Columbarium?  Since When Can Catholics Be Cremated?

Many older Catholics remember when cremation was not permitted by the Catholic Church and now St. Aloysius has a Columbarium.  How things have changed!   In fact, it has only been since 1963 that cremation was allowed.  At that time, it was preferred that the body be present at the funeral Mass and that cremation follow.  In 1997 the Holy See granted permission for funeral Masses in the presence of cremated remains.  This permission is granted by the Bishop on a case-by-case basis.

The Church’s preference for burial began in early Christian days and was based upon a strong belief in the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, as well as the belief in the resurrection of the body. In these early days, cremation was a decidedly pagan practice and viewed as a denial of the doctrine of Resurrection.  Consequently, the Church banned cremation.  But pastoral concerns have tempered this position.  Many people prefer cremation and sometimes, such as when death occurs far from home, cremation is the only sensible or economic solution to getting the remains home for burial.

Upon receiving permission for cremated remains to be present in the funeral liturgy, the remains of the body are to be placed in a “worthy vessel” and placed in the spot in the church usually occupied by the coffin.  The vessel may be placed there prior to the beginning of the Mass or carried in during the entrance procession.  Prayers chosen for the funeral Mass do not make specific reference to the body of the deceased nor to Baptism since the cremated remains were not washed in Baptism.   The substituted prayers do remind us that the deceased have gone to live in glory with the Lord.   This slight change in the prayers and the absence of the white cloth which drapes the coffin to remind us of the Baptismal garment are the only significant liturgical changes resulting from having cremated remains at the funeral Mass.

The Church requires that the cremated remains receive the same respect as the body of the deceased.  Their final disposition is very important.  The “worthy vessel” with the cremated remains must be buried in a grave, entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium (a cemetery vault designed for urns containing ashes of the dead).  The practice of scattering remains is not considered a reverent disposition of the remains.  The Church also states that, if at all possible, the place of entombment be marked by a plaque or stone memorializing the deceased.

Although the rituals of the Catholic Church may adapt to cultural changes of its members, the basic beliefs and values are not changed.  The ultimate disposition of the deceased remains does not in any way change the ultimate destiny of their soul.

St. Aloysius has a Columbarium.  It is a sacred place to inter the cremated remains of a loved one.  It is a gated area outside behind the Sanctuary.  For availability and costs, please call the Church office at 828-327-2341.