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Tuesday 21 September |
The Feast of Saint Matthew the Apostle

What should a Catholic do with a loved one’s ashes? Not this.

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 05/02/17

A little oddity, courtesy The New York Times: 

The New York Mets were leading the Philadelphia Phillies, 2-1, after two innings when Tom McDonald stood up from his upper-deck seat at Citi Field.

Nature was calling, and so was his obligation to his childhood friend and fellow Mets fan Roy Riegel, whose death nine years ago left Mr. McDonald, 56, vowing to honor their baseball bonds in an unconventional way: by disposing of Mr. Riegel’s ashes in ballparks across the country.

Even more unusual was his chosen method: flushing them down public restroom toilets in the ballparks between innings.

“The game has to be in progress — that’s a rule of mine,” Mr. McDonald said one recent weeknight before entering a Citi Field bathroom, holding a little plastic bottle containing a scoopful of Mr. Riegel’s cremains.

He stepped into a bathroom stall and sprinkled the ashes into the toilet with as much decorum as the setting allowed. A couple of flushes later and Mr. Riegel’s remains were presumably on a journey through Citi Field’s plumbing.

“I took care of Roy, and I had to use the facilities myself,” Mr. McDonald said, emerging from the stall with the empty container. “So I figure, you know, kill two birds.”

Read on.

For those who don’t know, a brief primer:

Many Catholics have questions about the Church’s teachings on the growing practice of cremation. This is understandable since before 1963, the Church insisted that Catholics follow only the manner of Christ’s burial by either entombing or burying the body. Even today, the Church acknowledges that “cremation does not hold the same value” as this traditional way of allowing the body to go gently back into the earth (Order of Christian Funerals, Reflections, p. 14). The revised Code of Canon Law of 1983 helps Catholics understand that the 1963 lifting of the prohibition forbidding Catholics to cremate their deceased loved one’s remains was never intended as an endorsement: “The Church earnestly recommends the pious custom of burying the bodies of the dead be observed, it does not however, forbid cremation unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching” (Canon 1176). The Church now allows for cremation of the body, providing that family members making that decision are not doing so because they fear the body is lost forever and has no future together in Christ with the immortal soul. Cremation of the body quickly reduces the body to about four to ten pounds of bone fragments. The Church requires that these remains of the body be placed in a respectful vessel and treated in the exact same way that a family would treat a body in a casket. Since the human body has an eternal destiny in any form, the Church requires that cremated remains of a body be buried or entombed immediately after the Funeral in the same timely manner as a body. Cremated remains of a loved one are not to be scattered, kept at home or divided into other vessels among family members, just as it is clear that these practices would desecrate a body in a casket. The Church allows for burial at sea, providing that the cremated remains of the body are buried in a heavy container and not scattered. All of these teachings on the treatment of cremated remains of the body correspond with the Christian’s foundational belief in eternal life—both body and soul—in Jesus Christ among the Communion of Saints.
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