomorrow, not today. Fat Tuesday embraces silliness and folly, pretending that death will not come.

In no way is this illustrated better than by the emblem float of the Order of Myths, who parade Mardi Gras evening in Mobile. A jester, the personification of Folly, chases Death, personified by a skeleton, around a pillar, beating him with inflated pig bladders. (There's no significance of the pig bladders that I know of. They make a really loud POP when you hit something with them, and so are an ideal tool for revelry.) Folly beats back vain. We all know it's in vain. We all know it's temporary. We all know that tomorrow is coming, and with it austerity, repentance, and ultimately goodness. Today we try in vain to find our fulfillment in this world. Tomorrow, we'll get to work finding it where it truly lies: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Note it's not Wisdom or Courage that tries to beat back Death. It's Folly. And if it's Folly to try and put off Death, then that means it doesn't actually work. Yet we try anyway, time and again, and time and again we're called back into reality, the desert of Lent.

Ash Wednesday is a noble tradition, a powerfully harsh beginning to the fast of Lent, meant to wake us up out of our dull slumber, as cold water dumped on a late sleeper. Preceding Ash Wednesday with Fat Tuesday amplifies that shock even further.  Ash Wednesday following Fat Tuesday is a tangible reminder that we are being called out of our stupidity into holiness.

Make no mistake, I'm not confusing the fun that comes prior to Lent with the joy and glory of the Lord's Resurrection. Lent exists because of Easter, not because of Carnival, and rightly so. We empty ourselves during Lent so as to be filled with Christ, and Christ alone. Only through that journey will we find what we are truly looking for. Still, how much more complete is the picture when considering the whole movement? from folly to self denial to true joy.

This is the story of conversion. In order to turn toward Jesus Christ, we have to turn away from something else. We all live out Folly's dream to chase off Death, to put off conversion to a later date, to pretend that the way things are now is "alright" and we don't require change.

Symbols speak to the human person much more loudly than concepts. Never limit the truth to words. Truth is communicated in ways a thousand times more profound than mere words. Carnival is a secular response to a religious practice, but that does not make it any less valuable. It just means there is a default human reaction to the call to repentance: stupidity.

I don't advocate debauchery, gluttony, lust, or drunkenness. However, I recognize that we are all drunk on our sins, in one way or another. Tomorrow, we will likely wake up hungover on those same sins. It might not be literally tomorrow, but we will all eventually find the emptiness and pain our sins cause, just as Qoheleth did. Hopefully that day comes sooner rather than later. Hopefully it comes tomorrow (which for me is a couple of hours away).

On the superficial level (which is by no means unimportant), Mardi Gras is fun. It's a good time. Yet if I dig deeper, I find that it is a powerful reminder to me of my "no" to God. Quite frankly, there are few stronger motivators for me to say "yes" to him tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Female Altar Servers? No Problem

It's a pretty common opinion among my generation of priests that the presence of female altar servers makes boys less desirous of serving at the altar, and therefore less likely to hear the call to priesthood. I strongly disagree. I'm tired of the statistics being twisted (the ones that accurately show that most new priests were once altar servers) to suit the polemic against altar girls.

It's not girl altar servers that push boys (or anyone) away from altar serving. Rather, it's sub-par altar server training. It's the failure to give children actual responsibilities. It's lazy and lackluster liturgy. All of those things have been pretty much concurrent with the presence of female altar servers. To blame the middle/high school age altar server exodus on mere presence of girls is to completely ignore the real issues.

I was an altar server. One of my fellow priests was also an altar server with me, same age, same parish. There were a ton of female altar servers too. Neither of us were driven away from serving nor from the priesthood. Why? We loved serving. We were taught well, and we had responsibilities. We enjoyed being good at what we did, and we didn't want to let anyone down. That's really all it took to keep our interest. The gender of the participants had nothing to do with it.

Furthermore, the presence of female servers in no way hindered the parochial vicar (who was in charge of the servers) from encouraging priestly vocations all the time. We heard about it on a regular basis, and in fact, that's where I got the idea.

If you are half-hearted in your training of altar servers, you'll get half-hearted servers that think what they're doing is lame. And that's how you lose altar servers. Blaming it on girls is a red herring that needs to go away.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Can this song please just go away?

Mary did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?

In no other case is "smh" more appropriate.

(For those who don't know, smh means "shaking my head." Don't feel bad. I didn't know that one till a couple months ago.)

While I certainly have a tendency to rant and rail against any number of things, I am not one who lightly makes polemics about religious songs. I do my best to see the good in religious art, even when it might be from a different tradition or take a little poetic license. I am a staunch defender of Amazing Grace, a hymn which many super Catholics denounce as heretical. I thought it was beautiful when Sr. Cristina Scuccia (winner of Italy's The Voice) recorded Like a Virgin for her first album (whereas, many other Christians were scandalized). I'm not interested in black listing songs or suppressing artful expression.

