Saturday, November 26, 2016

Happy Feast Day (to us!)

This last day of the liturgical year, this Saturday in honor of Mary and day before the start of Advent (yes, it really is) is also the anniversary of death and the Feast of Blessed James Alberione, our Founder. As he approached the end of his life, he had this to say: “Here is a half-blind man, who is being led, and in moving along he is enlightened from time to time so that he can proceed further: God is the light.”

“Before God and man, I feel the gravity of the mission entrusted to me by the Lord who, had he found a person more unworthy and unfit, would have preferred him. Nevertheless, for me and for everyone, this is the guarantee that the Lord has willed and has done everything himself; just like the artist who picks up a paintbrush worth a few coins and is unaware of the world to be executed, were it even a beautiful picture of the Divine Master, Jesus Christ.”

But he taught us that Baptism means that the portrait of Jesus Christ is meant to be painted in each of us. This
"Christification" (the term is more typical in the Eastern/Orthodox traditions, but Alberione used it all the time) is the work of the Holy Spirit, the "finger of God's right hand," holding that divine brush and palette to form Christ in us.

Pray with Alberione:

Holy Spirit, in a profound spirit of adoration
I ask you unite my heart, my will, and my mind with those of Jesus.
May the affections of Jesus be my affections.
May the desires of Jesus be my desire.
Made the thoughts of Jesus be my thoughts.
May Jesus himself live in my heart, my will, and my mind.
I give Jesus my heart, so that he may be the one who loves others in me and with me.
I give Jesus my will, so that he may be the one who lives in me and with me.
I give Jesus my mind, so that he may be the one who thinks in me and with me.
I want what he wants.
In me may he love.
In me may he decide.
In me may he act.
And may it be he himself who fulfills his mission through me.

At the very dawning of the 20th century, as a young Alberione remained in prayer through the night before the Blessed Sacrament, “Particular enlightenment came from the Host, a greater understanding of that invitation of Jesus, ‘Come to Me, all of you.’ He seemed to understand the heart of the great Pope, the Church's appeals and the true mission of the priest. What Toniolo said about the duties of being Apostles today and of using the means exploited by the opposition seemed clear to him. He felt deeply obliged to prepare himself to do something for the Lord and for the people of the new century with whom he would live. …Projecting himself mentally into the future he felt that in the new century generous souls would feel what he had felt.”

In our own day, "the opposition" is as multifaceted as the media themselves. Deceptive philosophies, terrorist ideologies, hedonism and downright heresy all make use of communications technologies to defend and diffuse their perspectives. And yet media are also being used in exquisitely artistic ways to communicate what is true, beautiful and good! In the spirit of Blessed James Alberione, let us pray today for all those who live and work in the sphere of communication:

St. Paul, traveler for the Gospel, proclaimer of the Good News, you ask your fellow Christians to pray “that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified.”
Today God's Word travels most swiftly through the media. Living in the era of global communication, we use these marvelous means not only for information and entertainment, but also as a way of connecting with others. We recognize their potential for all that is good and beautiful, as well as for the opposite.
St. Paul, pray for those creative persons who produce all forms of media and for those who use their productions.
May the men and women who shape media messages, and those who receive those messages, promote human dignity and foster respectful communication. In this way, both the message and the medium will be channels for what is good, true, and beautiful.
Pray also for those who, like you, seek to proclaim God's word in this new place of evangelization.
Through the sometimes blaring and relentless voices of the media, may we be attuned to God's voice coming through these means: that tiny, whispering sound, which is often the way God speaks to us. And when we hear the soft voice of God's word, maybe be filled with “grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.

“What marvelous things Jesus has in his Heart! Wonders of love and of grace, of vocations. The Lord wants to give us things that I don't think you can yet experience, just as Jesus told the Apostles that he had things that he was keeping to himself until the coming of the Holy Spirit, 'because you are not able to bear it'.” These words date to 1924, but the promise seems as new as ever. Join us today in praying for vocations who will allow Christ to be formed in them so completely that it will be He who makes use of new and developing technologies to communicate the Father and "draw everything to himself" (cf. John 12:32).

