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Faith/Spirituality Forum: scattering ashes

by Catherine Frakas 04 Apr 2001

scattering ashes QUESTION from Tom F. on January 6, 2003 Dear Brother:
A few days ago I was sharing with a non-Catholic relative, He belongs to the B'ahi(sp)faith. Anyways, through the course of the conversation Ted asked me to scatter his ashes over his favouriet fishing hole when he dies. As I understand it he has written this request into his will. Is it permitted, for me to carry out his last wishes, (assuming he does not change his mind)?
I was raised and am a practising catholic, I know that there are very specific regulations surrounding catholic burrials, however I know next to nothing about the B'ahi(sp)faith. I believe that it is a sacred duty to carry out a loved ones last wishes, and I want to respect his wishes. Can you please help me, and offer some guidance in this matter
Thankyou for your time and consideration, I look forward to hearing from you in the near future. I will continue to pray and ask Our Lord to bless and keep you in his love and grace
Sincerely yours
Tom F.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on January 13, 2003 Dear Tom:
Thank you for your prayers. It is greatly appreciated.
For Catholics who may be cremated, the cremains must be buried in the usual fashion -- in a cemetary. Cremation itself is allowed for a Catholic ONLY if the person's desire to do this is not a statement of denial of the bodily resurrection that we profess in the Creed.
For you friend who is not being a Catholic these rules are not binding upon him, of course.
As to whether you should accept the assignment to scatter his cremains is a personal decision you must make in good conscience.
The reason Catholics must bury the cremains is that we, as Catholic Christians, understand the body to be the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that our bodies will someday be resurrected into glory.
This privilege that God extends to us gives our bodies a level of dignity that is above that of any other creature. Because of this dignity we treat the bodily remains with respect that is due something that God has given such a dignity and grace. We are not to treat the remains, or cremains, as so much garbage to be dumped or so much plant-food to be scattered about.
Although you friend is not a Christian and thus does not enjoy the grace of the indwelling Holy Spirit, he is still a creation of God and as such is still given the dignity that God has given to all human beings.
This is the Catholic Worldview.
Now, you must decide, according to your conscience, whether this Catholic worldview shall apply in this particular case.
Technically, as far as I know, it is not sin for you to scatter your friends cremains since he is not Chrisitan. One can make an argument against it due to Catholic worldview and one could make an argument for it due to friendship offering an act of love.
As our Blessed Mother would say, Go ask Jesus, and do whatever he tells you.
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