Archive | September, 2011

Cremation and the scattering of ashes

September 30, 2011



Photo by _Skender_. Licensed through Creative Commons.

For as long as I can remember, my grandfather used to tell my brothers and me that he wanted to be cremated. Not understanding what it was about, cremation seemed like a scary thing to me.

As I got older, I didn’t know if the Church would allow it. In the end, though, grandpa got his wish–by the time he passed away in 2000, cremation was becoming more common among Catholics.

While I was researching respectful treatment of cadavers in an anatomy lab for a story in the Catholic Spirit, I started wondering exactly how the Church looks at the body at death, what she teaches about cremation and how we’re supposed to treat a person’s cremated remains.

The Catechism states that “the bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection.” (CCC 2300) Though we don’t know if our bodies in this life will be the ones we will have in eternal life, our bodies are a gift and they deserve special care and treatment, said Dr. Paul Wojda, associate professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas who teaches a course in bioethics.

“The Catholic position takes the body seriously, it takes material creation seriously,” he said.” It takes the earth seriously because of its deeply sacramental significance.”

So how does cremation come into this?

For centuries the church didn’t allow cremation because it saw the practice as an open denial of the Resurrection by non-Christians, Wojda said.

Then in 1963 the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clarified the regulation, permitting cremation in cases of necessity, but prohibiting it for anyone openly denying the faith. The 1983 Code of Canon Law states that a person may choose to be cremated if they have the right intention. (No. 1176, 3)

“It’s no longer the case that the Church frowns on it,” Wojda said. “It permits it but I wouldn’t say it’s out there promoting it. If you were cremated that used to be a clear sign that you were not religious, or not Christian or not Catholic but that’s no longer the case.”

While she permits cremation, the Church does not approve of scattering a loved one’s ashes or keeping them at home in an urn.

According to the Order of Christian Burial:

The cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum  or columbarium (site for storage of cinerary urns). The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires.

Burial at sea is permitted, however. A person’s cremated remains “may be properly buried at sea in the urn, coffin or other container in which they have been carried to the place of committal.” (OCF 416)

A big problem with scattering someone’s ashes is that there’s no specific place to honor the person, Wojda said.

Also, he said, “I think what we have to recognize is that the scattering of ashes has been used historically and even up until the 20th century as a sign of contempt for the person who died.”

My grandpa had his reasons for wanted to be cremated. I’m glad he’s buried next to my grandma in a cemetery where I can honor them both.

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Catholic bishop who’s seen hurting up close has thoughtful words to share

September 30, 2011


We all experience pain, loss, disasters both major and minor. It’s what we do about our hurts that matters.

Bishop Paul Zipfel of Minot, North Dakota, has had a front-row seat as flood waters have devastated not just homes and businesses but lives this year in that community in the Upper Midwest.

In preaching at a Mass for Healing for those who have had homes washed away and who otherwise have suffered from the flooding, Bishop Zipfel offered advice for coping with all that’s happened.

First, remember you’re not alone. Others are standing in solidarity with you. And so is he as their brother.

Second, trust that God is with us and loves us more than we can ever imagine. “While we may not be able to heal ourselves or one another fully,” he said, “God’s healing power is infinitely greater than any hurt and pain, no matter how deeply these are rooted in our lives.”

Third, ask God to give you peace of mind and to help remove any residual anger that must still plague you, help you to be reconciled.

The bishop quoted Victor Frankl, the World War II victim and author who wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man, except for one thing: the last of the human freedoms — the freedom to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Bishop Zipfel urged people to try to let go of their hurts and angers. “Holding on to hurts is like carrying red-hot coals inside us that can be fanned into flames at the least expected moment,” he said.

Don’t deny pain, but know that you are loved, and that will help begin the healing process, he added.

Finally, the bishop asked, “How do you know when you’re healed?”

When you are grateful for the experience.

“Not that you would ever be grateful for the devastation,” the bishop said, “but rather you are grateful for the growth, the greater capacity to love and understand and to feel with others. Forgetting is not one of the signs of being healed. You may be healed of the hurt, but still remember it. Whoever said the ‘to forgive is to forget’ was oversimplifying.”

Source: Dakota Catholic Action. Read all of Bishop Zipfel’s homily here.



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God has an ‘approval rating’?

September 30, 2011


I usually put a lot of faith in surveys.