Today would be a good day to watch Media Apostle: the Father James Alberione Story!

Media Apostle (90 min): The Father James Alberione Story

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Table Grace and recipes

If you are looking for a printable grace before meals for Thanksgiving, here is a simple one I prepared a few years ago. It is designed two to a sheet, so you will have to do some trimming (but at least you won't have full-sized paper at each person's spot at the table!).

Here at the motherhouse, there are so many volunteer dessert makers that Sister Marlyn made an
oven calendar. We had to sign up for an appointment if we wanted to bake anything.  Yesterday I made four pecan pies (one of them was gluten free) in one of the industrial size ovens.  I just use the standard recipe found on the back of the corn syrup bottle, with one exception: I use half brown sugar and half white sugar instead of the full cup of white. (Naturally, I use the dark corn syrup, too!) My niece is making hers with brown rice syrup; I am expecting a report on how that turned out.

This afternoon I have an appointment with the oven at 4 p.m. to take the carrot souffle all the way to done. This is not a light and fluffy souffle, but more along the lines of what the British would call a "pudding." In our Culver City convent, Sister Andrew (Texan) was also making carrot souffle--but had to put out an SOS for somebody to go to the store for some...carrots. If you do not know why we would consider carrot souffle a must for the Thanksgiving dessert table, try the recipe. Just make sure you have some carrots on hand first.

May you have a peaceful, gratitude-drenched Thanksgiving!

Pecan Pie recipe from the corn syrup people.

Monday, November 21, 2016

O Emmanuel (Move Over, Handel)

With Thanksgiving days away, we will soon have the not-always-soothing sounds of holiday music in the air just about everywhere we go before Advent even begins. (November 27 is the First Sunday of Advent this year.) Granted, Advent songs are kind of hard to come by unless you're at Mass. Or, you know, at a performance of Handel's Messiah.

This summer, I really benefited from listening to the Messiah while on my annual retreat. Handel's masterpiece is like a sung Bible, with highlights from Old and New Testaments, all the way to the Book of Revelation (“Hallelujah!”). Reflecting the Gospels themselves, this most famous of oratorios has a highly developed Passion narrative, drawn primarily from the writings of the prophet Isaiah; the Resurrection is treated in words especially taken from the letters of St Paul. 

Now the people at (New Evangelization organization) Dynamic Catholic have released a new oratorio, an Advent oratorio inspired by the seven ancient O Antiphons.   I'm the one calling it an oratorio because that's how I experienced the 45-minute program. (I received advance access to the recording so I could review it.)
O Emmanuel made it to the Billboard charts during its first week on the market as #1 in "Traditional Classical Albums."

Composed by J.J. Wright (who already has a Grammy under his belt and is currently doing dissertation work toward a doctorate in Conducting), O Emmanuel features a variety of musical styles, some (can I confess it?) too sophisticated for me., the work opens with the Annunciation in the words and music of Gabriel's Message (also known as the “Basque Carol”), but the oratorio as a whole includes compositions based on the antiphons of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as the famous antiphons for December 17-23. Wright incorporates not just the ancient texts of the O Antiphons, but their traditional musical lines, woven in with contemporary sounds, especially jazz (odd, but it works) with the composer at the keyboard. Many of the vocal parts are sung by the Notre Dame Children's Choir, and the Fifth House Ensemble (from Chicago!) made a fabulous contribution with their playing.
Composer J. J. Wright

In “VI: Rex” (my favorite) we are treated to a Gospel music setting of a poem by Malcolm Guite that draws on the themes in the 6th O Antiphon: the King of nations; the desired one; the cornerstone that unites the many into one. I love Guite's lyrics, especially the line about “A king who comes to give away his crown.” (The O Antiphons are a while Christmas sermon in themselves.)

What excites me most about this project is that O Emmanuel is a high-level musical composition infused with a beauty that comes from Divine Revelation. There is no more powerful vehicle of evangelization today than beauty, and the people at Dynamic Catholic were inspired in undertaking this. (I hope that composer Wright will be looking for a nuns' choir for his next project. I know some singers who might qualify!)

