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Browsing Fr. Joel Hastings

Burial of Cremated remains

My grandma’s main urn is in the ground already. What does a person do with the [remains] that have been distributed to several family members? We do not have enough money to re-open the ground.

           I first want to acknowledge that this question is a sincere question that has been put to me and I want to do all I can to give a sincere and constructive answer to it.  However (and please know that were I to speak the following words in a personal conversation, I would express them with the utmost compassion and gentleness):  I must begin more broadly by simply stating that this type of situation is one of several reasons why those who choose cremation must be made fully aware that all of the remains must be rightly buried or entombed – primarily out of respect for the deceased person.  That this particular question has arisen must also acknowledge that the marketing of such items as “mini-urns,”  jewelry, or other types of souvenirs that contain a portion of the remains of the deceased do a great disservice both against the deceased person who ought to be properly buried and against the right judgement of family members of the deceased (even if unintentional), whose moment of grief is not aided in being healed in the midst of the sad but true reality of death and dying.  For, our true healing can only come from placing our trust in God’s plan for eternal life and our hope that we will one day be reunited with our deceased loved ones in the perfected life and love of the Kingdom of God.  The idea of holding on to part or all of one’s remains does not rightly help us to commend the deceased person to God – but instead can lead to a false sense of our possession and even ownership of that person in relation to ourselves.  Finally, through the burying of their remains the possibility of all who loved the person being able to go to their graveside to be near the person always remains available, without worry of the person being unintentionally disregarded.

           Once again, I have no want to sound harsh.  Therefore, what ought one do if it comes to pass the cremated remains which were separated out from the main urn (for the sake of live people that are still here on earth to possess) need to be buried at a later time?  Truly the right burial of such remains with or near to the original burial plot is the best option.  However, I must admit that I do not know if such a question has been formally answered by anyone in the Church to potentially give a secondary option; and such a lack of an answer may be partially due to the fact that cremation as an accepted means for burial within the Church has only recently been given to us.  While I can foresee that this issue may become more frequent in the future and that the Church will have to formulate a clear and consistent answer, for now (knowing that the opening of the original graveside may not be as costly as it would seem, as a typical grave for an urn is usually only about 2-3 feet long and wide, and only 3-4 feet deep), it remains the best option to simply have these remains collected into a second urn to be placed near or above the original urn in the same plot.



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