I’m not so sure about this one.

Public Policy Polling has released the following bit of, well, I’m not sure “information” is the correct description, but you’ll see what I mean:

When asked if they approved of God’s performance, 52% of Americans say they approve, while 9% disapprove, and 40% aren’t sure. (Note, some rounding in the math!)

As a practicing Catholic, I realize I’m biased, but even though I consider myself middle-of-the road and certainly not conservative, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that the traditional perspective here may very well be the correct one.

Friends, it ain’t us judging God’s performance that matters. It’s the other way around.

Ready for your own “performance review to end all performance reviews?”

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Deacon Koop at Casa de Hogar

September 29, 2011


Dear Friends,

One of my main assignments this summer is to visit the various barrios—the different neighborhoods that make up the parish of Jesucristo Resucitado—for catechesis, prayer meetings, Bible studies, etc. each night of the week. On these nights, I get in the truck, say a quick prayer, and drive off to one or another of the barrios. Some of the highlights have included bringing the Blessed Sacrament to the barrio chapels during the week of the Feast of Corpus Christi (it really doesn’t get any better than chauffeuring Jesus around in a Chevy Silverado as He graces the most troubled streets of San Felix with His Eucharistic presence), and guiding the various groups of parishioners through a workbook on how to understand and defend their Catholic faith. It is beautiful to see how each barrio community has its own particular character, and it really is a joy to act, in some small way, as a spiritual father to each of these little families of faith.

Speaking of spiritual fatherhood, what a beautiful privilege it has been over these last few weeks to be able to spend some time with the boys of the Casa de Hogar (literally ‘House of Home’) orphanage. This is an orphanage run by the Salesian Order for street boys who have been abandoned or otherwise neglected, located near our parish church. The house is under the charge of Maria, a single woman who has dedicated her life to serving the boys as a spiritual mother and caretaker. About once or twice a week, I’m able to walk over to the house and see what everyone is up to—and with eleven boys in what is effectively a three-bedroom house, it is certainly never boring. In the mornings the boys have school, in-house tutoring, and trips to the psychologist or local juvenile delinquency officer, but in the afternoons it’s all free time. We’ve been able to play soccer, marbles, board games, watch movies, and otherwise just have fun together in a healthy way.

What amazes me—and this really is a miracle of grace—is just how open, trusting, and innocent the boys are, especially given the troubled backgrounds of many of them. They treat each other as brothers—with all that entails—with the older boys looking after the younger ones. Local volunteers come to cook the mid-day meal, but in the evenings the boys cook for and clean up after one another. They are incredibly friendly with me, and the younger ones especially seem fascinated by even the smallest details of my clerical garb, etc. One thing is for sure: they never tire of asking me how to say their names in English!

On many evenings, Maria organizes some ongoing faith formation for the boys, in which she has graciously allowed me to participate. One evening I used a video of the story of David and Goliath to talk about true and false masculinity. On another evening, the boys were visited by two Salesian priests (missionaries from Italy), and after we talked about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the boys were able to go to Confession individually.

What strikes me so forcibly about the Casa de Hogar is the tangible presence there of the Holy Spirit. The house is filled with so much love, peace, joy, light, and openness, and I really have begun to see in a tangible way how God Himself is truly the “father of the orphan,” who “gives the desolate a home to dwell in” (Ps. 68:5-6). After all that these boys have been through, God in His mercy has prepared for them a sanctuary, a place of safety and abundant blessing. How many of the other children in this area who have parents are given the kind of personal care, or the depth of one-on-one religious instruction, that these boys receive? How many are able to have personal interaction with priests, religious, and holy lay people on a daily basis? For that matter, how many of their own parents, if they had been present in the lives of these boys, could have possibly raised them with the depth of love, wisdom and grace that Maria does? Having lost their natural families, these boys have now won an even greater spiritual family, so that in them is manifest the great mercy of God, who “raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people” (Ps. 113:7-8).

As always, friends, I ask for your prayers for all the various people and ministries I have shared about here, and for the whole parish of Jesucristo Resucitado. May God bless you all!