All of that said, I have zero love for "Mary Did You Know." Art has great power, and, especially when it comes to religious art, we need to be aware of how that power is affecting us.

Before I really get going on this, I will say that I don't mean to disregard the talent of the many artists who have performed this song, nor even that of Buddy Greene and Mark Lowry, the song's co-writers. They created something they thought was beautiful (or rather, something just about everyone thinks is beautiful), and if its subject matter were any other human being who ever lived, it would be. However, in reality, it is a misleading portrait of the Mother of the Church.

If you are one of the many who think that "Mary Did You Know" is a worthwhile reflection on Mary's perspective on her Son, I invite you to re-examine your understanding of the Blessed Mother. You might say that it makes her feel more human, more like us, but I respond that in her place in God's plan she is the most human, an elevation of humanity, what humanity should have been in the first know, without sin. I don't need to identify with yet another sinner. There are plenty of those to go around. There are any number of good, respectable, and even heroic people who were sinners. We call them saints, and there are loads of them. I pray to them all the time, and I identify with their stories.

Yet Mary is not merely a saint. In my search for intercessors and exemplars, I have need of something beyond just the saints, someone higher than them. You might say angels fit that bill, but they aren't human. No, this need is only fulfilled by tapping into the hope and beauty that is the perfection of our nature, without stain of sin. Of course we already have the New Adam in the person of Jesus Christ, but there is something truly beautiful about the New Eve in her perfect humanity. I need my Mama.

That's not to say that Mary never knew fear or doubt or difficulty--even Jesus in his humanity experienced those thing--but this song takes it way too far. Here's why I can't abide "Mary Did You Know:"

"Mary Did You Know" imagines a Mary who is clueless as to who her Son is, an ignorant Mary who doesn't know as much about Jesus as we Christians do. How absurdly condescending! We don't need to bring Mary down to our level, and we certainly don't need to put her beneath us. Who among us knows Jesus better than Mary? She carried the King of kings in her womb, yet we would lecture her on who he is.

The song speaks to Mary as though she is unworthy of our veneration. It ignores her place in our salvation. It relegates her motherhood as a mere plot device in the Gospels. That's such an impoverished take on Divine Providence. God had chosen Mary from the very beginning. That's why she's special. There is a difference between Mary and us.

Before you get all argumentative (and I some of you will), I do understand that the intended effect of the song is to teach us about Jesus, not Mary. It's not lost on me that one of the more creative and profound ways to teach about Jesus is to speak of his mother, but there's a right way to do that. The Council of Ephesus called Mary "Theotokos" (Mother of God). That sounds like it's just a positive thing to say about Mary, but it's actually done to teach us about the unity of Jesus' human and divine natures. If Mary is his mother, she's the mother of the one Person Jesus Christ, who is fully human and fully divine. She's not just the Mother of Christ (his humanity), but the Mother of God. The Council of Ephesus succeeded both stating the truth about Jesus, and saying something positive about Mary. "Mary Did You Know" states the truth about Jesus at the expense of his mother.

To me it is a real shame that in Catholic churches across the nation, this song will be sung during Advent and Christmas. I can think of probably 50 songs that get at the true nature of the Mother of God, all so much more beautiful than this song from 1994 (when Ace of Bass topped the charts). Check out the words of this hymn to Mary written by a Anglican convert to Catholicism that sums up most of what we believe about Our Lady:

Holy light on earth’s horizon,
star of hope to fallen man,
light amid a world of shadows,
dawn of God’s redemptive plan,
chosen from eternal ages,
you alone of all our race,
by your Son’s atoning merits
were conceived in perfect grace.

Mother of the world’s Redeemer,
promised from the dawn of time:
how could one so highly favoured
share the guilt of Adam’s crime?
Sun and moon and stars adorn you,
sinless Eve, triumphant sign;
you it is who crushed the serpent,
Mary, pledge of life divine.

Earth below and highest heaven,
praise the splendour of your state,
you who now are crowned in glory
were conceived immaculate.
Hail, beloved of the Father,
Mother of his only Son,
mystic bride of Love eternal, hail,
O fair and spotless one!

Or, just be reminded of the words of the Hail Holy Queen:

Hail, Holy Queen, mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness, and our hope!
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us,
and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

All Life is Sacred

Brittany Maynard's decision was wrong, but not for the reasons you think.

