Liturgical 'shenanigans' on All Saints' Day

Question: I attended the children’s/school Mass at your parish on All Saints’ Day and was surprised by a number of things you did: having the Litany of Saints at the beginning of Mass; having a dialogue homily with the children; and having a parade of saints after Communion. How do you justify these in light of your constant carrying-on about liturgical propriety? 

Mary, Holladay, Utah

Answer: Someone described these as “liturgical shenanigans.” Actually, I think they are all appropriate and do not break any liturgical norms. There is no provision for the use of the Litany of Saints within the Mass of All Saints. However, we used the litany instead of the opening hymn. This seemed quite justifiable, it worked well, and was well-received by those present.

I did a dialogue homily with the 300 children, and it went over well. (Dialogue homilies with children also go over positively with the adults present, and they tell me that they learn a lot.) Dialogue homilies with children are in accordance with the 1974 Vatican Directory for Masses with Children, which states: “The homily explaining the word of God should be given great prominence in all Masses with children. Sometimes the homily intended for children should become a dialogue with them, unless it is preferred that they should learn in silence” (No. 48).

Regarding the parade of saints after Communion, I asked the school principal to describe this as a “procession.” The period after the prayer after Communion has certain flexibility. It is primarily meant for brief announcements. But having a “procession” of saints up to the ambo, each one telling his or her story briefly, seems catechetically sound, and is liturgically appropriate — unless anyone tells me something to the contrary. 

Cremains in the home

Question: My husband passed away six months ago and I had him cremated. I have the ashes on top of his dresser, and he will be buried with me when it is my time to go. Am I sinning by keeping his ashes with me? 

Name and address withheld 

Answer: No, you are not sinning by doing what you describe. The Church’s norms on the disposition of cremated remains are not offended against here. The 1997 norms from the USCCB, approved by Rome, state: “The cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they come. This includes the use of a worthy vessel to contain the ashes, the manner in which they are carried, the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and the final disposition. The cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires. Whenever possible, appropriate means for recording with dignity the memory of the deceased should be adopted, such as a plaque which records the name of the deceased” (No. 417). 

What you are doing is postponing the burial or entombment of your husband’s ashes until you die and are buried or cremated. As long as you have the intention to care for your husband’s remains with reverence, and to bury or entomb them eventually, you are on solid ground. 

Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.