In Jesus Christ Our Risen Lord,

Deacon Evan

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St. Gabriel, the Archangel – God’s Special Messenger

September 28, 2011


The Annunciation

Image of the Annunciation at St. Mary in Holdingford, MN

Gabriel, One of Seven Archangels

The Archangel Gabriel is celebrated on September 29, the feast of the archangels. The feast also celebrates two other well-known archangels, Michael and Raphael. The total number of archangels is traditionally regarded as seven, a number based upon an Old Testament verse, “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord” (Tob 12:15); and a New Testament verse, “I [John] saw the seven angels who stood before God” (Rev 8:2). The non-canonical book of Enoch provides the names of four other archangels: Uriel, Jophiel, Chamael, and Zadkiel (1 Enoch 9:1).

Gabriel’s Name

Gabriel is a Hebrew word with two root parts. The first portion, “gabri,” means strength, power, or might; while the suffix, “El,” is a Hebrew word for God. The name Gabriel means God is strong, God is powerful, or God is mighty.

Gabriel’s Status

An archangel is a superior rank, higher than other angels. Archangels occupy a loftier tier on the hierarchy of angles because they have more important roles.

Gabriel’s Special Role

Gabriel is God’s special messenger. Gabriel explained, “I am Gabriel, who sand before God. I was sent to you and to announce” (Lk 1:19). Gabriel is mentioned four times in the Bible, twice in the Old Testament and twice in the New Testament. Gabriel appeared to the prophet Daniel (Dan 8:16; 9:21) to explain two dreams. Then Gabriel brought the message of the two great births in Luke’s Infancy Narrative: the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah (Lk 1:19), and most importantly, the birth of Jesus to Mary (Lk 1:26).

Gabriel, the Greatest of all Messengers

Gabriel was chosen as the special angel who had the sole privilege of carrying the message of the prophet who would go before the Lord to prepare his way, “to prepare a people fit for the Lord” (Lk 1:17), John the Baptist. Gabriel’s most privileged duty was to announce the birth of Jesus (Lk 1:31), the Son of the Most High, the one who would take the throne of David, who would rule over the house of Jacob, whose kingdom would never end, the Son of God. No other angel has ever brought such an important announcement. Gabriel stands alone as the greatest of all angelic messengers.

Old Testament Underpinnings

Gabriel was God’s special messenger to the prophet Daniel. Daniel had a vision of a ram and a he-goat (Dan 8:1-12) which he could not comprehend, so God sent Gabriel to describe the symbolism to him (Dan 8:16-26). Daniel also did not understand the seventy years of the Babylonian Captivity (Dan 9:2) as foretold by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 25:11; 29:10), so God sent Gabriel a second time to provide another explanation (Dan 9:22-27).

Gabriel’s Patronage

The archangel Gabriel is the patron saint of all those who carry messages, including letter carriers and all postal employees; stamp collectors; telegraph workers years ago and telephone workers today; anyone involved with radio or TV; those who work with satellites and the telecommunications industry; as well as diplomats.

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New Roman Missal videos for youth

September 28, 2011


Life Teen has built a website – – to promote their videos and catechetical resources that help Catholic youth prepare for the New Roman Missal.

Bishop Ronald P. Herzog, member of the Divine Worship Committee for the USCCB stated recently, “These videos present all the aspects that the Church and committee wish to transmit to youth and their families.”

According to their website, the “Word for Word” catechetical resource includes a “Curriculum for whole community catechesis, a mini-series for teens or middle school youth, or as a weekend retreat.”

You can also visit the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis website for more resources on the upcoming changes.

For Parish Leaders

For High School Teens

For Middle School Youth

For Parents

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Why Prince Alois of Liechtenstein is Prince Charming

September 27, 2011


Prince Alois of Liechtenstein

Prince Alois of Liechtenstein

It’s common for a little girl to dream of finding her prince–a man who is handsome, strong, rich–and hosts fancy balls for the fun of it. A man who will carry her away to his castle on a white steed because he recognizes that she is a precious jewel and his burning desire is to crown her with a tiara and live happily ever after on matching thrones.

When all grown up, we girls realize that all of those characteristics and material things aren’t as important as we once thought. We know that things such as: faith, morals, honesty, integrity, education, personality, hard-work-ethic, love of family, and faithfulness are upper-most in desirability, that strength is most impressive when it’s used to protect the defenseless, and that ‘goodness’ is preferable to ‘good genes.’ 

He’s no frog!