What I'm seeing on the inter-webs is that many Christians feel that the only reason to be disappointed in Brittany Maynard's decision to end her life is if you group it in as a suicide. Suicide is wrong, therefore she was wrong. At this, I shake my head.

Technically speaking, yes, suicide is the term for what happened to Brittany Maynard. However, to pretend that the underlying cause of her actions is comparable to that of a more stereotypical suicide (for lack of a better term) is about as mature a position as young earth creationism. Suicide is a different issue (and is itself a vastly complicated one). Many progressive bloggers have keyed in on this distinction and concluded that maybe she wasn't wrong to end her life, some going so far as to say Brittany Maynard didn't commit suicide.

Coming at it from that point of view is a red herring. Suicide is not what we should be talking about. What is disappointing about Brittany Maynard's decision in particular and society at large is that so many believe that human dignity is rooted in quality of life. Life is only worth living if it can be lived under ideal conditions. That is simply untrue. Human life is by nature dignified, even if it's imperfect.

I readily admit that it would have been very difficult for Brittany Maynard to continue living - clearly her prognosis was dire. However, pain, suffering, and the loss of faculties do not empty life of its dignity.

The notion that quality of life is the measure of the dignity of life is related to the horrendous fact that in the United States, 92% of children with trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) are aborted. Reflect on that for a moment. What might cause parents to make that choice? The child is atypical? It will be more challenging for the parents? It's not what the parents imagined life or parenting to be like? Maybe it's something else besides, but whatever the cause, it's terribly sad. It betrays a survival-of-the-fittest mentality when it comes to human dignity. The only people who should live are those who's lives are worth living.

Here the reader will begin to write off the comparison, because I'm using Brittany Maynard's sad case as an opportunity to make a point about abortion. But to be pro-life is not just a question of abortion stance. The Christian is called to recognize that all human life is sacred: the child in the womb, the terminally ill patient, and yes even the convicted criminal. I am saddened that Brittany Maynard could not see the beauty of her life in spite of suffering, just as I am saddened that so many parents can't see the beauty in a disabled child and that so many Christians insist that criminals deserve death. None of us is in a position to point at a given human life and say, "end it," just as none of us is in a position to walk through the Louvre, point at a particular work of art and say, "destroy it."

Then there's this:
I've also seen people say that the reason Brittany Maynard was wrong is because it is God's decision when we die, not our own. I think that is an awful thing to say. The book of Wisdom teaches us, "God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living." (Wisdom 1:13) We are not on this earth to patiently await the time God has chosen to kill us. We are on this earth to be filled to brimming with the love of God, and then let that love be poured out of us into the world until such time as we are spent. "If you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." (Bl. Mother Teresa)

Very plainly, the reason Brittany Maynard's decision was misguided is that her life still had value, even if she could not see it. Broken as she was, and as we all are, Brittany Maynard never ceased to be God's beautiful creation. It would have been heroic for her to go on living, and sometimes, heroism is precisely what God calls us to.

Still, though I've said her actions were wrong, I do still hope to see her in the Kingdom. If God in his goodness would deign to forgive my great sins, surely he can forgive someone who unfortunately did not recognize the Divine Image in her own heart. In the build up to her decision, I wished for all the world to have some way of communicating that truth to her, but, as Thomas Merton said, "There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun."

This is November, the month of praying for the dead:

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, 
and let perpetual light shine upon her.
May her soul and the souls of the faithful departed 
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Saints' Day Homily

I don't ever post homilies, but since this one will only be delivered once (tomorrow is All Souls' Day, so the homily will be quite different), I figured I'd make it a bit more accessible. (And yes, I did steal a line from Louis CK.)

John makes a rather peculiar assumption in this evening's second reading: "The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him [Jesus]."

"The reason the world does not know us..."

"The world does not know us."

Really? The world does not know us? Is that true? Let's give a face to "the world," and ask the question, "does that guy know me?" I wonder if we're really all that estranged from a personification of "the world."

The world is greed.

He is the desire for more, and more, and more. The world is wanting to have the newest thing, searching for happiness in money and power. The world is having desires fulfilled as soon as possible. He despises patience and loves next day air. The world is greed. Does the world know you?

The world is envy.

The world is always thinking about what other people have, despising the blessings God has given to him. The world looks in the other person's bowl, not to check that they have enough, but to see how unfair it is that they have and he does not. The world is envy. Is he your friend?

St. John assumes that the world does not know us...

The world is gluttony.

The world is perpetually bored, consuming food and drink and entertainment, because, well, what else is there to do? The world stays up all night binge watching TV shows. The world wastes hours on the internet and playing video games. The world is gluttony. Are you a stranger to the world?

The world is lust.

