Deciding between cremation and burial is complicated, and for a Catholic, it can be even more so. Cremation was prohibited by the church until the 1960s, and while the practice is on the rise in mainstream society, many Catholics still feel conflicted. Should you consider cremation, or is it important to have a traditional Catholic funeral?
In truth, you don’t have to choose between cremation and a funeral. While the Church recommends burial, it does not forbid cremation. Further, the preference of the Catholic Church is that the full Funeral Liturgy should take place before the body is cremated. This is just one final way of affirming the value of human life and celebrating Christ’s victory over death. If it’s not possible to have the body present at the Funeral Mass, you can still celebrate the Funeral Mass with the cremated remains present in the church. The liturgy will be slightly adapted to acknowledge that while the “earthly remains” are present, the body is not.
One caveat about cremation for Catholics is that the remains should be buried or entombed. Scattering, keeping the cremated remains at home, or dividing them among family members is not permitted. This is because these ways of treating human remains do not live up to the reverence the Church requires. Still, it is acknowledged that cremation itself is not inherently disrespectful. There are many who actually believe that it’s more respectful of the person who has died to cremate the body, rather than leaving it to decay.
Still, there are reasons a person might prefer burial. Many people consider it a more natural solution. Further, a burial gives people the opportunity to find closure by attending the funeral and burial and later visiting the gravesite. Then too, cremation is a permanent action, and if for some reason the body needed to be exhumed at a later date, cremation would make this impossible. Some people are invested in the idea of a family plot, but in fact, since Catholics must be buried or entombed after cremation, this is possible no matter which option is chosen. One thing that does not change whether you choose cremation or burial is the truth of the resurrection. What you choose to do with your earthly remains will not deprive your spirit of resurrection.
Whether you choose cremation or traditional burial, The Catholic Cemeteries of the Diocese of San Jose is committed to providing a sacred place, where you and your family can remember loved ones in a peaceful and hope-filled setting. If you have questions, we’re happy to answer them. We have three locations: Calvary Catholic Cemetery in San Jose, Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Los Altos, and St. John the Baptist Cemetery in Milpitas. For more information, contact us through our website, or call Calvary at 833-428-0379, Gate of Heaven at 833-304-0763, or St. John the Baptist at 833-428-0379.