Q. We are elderly Catholics preparing as best we can for the inevitable. We both have decided to be cremated, but need an answer to the question “What does the Church say about how cremated remains should be handled?” Our daughter, an excellent Catholic, spread her husband’s remains at a favorite site. We’ve not wanted to ask her about it since it might be disturbing. Is what she did permitted by the Church? We’ve heard conflicting answers from lay friends.
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
This is a common question, and the answer is simple. Cremated remains of the baptized faithful are to be treated with the same reverence with which we treat the mortal remains of those who are not cremated: they should be buried in a Catholic cemetery or interred in a Catholic mausoleum whenever possible.
As for preparing for the “inevitable,” please remember the most important task is care for your soul. Use your remaining days to grow in grace. Plan to ask for the anointing of the sick and viaticum when the end draws near. Foster devotion to St. Joseph, the patron of the dying. And perhaps learn and pray this prayer for a happy death:
“Dear God and Father of mine, Lord of life and death, with an immutable decree you have established that, as a just chastisement for our sins, all of us have to die. Look at me here bent low before you. From the bottom of my heart, I abhor my past faults, for which I have merited death a thousand times, a death that I now accept as atonement for my sins and as proof of my submission to your lovable will. O Lord, happily will I die at the moment, in the place, and in the way that you want. And until that day I will take advantage of the days of life that remain in order to fight against my defects and grow in your love, to break the bonds that tie my heart to creatures, and to prepare my soul to appear in your presence; and from this moment on I abandon myself without reserve into the arms of your fatherly providence.”