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Q. Does the Catholic Church permit shroud burial? The local Catholic cemetery does not allow this. Could a Catholic be buried, therefore, in a non-Catholic cemetery that allows shroud burial?
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
By shroud burial, I understand burial without a casket, simply with the body wrapped in a cloth or some clothlike material. The only shroud burial I am aware of is that practiced by the Trappists. The body of the deceased monk is buried without a casket, wrapped simply in a cloth.
If the Trappists can do it, the rest of us can as well. There is no theological reason why a body has to be buried in a casket. The Trappists bury their dead without a casket to underscore the truth that from dust we come and to dust we shall return.
For ecological and space reasons, various commentators have suggested that we need to find a new way to bury people. Currently, there is the requirement of a secure vault in the ground and a solid casket. The problem, however, is that we are running out of space. There is no longer the possibility of burial in such a way that the casket and the body disintegrate so that the space can be used again.
My understanding is that Catholic -- and most public -- cemeteries do not allow shroud burial. How much of this is driven by industry standards or by public health reasons is difficult to determine.
However, if a Catholic found a cemetery that allowed shroud burials, there is no reason he or she could not take advantage of it. Something needs to be done to deal with the cemetery space problem.
What is the domestic Church?
Q. I heard the term domestic Church. What does that mean?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
One nuptial blessing calls marriage “the one blessing … not forfeited by original sin or washed away by the flood.” It continues, asking God to bless the married couple, allowing them “to see their children’s children” and to grant them “fullness of life with the saints.”
Here is a picture of the “domestic Church.” It is the Christian family that lives, proclaims, and — by sharing Christ’s example from generation to generation — shines like the scriptural city on a hill, often, as the Catechism of the CatholicChurch reminds us, “in a world alien and even hostile to faith” (No. 1656).
“Domestic Church” is an ancient term. The Second Vatican Council embraced it to describe the vocation of parents as “the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children” (No. 1656). “It is here that the father … the mother, children … exercise the priesthood of the baptized … ‘by reception of the sacraments, prayer, and … the witness of a holy life’” (No. 1657).
St. Paul preached that marriage is a sign of Christ’s love for the Church (see Eph 5:29-32). The family is the fruit of that love. If we lacked other signs of what the Church looks like, we could look at the Christian family to see Christ’s love animating and transforming the world.
Gift of Tears?
Q. What is the "gift of tears"?
D.S., Ventura, Calif.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
The "gift of tears" is one expression of the working of the Holy Spirit. Those who receive this gift insist it is not associated with any emotional upheaval. They do not weep or cry in the ordinary sense of these terms. There is no sobbing or contortion of the face. The tears simply come at times when they are especially aware of the presence of God.
The Eastern tradition has much to say about this gift. A contemporary Greek Orthodox theologian, Bishop Kallistos Ware, connects this charismatic gift with the gift of tongues.
"When it is genuinely spiritual," he writes, "'speaking with tongues' seems to represent an act of 'letting go' -- the crucial moment in the breaking down of our sinful self-trust, and its replacement by a willingness to allow God to act with us. In the Orthodox tradition this act of 'letting go' more often takes the form of the gift of tears" (emphasis in the original; from "The Orthodox Way" [St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1995], p. 101).
Eastern writers describe this gift in various ways: the way of tears, the prayer of tears, tears which illuminate, holy sadness. Some regard this gift so important to the spiritual life that they refer to it as "the second baptism." Their point is that while baptism cleanses us from past sin, the gift of tears is suggestive of God's washing away of our present sins. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022) even calls it a "baptism in the Holy Spirit."
Bishop Ware and other writers on the subject caution that not all tears are a gift of the Spirit. There must be discernment. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God" (1 Jn 4:1).
Q. Can Catholics still call the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick by the name "Extreme Unction" or "Last Rites"? Or have those terms been absolutely replaced? Is there a difference?
And why isn't it called the "Anointing of the Seriously Sick"? Parish priests have lots of other duties than administering this sacrament to the not-so-sick. Is there a limit to how many times you can receive it? I'm not talking about the obvious near-death scenario, which is possible more than once in a lifetime.
S.A, via e-mail
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
The long and short answer to why we do not call this sacrament the "Anointing of the Seriously Sick" is that the only text from holy Scripture alluding to it does not mention gravity: "Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord" (Jas 5:14).
Writing in the commentary of the Navarre edition of the Code of Canon Law, professor Angel Marzoa notes: "In keeping with the expressed desire of the Second Vatican Council (SC 73)," the governing Church document "uses the term anointing of the sick, instead of that of extreme unction, in an endeavor to make it clear that it 'is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death'; and that 'as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for that person to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived.'"
So, we should only call this sacrament the anointing of the sick, and it is referred to as such in all of the official rituals of the Church, as well as the Code of Canon Law (1983), the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994) and the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2005).
There is no limit to the number of times the sacrament can be administered. As the code stipulates: "This sacrament can be repeated if the sick person, having recovered, again becomes seriously ill or if, in the same illness, the danger becomes more serious" (Canon 1004.2).
Lay Hospital Chaplains
Q. May a Catholic layperson be a chaplain at a hospital?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes considerable discussion to the lay vocation (see Nos. 897-913). “The initiative of lay Christians is necessary especially when the matter involves discovering or inventing the means for permeating social, political, and economic realities with the demands of Christian doctrine and life. This initiative is a normal element of the life of the Church” (No. 899).
The text also speaks of laity serving as ministers of the word, presiders at prayer services, ministers of baptism and holy Communion “in accord with the prescriptions of law” (No. 903). The Church’s Code of Canon Law permits laypeople to be “authorized” for a variety of other ministries, including, if necessary, witnessing marriages.
Nothing, therefore, prevents laypeople from offering non-sacramental services in hospitals, if the person is qualified, authorized by her or his pastor, and trained for the office. The value of lay chaplains should not be underestimated. Hospital stays can be frightening — more so if a Catholic patient has been away from the Church for some time. A lay chaplain is often able to address such an individual as an equal, extending a non-threatening invitation to return to the life of the Church and the sacraments.
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