Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

25 September 2012

Keeping the Body Together

I link the patient reader to Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington for a Q&A session on Reverence for Remains and Neglect of Sunday Mass.  Another four-bagger for one of my favorite blogging clergy.  I'd like to write like him when I grow up.

I was given the opportunity to address the matter of Sunday Mass very recently, when a penitent sought clarification because another person had misinformed that it was not a mortal sin.

A standard text in support of the gravity of Mass-missing is Hebrews 10:25, "We should not absent ourselves from the assembly, as some do, but encourage one another; and this all the more because you see that the Day draws near."  The very act of showing up brings joy and encouragement to fellow Catholics (and to priests!).  By being present to the Presence of Christ (in its various manifestations--the Eucharist, the Word, the Celebrant, and fellow members of the Assembly), we tell each other that Mass is worth Christ's sufferings and our efforts.  It is also important to hold up the neglect of Mass to the light of "the Day" that is drawing near: the "Day of the Lord" especially attested throughout the prophetic literature, when YHWH will vanquish His enemies.  While there is no official list of divine enemies, we must imagine that God is not pleased with persons who mindfully and willfully absent themselves from His Sacrificial Banquet without good reason.

My first treat to the rationale of a Synaxis-Shirker came when I was a guest CCD teacher in 2001.  A first-grader guilelessly told the class that her father didn't take the family to Sunday Mass because he works hard all week and deserves to rest on the weekends.  It took me aback.  Unfortunately I had no rapid retort to render to this deadbeat dad.  Just now (for the first time, I confess) I prayed that he may repent and return to Mass with his family in tow.  We dare hope that it has already happened.

One blogger offers a perspective on the various ways people absent themselves from the assembly, focusing mostly on "empty suits" who are nominally present for the Liturgy.

In short: How can this Sweet Mystery of Life not be worth our time and attention?!

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On the subject of reserved, scattered, or divided cremains: this is part of the foreseen fallout of the permission of cremation.  It has become another way for Catholics to join the mainstream population's adventures in creative disposal--to imitate their favorite celebrity by becoming a shower of shavings over Vegas or the Atlantic, or perhaps to be fired from a cannon at Gettysburg or Ringling Bros.

You may know of the proscribed practice of retaining small portions of the deceased.  Because Aunt Matilda is portioned into loverly crystal reliquaries, we must have here a preemptive canonization (already conducted in many homilies).  Soon enough, a speck will be attached to her remembrance cards.  This seems like little more than a lucrative scheme for the death industry, ever interested in giving the people what (who!) they want.

Placing the intact urn into the ground or a mausoleum niche brings closure to the bereaved, a sense of assurance that their loved one has a final resting place where he or she can await the Great Harvest, and where survivors may gather to recollect themselves in view of their own mortality.  Perhaps the most conspicuous feature of a tombstone should be a mirror.

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