Dear Editor, I read with interest Jason Osborne’s article ‘The changing face of funerals’ [The Irish Catholic – October 28, 2021] arising from his interview with Joseph Behan (Hibernian Funerals), in particular Mr Behan’s comments on cremation.
For hundreds of years cremations were frowned upon and even illegal going back as far as Charlemagne in 789. It was not until 1885 that the first legal cremation took place in England and the Cremation Act of 1902 removed all legal ambiguity around cremation. Even so cremation was still not acceptable for Catholics and indeed some other Christian denominations until quite recently. The first crematorium in Ireland was only opened in Belfast in 1961 and the first one in Dublin as recently as 1982 in Glasnevin.
Mr Behan addresses the issue of disposal of ashes following cremation. He refers to novel ways of distributing ashes flooding the market and the article says, “With regards to ashes, everything that people can think to do with them is done, from tattooing the ashes, to having them launched into space for a princely sum, to having the ashes incorporated into a diamond.” It is increasingly common for bereaved families to scatter the ashes of a bereaved person in some place with special meaning for them, for example a favourite beauty spot, a river, a football pitch or a golf course. Catholic teaching however is that ashes should be treated with the same level of reverence accorded to a person’s body. Ashes should therefore not be scattered, launched into space or incorporated into a diamond! Nor should they be shared out among family members but should be buried in a grave or placed in a columbarium.
The way we conduct funerals needs to be with proper respect and reverence in accordance with Church teaching and not according to secular market forces.
Newcastle, Co. Down
George III’s treatment of Catholics
Dear Editor, Mary Kenny writes that George III “was so prejudiced against Catholics that he couldn’t bear to hear the words Catholic Emancipation uttered” [The Irish Catholic – October 14, 2021]. It is true that George III opposed William Pitt’s plans for Catholic Emancipation in 1801 but he assented to earlier Catholic Relief Acts in Great Britain ( 1778 and 1791 ) and in Ireland in 1793 as well as to the foundation in 1795 of what is still the Royal College of St Patrick, Maynooth.
Coincidences with the opening of COP26
Dear Editor, The first reading from the book of the Apocalypse on the Feast of all Saints gave us this message: “I, John, saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea, ‘Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’”
By coincidence, the Feast of all Saints this year, coincided with the opening of COP26.
What the reading above is telling us is: what is holding back the devastation of the earth, are the lives of God’s servants or the saints. The Church should take the pastoral opportunity to drive this message home.
In Laudato Si’ Chapter 6, Pope Francis says: “The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognise any higher instance than ourselves.”
Latin Mass attendees bring sense of ‘peace’
Dear Editor, There is a weekly Latin Mass in my parish, which I have never attended. Not for ideological reasons but because my parents worshipped at another Church and I like to keep up that tradition.
But it baffles me as to why Pope Francis has made a recent ruling which seems to be gratuitously offensive to those who like the Latin Mass. It seems to me that the reasons given for this decision were unconvincing in the extreme.
If the experience in this parish is typical, it’s not as if Latin Mass attendees and their pastors were going around the place spreading discord and disharmony. Far from it. They seem to bring a sense of peace and tranquility to proceedings.
One would have thought that the Pope and his advisors would be preoccupied with more pressing issues. For example, the very serious question of so-called Catholic politicians publicly and unapologetically promoting abortion.
Navan, Co. Meath
Pick up the phone and check on your neighbour
Dear Editor, Covid-19 has taken so much from us, yet it has given back to us our sense of community. Values once near extinction before we entered the reality that we are no longer too busy for our neighbour.
Memories get blurred with time just as time gets blurred by memories. Yet the lines of sacrifice remain uncovered behind our masks as we certify ourselves into a new world and wash our hands of the old.
Where do we go to from here? I wish I knew. All I know is, I am mesmerised by the silk hands and shiny suits generating words constructed into making us feel grateful not for what we lost, but for what we had. We are all in this together, so the chorus goes. The lyrics that keep us together yet in reality have kept us apart.
It may be the authority that built the houses but it is the people who built the communities. The carpet of society I say, and when you lift it up from time to time you get to see the real foundations of who we are.
Long Covid is something that affects the whole community with a disproportionate effect on the elderly. The realisation that a new normal remains and proposes to replace an existence for many with a virtual reality for life must be properly addressed by Government.
Many will only cry for help when they think there is help to cry for. We must let them know we are here and not only for when they need us.
Paul Byrne, a great friend and colleague recently told me, “the greatest sin in life is not to be curious”. And there’s plenty to be curious about. Discretion, that form of self-censorship must be uncovered and abandoned. Let people know how you feel.
Illness doesn’t come by appointment. Neither should our sense of community. Pick up the phone – check in on your neighbour. I just know you’ll be glad you did.
A last request at a grandparent’s funeral
Dear Editor, We often hear our elderly relations, friends or neighbours lament, that few of their children or grandchildren attend Mass anymore. We hear, it takes the youth to evangelise the youth, however, God can use anyone to bring any of us back to the Faith. What if the elderly were to request in writing, text, verbally, or in ‘serious jest’, their children, grandchildren and friends go to Confession before they receive Holy Communion, on the day of their funeral Mass. This may help those left behind appreciate what granny or grandpa appreciated all their life.
Cork City, Cork