- - - - - 

Now for the really good part: 
Dynamic Catholic has 10 copies of O Emmanuel to give away to NunBlog readers! To be in the running, you have to do two things:

1. Go to and listen to the samples from the tracks.
2.A Come right back here and in the "comments" express a little something of how a chosen track might communicate the beauty of the Gospel in our times. (You will need to sign in to comment so I can get back to you in case you win.)
2.B Post a tweet (#OEmmanuel) about your favorite track, thanking @DynamicCatholic for the music and @Nunblogger for the chance to win a Billboard #1 album.

Thank you! (Winners will be chosen at random on BLACK FRIDAY; yes, you increase your chances of winning if you do 2.A and 2.B.)

Friday, November 18, 2016

My first drone videos (UPDATED)

This is all taking place between our main building and the garage, since that offers the most open space for this novice drone pilot. As you will see, my goal is twofold: to keep the thing in the air and out of the trees. I succeeded in the second endeavor (today, at least!).

Here is a birds-eye view of part of our convent complex taken this afternoon, courtesy of the Little Drone that Could, and another (with a crash and a near-miss) in front of the chapel, where the battery eventually died.

This is where I flew the drone (at about 5 feet high) all the way around the gate to the front of chapel, having crashed only once into a pile of leaves at the gate. I wanted it to hover contemplatively in front of the crucifix, but I don't have those skills yet. Still.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Book Review: Our Man in Charleston

Our Man in Charleston: Britain's SecretAgent in the Civil War South
Christopher Dickey
Broadway Books,  2015

This has been a year of history books for me, so when the opportunity arose to get a review copy of yet another book in that non-fiction area I naturally took it. I confess, too, that the subject matter is one that I, a southerner and descendent of slave-owners, should be more aware of: the years (and motivations) immediately leading up to the Civil War. 

Our Man in Charleston traces the American career of Robert Bunch, the New York-raised British consul who arrived in Charleston in 1853 as a newlywed and left the ruined city ten years later. He had done all he could to undermine the South's “peculiar institution,” keeping his own distaste for slavery and the inhuman culture it supported so well-hidden that the city's most rabid pro-secession newspaper mourned his departure. The Federal government, too, under the impression that this diplomatic activist who consistently worked to undermine Confederate efforts to revive the slave trade had actually been a spy for the South, had ordered his removal from office. (His presumed sympathy for the southern cause, of course, had opened many doors for him and provided the Queen's government with invaluable inside information.)

I learned a great many things from this book: I had been under the impression that Britain's only real interest in the American South concerned the cotton trade, but the Negro Seaman's Act (first passed in South Carolina) actually put every black sailor in the Royal Navy at risk. Charleston did not want any free men of color infecting the local slave population with ideas of rebellion, and so black sailors onboard British vessels docked in the Port of Charleston were jailed (“for security”) until the ship was to depart, at which time a fee would be paid for the sailor's redemption. Naturally, any unransomed seamen were subject to sale as slaves. One of Consul Bunch's ongoing struggles involved winning political points in order to have this Act overturned.

Slave trading had long been illegal in the British Empire, but slave-ships flying the American flag enjoyed a kind of diplomatic immunity: They could not be stopped, boarded or searched by British patrols. Likewise, when the United States attempted to limit the importation of slaves from Africa, slaving ships would simply run the British flag. Thousands continued to die miserable deaths on the Middle Passage while British diplomats attempted to resolve the problem, at the very time that radical secessionists in the South were determined to keep the ships running. Virginia and other slave-owning states were not enthusiastic about importing new slaves, since it lowered the value of their human “breeding stocks.” (It was precisely this that most angered—and motivated—Consul Bunch.) Even more, Great Britain by this time found slavery so morally repugnant that many in the government were ready to give up the economic advantage offered by southern cotton if it came at such a human cost. There was an entire Slave Trade Department receiving Bunch's dispatches by diplomatic courier. (Besides, cotton was beginning to come from Egypt and India.)