The world pretends to love the sexual act, but actually hates it, using it in all the wrong ways. The world is addicted to pornography, and that doesn't bother him, because everyone uses it, right? The world sees other humans as objects not subjects. The world constantly makes sexist jokes and sexist policies. The world is captivated by someone else's spouse, or a live in girlfriend or boyfriend. The world is lust. Does the world know you?

The world is sloth.

The world is lazy and listless. The world insists that no one encroach on his time. The world sits on the couch and takes for granted those he loves and who love him. He always keeps his options open. The world knows what the right thing to do is, but hesitates to do it, sits on his hands, and it goes undone. The world is sloth. Does the world know you?

The world is anger.

The world knows just what's wrong with people today, what's wrong with everybody else. The world will admit a vague sense that he know's he's not perfect...but do you know what that other guy did? Did you hear? ... The world is a gossip. The world curses uncontrollably, especially when he's driving or watching football. The world is angry with his wife more often than he finds himself enjoying being with her. The world never compromises. The world is anger. How familiar is the world with you?

The world is pride.

The world doesn't listen. The world wants things his way. He's frustrated that people just don't get it. The world rolls his eyes at his superiors, usually behind their back. He's really good at imagining what he should have said to that person. The world is self-absorbed, but at the same time, hates himself, because he knows deep down that he's not as good as he tells everyone else...definitely not as good as the facade he presents on Facebook. The world is pride. Are you a stranger to the world?

Again, St. John takes it for granted that we are strangers to the world, for the saints are. That's why holy people stick out so easily and draw so much criticism. To the extent that they are captivated by heavenly things, their relationship with the world is neglected more and more.

Most saints started out as close friends with the world. They were old drinking buddies. But growing in holiness is sort of like what happens when a person settles down, gets married, gets a job, has kids, matures, or otherwise no longer has time for his immature friends. He feels awkward around them. He doesn't care as much about the things they want to talk and joke about. He has to leave early to get back to his life. Eventually he becomes estranged from them. He says hello every now and then, but his life has changed.

That process of leaving our old "friends" behind is precisely what conversion means. We grow further and further apart from our old drinking buddy, (but we might not even notice it as it's happening). We begin to care about other things and neglect our old friendship with the world.

But here is the question. Here is what determines whether we're on the path to sanctity, that great quality of being a saint:

Who is it that we're growing apart from? Can I more truthfully say:

"I am neglecting my relationship with the world."
"I am neglecting my relationship with God."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Body of the Deceased

Concerning preparations for funerals and plans for burial or cremation (both for loved ones and one's self), there is a common theme I hear with regard to the body of the deceased: "That's not Mom." "It's just a shell." "Of course, Dad's not here [in the casket]." It's not universal. Not everyone talks that way, but many do.

As All Souls' Day approaches, I just want to remind people (Catholics in particular) that the human body is sacred. True, the dead body is dead, and it is no longer informed by the soul. It will indeed return to dust, as we are reminded on Ash Wednesday. However, it is still the beautiful creation of God, even if it will soon decay. This is part of why the Church for such a long time banned the practice of cremation (though the main part was its cultural ties to paganism and a rejection of the belief in the resurrection of the dead). The human body is to be honored as something good and holy, for it is God's creation. That's why a person's remains are sprinkled with holy water, covered with a pall, and incensed, not to mention the Bible and crucifix placed upon the casket. These are outward signs as we remember and pray for the person's soul, yes, but they are also geared towards our reverence for the body.

The human person is composed of both body and soul. A little known implication of that reality is this: human beings are incomplete in heaven. (Wait, what?) No, I don't mean that humans are not completely fulfilled by the beatific vision of God.  Souls are perfectly happy in the presence of God. Rather, I mean that God created us as bodily creatures, so to exist without a body leaves us incomplete in God's plan for us. That's why we have that line in the Nicene Creed that you might not have contemplated before: "I look forward to the resurrection of the dead." The dead will be raised at the end of time, not because God wants to engineer some kind of awesome or macabre spectacle. The dead will be raised because Jesus Christ was raised, and we who have died with him will also rise with him.

For this reason, cemeteries are considered holy places! They aren't unholy or unclean. They aren't scary or evil. Horror movies and popular Halloween traditions might tell us otherwise, but I assure you, graveyards are good and holy places.

So when you think of what you want done when you've passed away, or as you prepare for a loved one's death, keep these beliefs in mind. The human body is sacred, and it will one day be reunited with the soul.

[In case you're wondering, cremation is now an acceptable practice in the Church, and there is even a rite of burial specific to it. It is allowable under two conditions: it's not a denial of the resurrection of the body, and the remains will be deposited in a fitting location, like a columbarium. Scattering ashes and placing them on the mantle are not acceptable in the Catholic Church.]