Care and Prayer for Body and Soul
The Church teaches that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit on earth, and is destined to be resurrected by Jesus on the last day. It is for this reason that the Church requires a proper burial, even in the case of cremation. Until 1963, the Roman Catholic Church forbade cremation. It is still preferred that the body be buried, but cremation is permitted and, by special indult in the United States, the funeral Mass may be held with the cremains present in the church. It is not permitted, however, to refrain from a proper burial of the ashes. The practice of keeping a loved one's ashes on display or scattering them over a favorite place is not in keeping with the dignity integral to the human body and is not acceptable practice for a Catholic.
As we remember and pray for our dead in a special way in November, we can gain indulgences at the same time. An indulgence is a special gift of the remission of temporal punishment due for sin that has already been sacramentally confessed and forgiven. The Pope allows for these indulgences, by attaching them to certain practices or pilgrimages, as long as the proper conditions are met, such as being in the state of grace, saying prayers for the Pope, and including the expressed desire to receive that indulgence. Indulgences can be obtained for those already in purgatory, as well. Praying the "Eternal Rest" prayer at any time can gain indulgences for those in purgatory: Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
The Church has our end always in sight. She urges a deep reverence for the human body, even in death. She recommends loving memorial of the suffering souls in purgatory and she reminds us of our final glorious resurrection on the last day. Cling to the promise of everlasting life, trusting in the Church instituted by Jesus Christ to guide and nourish us on our way.
November 18, 2014