The only thing this impressively researched volume of American history didn't do was maintain my interest. I drove myself to finish it simply to honor the commitment I had made in accepting the review copy. It could be in part that there were just so many names and dates, posts and places (from New York to Fort Sumter to Cuba to the coast of Africa and up to Great Britain, with occasional forays to Kentucky or Paris) that I was not able to keep them all straight. It could also be that apart from the crushing descriptions of the slave trade (many from Bunch's own pen), there was too little of the human element in the story. It all felt a bit distant, I suppose. As much as I enjoy history, maybe there was too much here for my taste!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Up a Tree with Zacchaeus

You can tell Advent is drawing near because yesterday we started the "final days" cycle of readings from the book of Revelation. The Gospels, too, are pointing us toward Jerusalem and the consummation of all things (which began with the Passion and Death of the Lord). Interestingly (to me, at least), there is a shared image in today's texts: an image of hospitality.

In the book of Revelation we get a series of chilling prophetic messages, delivered in the name of Jesus: "you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead"; "because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth"; "you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." And then, wrapped in an invitation to repent, we get the most remarkable promise: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne, as I myself first won the victory and sit with my Father on his throne."

That promise is being fulfilled before our eyes in the Gospel story of Zacchaeus. You know the one: the wealthy tax collector who wanted to see Jesus so badly that he (in tunic and robes) climbed into a tree for a birds' eye view. But instead of Zacchaeus seeing Jesus, it was Jesus who looked right up at him, called him by name and promptly invited himself to the tax collector's house.

As the crowd began to murmur in disapproval, Zacchaeus did not back away. He did not cower at the unstated threat, the intimidation implied by the dismissive epithet "sinner" that was used instead of his name. He still heard his own given name as spoken so joyfully by Jesus, the Jesus who did not categorize him according to class or behavior or politics, but who saw him as a person and reached out to him. There is a hint of that also in the passage above from Revelation: the person who "opens the door" to Jesus is not responding to the sound of knocking, but to the voice that calls by name: "If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter..."

A book I read recently added another dimension to my reading of this story. Actually, two books. The first was a cultural reading of this encounter, which only Luke narrates for us. In Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, the author draws on thirty years of living in Middle Eastern cultures. He points out that when Jesus came to Jericho, "intending to pass through," and then changed his plans for the sake of the tax collector, he was basically disrespecting the whole town. Notice that the crowd "began to grumble, saying, 'He has gone to stay...' " Jesus triggered the scapegoating mechanism of the upstanding citizens of Jericho, effectively deflecting it from Zacchaeus to himself. Luke is showing us the Lamb of God, actively taking upon himself the sins of the world. (For more on how Jesus challenges and changes the sin-weighted scapegoat mechanism we see at work in this story, don't miss Reading the Bible with René Girard.)

- - - - 

There are, of course, still plenty of people who "want to see Jesus" but who are crowded out, kept from Jesus by the very people who surround him. The trees they climb may not be sycamores, and we may be tempted to put them in categories: losers, liberals, conservatives... How can we be the voice of Jesus, seeing them where they are, calling them by name and inviting them to "hurry down" from the safety of their high perch?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Bye-Bye, Birdie or The (Drone) Flying Nuns

I was supposed to have pictures for you. Pictures taken literally on the wing. Still pictures, moving pictures. Aerial scenes of the convent, nuns walking serenely around the gardens, that sort of thing.

It will be a while.

A few weeks ago, an intrepid NunBlog reader thought that our social media posts needed to be kicked up a notch. Or even a few yards. The primary term being "up." Yes, we received a drone. A lovely, state-of-the-art, cinema-quality-video shooting drone.

I did my homework. I read the manual. I watched all the training videos. I assembled it carefully. I waited over a week for a first test flight.

Drone hospital in my office.
On that first attempt at taking to the air, I crashed a really expensive drone on the wall over the provincial's head. There are propeller scars (on the wall, not on the provincial's head!).

Naturally, I tweeted about it.

A geeky Jesuit offered some advice: you need an indestructible drone, like training wheels for the sky. And he didn't just offer the advice; he actually sent the drone! (Granted, it was my birthday...) "Remember, Sisters," he counseled wisely, "Crashing equals learning."

Consider me a PhD candidate, then.