I found my handsome prince 22 years ago, and we have been carving out our own version of ‘happily ever after’–nine kids and all! But there is a real prince out there–one who seems to have the whole packaged-deal. May I introduce H.S.H. Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein. This man is stopping me in my tracks! He has a face that could grace any men’s fashion magazine, he lives in a castle and I’m pretty sure he enjoys hosting royal balls. He’s 43 and the eldest son of the reigning prince; destined to be the successor to the throne. But most importantly, this gentleman is a noble voice for the voiceless–standing up for the innate value of human life in his small country even though he is under pressure not to do so from the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN). And he is not being timid about his approach either. He’s producing a mighty roar (I was going to say ‘yodel,’ but that wasn’t quite the image I wanted to create) which is echoing off the surrounding Alps.

Abortion is illegal in only four European countries: Ireland, Malta, Poland and Liechtenstein. On September 17 there was a referendum to decide whether Liechtenstein–a small, mostly Catholic country of 27,000–would continue to outlaw abortion. Liechtenstein, although tiny, is tough! It doesn’t merely outlaw abortion, but under the existing law, women who cross borders to have this procedure risk one year imprisonment. Prince Alois (my hero) declared his opposition to the bill which would legalize abortion in the first trimester. This topic was discussed in a speech he gave on August 15, 2011, (According to an article by

Prince Alois of Liechtenstein, the country’s de facto ruler, said he would do what he could in his power to block the bill from becoming law if the nation’s legislature took it up following the vote. He said, ‘Until now we have been proud to support people with disabilities in our country. The proposal would discriminate against such people and allow them to be eliminated in the womb.’

This one-minute video explains the situation:

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Was His Roar Heard?

Yes, thankfully the country voted to reject the legalization of abortion.  The prince’s strong stance had an effect. Some pro-choice people didn’t bother going to the polls because they knew that even if they were to cast anti-life votes, Prince Alois had announced he would veto any ‘yes’ vote.

Bravo, Sir Prince! I can tell you were an officer in the military and that you’re used to securing your post.

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…

Hereditary Prince Alois and the lovely Duchess Sophia of Bavaria (Yes, ladies…he’s taken) have four children. These young royals have quite the saints’ names, too:

  • Joseph Wenzel Maximilian Maria (born 1995)
  • Marie Caroline Elizabeth Immaculata (born 1996)
  • Georg Antonius Canstantin Maria (born 1999)
  • Nicolaus Sebastian Alexander Maria (born 2000)

The fact that they are ‘walking the walk’–embracing life as a couple–is another thing that impresses me–since many Europeans these days are having very few children, or no kids at all.  I think it’s safe to assume that the prince and duchess’ children are being reared with pro-life values. I hope they will be fruitful and multiply all across Europe, being noble champions for life–just like their daddy!

And may they all live happily ever after!

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New video trailer – “The Mighty Macs”

September 23, 2011


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THE MIGHTY MACS is based on the true story of Cathy Rush and the Immaculata College girls basketball team. THE MIGHTY MACS will be in theaters October 2011.

Visit for more info.

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Gungor “Beautiful Things”

September 23, 2011

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Why won’t TPT air Father Barron’s “Catholicism” series? Help them change their mind.

September 23, 2011

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UPDATE: I received a direct response from TPT, which I’ve included at the bottom of this post. They’re going to “review” it, so please continue to contact them and show your interest in this series.

The highly anticipated and groundbreaking televisions series, Catholicism, is coming to TV screens this Fall – except in the Twin Cities. TPT (Twin Cities Public Television) claims the program isn’t on their broadcast schedule. It’s scheduled on other public television stations nationwide, but why not this market? No one knows. Considering the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis has 750,000 members, I find it odd they wouldn’t want to air something so critically acclaimed and relevant to the largest demographic in the region.

Please contact the Twin Cities Public Television programming department at and – politely – request they review their decision and bring this culturally important TV series to the people of the Twin Cities.

You can watch the amazing trailer here…

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UPDATE: I received an e-mail response from TPT. It’s worth noting that another blogger had contacted them before my original post and received the answer that they would not be showing the series. Perhaps you’re messages to them are having a positive effect. Please continue to show your support for this important program.

Dear Craig,
Thanks for contacting member supported tpt. We appreciate hearing from you regarding the program Catholicism. The series will be reviewed when it is sent to public television stations for screening on 9/28. We expect we would make a determination within a few weeks.

Thank you again, for your interest in viewing and supporting Public Television. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

{name removed}
Member Services

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