My best friend and I aspire to live reflective lives, as suggested by Socrates’s “the unexamined life is not worth living.” To support each other’s aspiration, we try to point it out whenever the other says or does something base or inconsistent with our philosophy.
For example, my friend is a Jesuit-schooled Catholic who attends Mass regularly, but his view on abortion is almost identical to that adopted by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade – i.e., abortion should be discouraged, but legal. The view, of course, opened up my friend to my charge of his being a cafeteria Catholic – i.e., those who assert their Catholic identity yet dissent from one or more Catholic doctrinal or moral teachings.
I, on the other hand, was raised Catholic, but don’t attend Mass regularly and don’t assert a Catholic identify. Yet, in a sense, I have become a cafeteria Catholic recently by choosing to adopt a Catholic doctrinal teaching regarding cremation.
Several years ago, I decided that cremation instead of burial was the path for me to take due to simplicity and economy. And I left instructions with my Will in favor of cremation. But a couple of weeks ago, I read about new Catholic guidance re: cremations. The following report was gleaned from a NY Times article:
- Ashes to ashes is fine, the Vatican says, as long as you don’t spread them around. On Tuesday, the Vatican responded to what it called an “unstoppable increase” in cremation and issued guidelines barring the scattering of ashes “in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way.” The Vatican decreed that the ashes of loved ones have no place in the home, and certainly not in jewelry. It urged that cremated remains be preserved in cemeteries or other approved sacred places.
- The instructions, which reiterate the Roman Catholic Church’s preference for burial over cremation, are in line with previous teachings. “We believe in the resurrection of the body, so burial is the normal form for the Christian faithful, especially Catholics, whom we are addressing with this document…. cannot “condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the ‘prison’ of the body.”
In yoga, our teachers sometimes talk about certain things that “speak to you” or “resonate with you.” That is how I felt when reading the Catholic guidelines about cremation. Cremation does seem like a belief in Mother Nature, and I’m hoping/believing there is something more to human life than Mother Nature.
I need to revise my Final Instructions in favor of burial.