I have already found a pole long enough to knock the thing out of the lower branches of the trees that dot our property. (I never actually realized just how many trees there are around here.) I have already replaced the propellers (on both drones: that crash over the provincial's head cracked a propeller and obliterated two screws on the gimbal; thankfully, drones come with a first replacement set of everything). I now carry a drone kit in a bag around my neck: tiny Philip's screwdriver, pack of propellers and a bent paper clip (for pushing a recalcitrant motor back into alignment). The kit also has one leg that has already broken off the training vehicle. (My Amazon wishlist has expanded from books to drone parts.) But as long as the weather allows, I hope to keep practicing after lunch each day.

I am not the only sister who will be piloting the drones. Sister Jo is excited to learn. (I begged her not to do anything illegal; the FAA has my name on the registration--yes, all Unmanned Aerial Vehicles over .5 pounds have to be registered with the FAA.) Hopefully, however long it takes for us to learn how to do it, we will be getting some lovely footage of the convent, of nuns prayerfully walking through the garden, or of our choir singing on the rooftop as the sun sets on the hill behind us...

Until then, you will find me rescuing UAVs from pine trees in and around Boston.

- - - - - 

Time for some input from you! Here in the Pauline Family, it is a custom to name our apostolic machines. I already named the fancy drone (StPaul--because Paul was "taken up to the third heaven"), but what name should we bestow on the Little Drone that Could? And why is that name suitable?

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Ignacio: A new movie about my favorite saint!

On All Saints' Day some of us were talking about our favorite saint movies. Since pious entertainment used to be the standard fare on "Visiting Sunday" for those postulants who did not have family in the area, those of us with a longer history in the convent became very familiar with a set of full-length movies from ages past: The Reluctant Saint (should have been "the flying saint": it was about Joseph of Cupertino); Saint Catherine of Siena (in Italian; our formator translated for us); Monsieur Vincent (de Paul); The Priest and the Devil (about St John Vianney--and was it creepy!). Once I moved to St. Louis, there was the 1949 Soldier Saint (St Ignatius): I know long stretches of dialogue by heart, and can sing the musical theme on command: da da di da di da di da da di da di da di dum dum di dum .... I even have a (VHS) copy--or I did before I got transferred from Chicago.

We watched16mm versions of the films, so there was always the clackety-clack of the projector, and once in a while a splat-splat-splat when the film broke. The movies came from a collection of edifying films available for rental by parishes and groups, and a la Cinema Paradiso, any lovely-dovey parts had been spliced out. Sadly, we did not have a copy of A Man for All Seasons (the acknowledged favorite): it must have been far beyond our means to obtain a 16mm copy of a film that was less than 10 years old! (I don't remember Song of Bernadette being in our roster, either, come to think of it.)

But now there's a new addition to the noble collection and it's about my favorite saint!

Ignacio de Loyola: Soldier-Sinner-Saint was produced by Jesuit Communications in the Philippines and it looks fabulous. Until it is released in theaters next year there are only a few showings here and there in the United States. The only one I know about anywhere near here is Saturday night at the LaSalette Shrine (about an hour from here) but the screening is a fundraiser and the tickets are way out of my budget range. If you see a notice in a bulletin at church (or at your local Jesuit university or high school!), you might want to make a movie date of it. Here's what you will be seeing:

As for me, I must content myself by re-reading my own account of visiting the Loyola house ten years ago, waiting for the day when I can relive that amazing pilgrimage through cinema. Of course, if you happen to hear about a screening in Boston proper (preferably with tickets of the "free will offering" kind), don't hesitate to let me know!

What's your favorite saint movie? Why?
- - - - -

From my visit to Azpeitia, Spain:
Above: Amazing brickwork on the upper stories of the "tower
house"where St Ignatius was born. (The castle around the 
tower had been torn down in punishment for his grandfather's
support of the wrong side in a political issue.)

Right: a life-sized statue of St Ignatius the convalescent as the
grace of conversion begins to transform his life. The statue is
located right in his bedroom--now a chapel. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

That they may rest in peace.

What day is more fitting than All Souls Day to read the new Church guidelines on the Seventh Corporal Work of Mercy, "To bury the dead"? 

