Providing a final resting place
As a priest for 37 years, I have officiated at many, many funerals in church and committals at cemeteries. What a gift it is to pray with people at these significant moments.
One committal I will always remember happened just a few years ago at St. Mary Magdalene Cemetery in Omaha.
As you may know, we have a new societal challenge – families who are not sure what they want to do and delay burying their cremated loved ones. To help such families, Omaha Catholic Cemeteries decided to offer free inurnment.
Well, on this occasion – All Souls Day – 35 families came to the cemetery with an urn, some with the ashes of a loved one who had died within the last year, others with urns they had kept for more than 50 years.
After a prayer service, one family at a time presented the urns for placement in the crypt.
I’ll never forget the tears and reactions of the families that day. They said: "Thank you so much for accepting these ashes. Thank you for giving us a place to finally put them to rest."
These families experienced a corporal work of mercy – burying the dead. In their hearts they wanted this resolved years ago, but for some reason, it was not done. Now, it was finally accomplished. They acted out of mercy for their loved ones.
The inurnment service reminded me of the importance of this particular act of mercy. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus buried Jesus on Good Friday, and we are called to do the same for our loved ones.
Please arrange to have loved ones buried in a proper place – especially in a consecrated cemetery – as a final act of charity and kindness.
Also, please remember to pray for your beloved dead. Ask almighty God to complete their journey to the Kingdom, making them ready to stand in his sacred presence forever. None of us is worthy, but through our prayers and God’s grace, we hope this will happen.
Finally, remember to pray for the living as well. Pray regularly for your family and friends, and of course, pray for your enemies, too. This is truly a Christian work of mercy. I am so grateful for all who have prayed for me over the years. I intend to "pay it forward" by praying for others every day.
We have the opportunity to do many works of mercy in our lives – "burying the dead" and "praying for the living and the dead" are wonderful examples. In the spirit of this Jubilee of Mercy, let us remember the importance of these acts of mercy.
Father Grewe is pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Gretna, vicar general for the archdiocese and executive director of Catholic Cemeteries.