Actually, the guidelines below are not new--that is, nothing has changed with regard to how the bodies of the dead are to be treated, whether buried or cremated. But since society has by now established forms of commitment to the earth that can have a powerful and misleading influence on our understanding of the profound meaning, holiness and destiny of the human body, the Church is here giving a bit more explanation behind its guidelines.

It's worth your time (and can also be a kind of spiritual work of mercy on this special day) to read them through. I suggest highlighting the expressions that surprise you, provoke you or inspire you and then take these to prayer.


Ad resurgendum cum Christo 

regarding the burial of the deceased and 
the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation

1. To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must "be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). With the Instruction Piam et Constantem of 5 July 1963, the then Holy Office established that "all necessary measures must be taken to preserve the practice of reverently burying the faithful departed”, adding however that cremation is not "opposed per se to the Christian religion” and that no longer should the sacraments and funeral rites be denied to those who have asked that they be cremated, under the condition that this choice has not been made through "a denial of Christian dogmas, the animosity of a secret society, or hatred of the Catholic religion and the Church”. Later this change in ecclesiastical discipline was incorporated into the Code of Canon Law (1983) and the Code of Canons of Oriental Churches (1990).

During the intervening years, the practice of cremation has notably increased in many countries, but simultaneously new ideas contrary to the Church’s faith have also become widespread. Having consulted the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and numerous Episcopal Conferences and Synods of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has deemed opportune the publication of a new Instruction, with the intention of underlining the doctrinal and pastoral reasons for the preference of the burial of the remains of the faithful and to set out norms pertaining to the conservation of ashes in the case of cremation.

2. The resurrection of Jesus is the culminating truth of the Christian faith, preached as an essential part of the Paschal Mystery from the very beginnings of Christianity: "For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve” (1 Cor 15:3-5). Through his death and resurrection, Christ freed us from sin and gave us access to a new life, "so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rm 6:4). Furthermore, the risen Christ is the principle and source of our future resurrection: "Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep […] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:20-22).

It is true that Christ will raise us up on the last day; but it is also true that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. In Baptism, actually, we are immersed in the death and resurrection of Christ and sacramentally assimilated to him: "You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col 2:12). United with Christ by Baptism, we already truly participate in the life of the risen Christ (cf. Eph 2:6).

Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning. The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church: "Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven”. By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. In our own day also, the Church is called to proclaim her faith in the resurrection: "The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live”.

3. Following the most ancient Christian tradition, the Church insistently recommends that the bodies of the deceased be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places. In memory of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, the mystery that illumines the Christian meaning of death, burial is above all the most fitting way to express faith and hope in the resurrection of the body.

The Church who, as Mother, has accompanied the Christian during his earthly pilgrimage, offers to the Father, in Christ, the child of her grace, and she commits to the earth, in hope, the seed of the body that will rise in glory.

By burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body, and intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity. She cannot, therefore, condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the "prison” of the body. Furthermore, burial in a cemetery or another sacred place adequately corresponds to the piety and respect owed to the bodies of the faithful departed who through Baptism have become temples of the Holy Spirit and in which "as instruments and vessels the Spirit has carried out so many good works”.

Tobias, the just, was praised for the merits he acquired in the sight of God for having buried the dead, and the Church considers the burial of dead one of the corporal works of mercy.

Finally, the burial of the faithful departed in cemeteries or other sacred places encourages family members and the whole Christian community to pray for and remember the dead, while at the same time fostering the veneration of martyrs and saints.

Through the practice of burying the dead in cemeteries, in churches or their environs, Christian tradition has upheld the relationship between the living and the dead and has opposed any tendency to minimize, or relegate to the purely private sphere, the event of death and the meaning it has for Christians.

4. In circumstances when cremation is chosen because of sanitary, economic or social considerations, this choice must never violate the explicitly-stated or the reasonably inferable wishes of the deceased faithful. The Church raises no doctrinal objections to this practice, since cremation of the deceased’s body does not affect his or her soul, nor does it prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life. Thus cremation, in and of itself, objectively negates neither the Christian doctrine of the soul’s immortality nor that of the resurrection of the body.

The Church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased. Nevertheless, cremation is not prohibited, "unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine”. In the absence of motives contrary to Christian doctrine, the Church, after the celebration of the funeral rite, accompanies the choice of cremation, providing the relevant liturgical and pastoral directives, and taking particular care to avoid every form of scandal or the appearance of religious indifferentism.

5. When, for legitimate motives, cremation of the body has been chosen, the ashes of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place, that is, in a cemetery or, in certain cases, in a church or an area, which has been set aside for this purpose, and so dedicated by the competent ecclesial authority. From the earliest times, Christians have desired that the faithful departed become the objects of the Christian community’s prayers and remembrance. Their tombs have become places of prayer, remembrance and reflection. The faithful departed remain part of the Church who believes "in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church”.

The reservation of the ashes of the departed in a sacred place ensures that they are not excluded from the prayers and remembrance of their family or the Christian community. It prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten, or their remains from being shown a lack of respect, which eventuality is possible, most especially once the immediately subsequent generation has too passed away. Also it prevents any unfitting or superstitious practices.

6. For the reasons given above, the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence is not permitted. Only in grave and exceptional cases dependent on cultural conditions of a localized nature, may the Ordinary, in agreement with the Episcopal Conference or the Synod of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, concede permission for the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence. Nonetheless, the ashes may not be divided among various family members and due respect must be maintained regarding the circumstances of such a conservation.

7. In order that every appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism be avoided, it is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects. These courses of action cannot be legitimized by an appeal to the sanitary, social, or economic motives that may have occasioned the choice of cremation.

8. When the deceased notoriously has requested cremation and the scattering of their ashes for reasons contrary to the Christian faith, a Christian funeral must be denied to that person according to the norms of the law.

The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect on 18 March 2016, approved the present Instruction, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation on 2 March 2016, and ordered its publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 15 August 2016, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Gerhard Card. Müller

Luis F. Ladaria, S.I.
Titular Archbishop of Thibica

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Random thoughts on All Saints Day

First a bit of news:
Our Sister Margaret Joseph, stationed in Rome, tweeted that Sunday's earthquake (the 6.5 temblor that leveled the Basilica over St Benedict's birthplace) could not only be felt in Rome but left a calling card: visible cracks in the majestic facade and on a wall near the sanctuary light of the Basilica of St Paul's-Outside-the-Walls. The Basilica was closed for a day, but reopened by Monday evening.

And now to today's Solemnity, our own future feastday, All Saints Day!

The reading from the book of Revelation got me thinking about the "little" saints, not only the "unknowns" but the ones who just squeaked through the pearly gates. Something tells me that these may be these souls (who were perhaps shocked on finding themselves there at all) are those whose thanksgivings in Heaven are the loudest. It may be that for all eternity, they will forever be surprised and grateful for the mercy bestowed on them by someone whose name they may never have heard in all their earthly lives.

It is these little saints that I am turning to today, because they know how free a gift salvation is. I pray to them to help me start NOW thanking God for the grace I overlook or misconstrue.

Similarly, I think that on tomorrow's All Souls Day I will especially pray for the souls who are being purified over things nobody had the mercy to help them resist; the sins that our culture takes for granted, but that do so much harm (even spiritually deadly stuff). And in this week before the Presidential Election, I think I will also pray for those who abused the power of communications media to manipulate, distract, enrage, divide, and scapegoat--all for the sake of money and influence. How much harm has been done to society over the past year and a half because clever campaign managers used tactics amplified by repetition through media to pit people against each other instead of guiding our attention to the common good and ways society can work together, step by step, toward that good. There is need for reparation by all people of good will for the spiritual harm that has been visited upon all of us; we can start by offering prayers and acts of self-denial on behalf of the souls in that ante-chamber to Paradise we call "Purgatory." Once cleansed of all the residue of sin, those very souls who contributed to the harmful climate we find ourselves in will become our most ardent intercessors!

Here at the convent, we will have Mass in the little chapel on the hill where our sisters are buried. I will pray for your deceased loved ones (and mine), too. (If you contributed to our Webathon, your loved ones will be remembered in a Novena of Masses during this month of November.)