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Catholic Northwest Progress
Seattle, Washington
November 15, 1963     Catholic Northwest Progress
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November 15, 1963

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PRO( IS, 1963 Burial - "TODAY'S funerals try to hide death." s "Funeral directors are so business- llke." "Funeral homes speak title of death." "1 want to be buried in the old-fashioned pine box." "Modern embalm|ng tries to make you think the deceased is just asleep." On and on complaints are voiced against modern American funerals. Is there really something wrong with our modern American system or with our way of thinking? We are well acquainted wifh the usual events following the death of an average person. After the priest and doctor have left, the survivors realize that they must call a funeral director. He is probably a friend Of the family, a member of the parish, or a member of an organization to which the family belongs. At times he may even be a complete stranger. In any case, the funeral director is a man respected for the corporal work of mercy that he performs. When the family first meets the funeral director, probably at the funeral home, they immediately recognize a man who feels their sorrow. His business-like actions at times may apear cold, yet his profession, like that of a doctor, demands that he be reserved for the good of those he serves. At this first meeting in the funeral home, the survivors become acquainted wifh the funeral director's facilities, all of which are designed to easily accommodate People for funeral services. This twentieth century invention of funeral homes resulted when private homes too often proved inadequate, as well as extremely inconvenient, because they allowed l;ffle of the peace and quidf that the flme of death demands. T'S true that the modern funeral establish- ment speaks little of death. The immediate impression might even be that the funeral directors fry to hide death. For some this may be true. But pastel colors in the decor, for example, can also be used to lift the mind of the Christian from the somber" feelings which accompany death to the thought of eternal rest. And this is how we should view such decor, i ! Also at this first meeting with the fune- ral director most of the preparations are completed. Information for obituary notices is given to the funeral director. The time and day of the funeral iS decided. A pall- bearer list is tentatively planned. All is done wffh the help of the funeral director. Involved in the preparations is a prob- lem facing the survivors today: what type of casket to purchase for the deceased. Cer- tainly no one should force himself into seri- ous debt as do some who purchase expensive caskets (often to make up for the wrong they may have caused the deceased during llfe). Neither is this an area in which to "keep up with the Joneses." But Catholics should not feel that they must buy the cheapest, rather Something W;thin'thelr income. The important pOint iS that they see in the casket a rHing place for the body, once the temple of the Holy Spirit and living tabernacle for the Body and Blood of Christ. For at the time of the funeral, the cas- ket symbolizes the eternal rest for which many prayers are being raised to heaven. In the casket the body seems to be at peace. Every Catholic who has "fought the good fight" merits that peace. How can if be pagan to express the eternal rest of the soul by portraying it in that soul's body? Rather, fhis is a Christian attitude. HEN the survivors view the body for the first time, they are grateful to be able to remember the deceased as he or she always was. Modern embalming and cosmetology have accomplished marvelous results in the preparation of a body. To some this is an escape from the reality of death, but fo the Christian if ;s another means of expressing the dignify of the body. Embalming itself is certainly nothing pagan. If has been the custom of people for ages. If was the custom of God's chosen people, the Jews. Christ Himself praised Mary Magdalene for anticipating the em- balming of His body when He said: " . . . wherever in the whole world this gospel k preached, fhis also that she has done shall be told in memory of her." (Maff. 26:10) and after the death of Christ, Joseph of Ari- mathea did all he could to give proper burial fo Christ's body. And the very women who first heard of Christ's Resurrection had gone to the tomb to complete what Joseph of Arimathea had not the time to do. Another element of today's funerals is file customary flowers near the casket. To some the number of floral pieces indicates just how popular the deceased was. Again we Christians must look deeper. First of all we must never prefer flowers to Masses which are infinitely more important than flowers. Nevertheless, an oufrlght condem- cation of flowers is unfair. We Catholics are supposed to supernafural;ze the natural, not ondemn if. Flowers remind the survivors of their many friends. And if flowers symbolize devotion when placed On the altar, can they not do the same here? FROM that first with the funeral meeting director to the time when the body is taken into church, the survivors have felt lbemselves to be in competent hands. But it is only at the service ;n church that the survivors real'e that all the funeral director Twentieth Century By KENT HANSEN, O.F.M. Cap. the survivors return home. If is not a home did was the beginning ,of what would be completed by the Church. No one can help but notice the careful attention given to the body by the Church through the use of in- cense, holy water, and especially the requiem Mass. The reason is simple: fhis body will rise someday.Death is not the end, but only the beginning of life. After the final blessing at the grave, torn apart because it has served as a funeral home. Rather it is a home of peace and quiet, the only proper setting for something as serious as death. The funeral is over. Ac- cording to their means the survivors ihave given their loved one Christian burial. During the past few days they had placed them- selves in the hands of a man who respected the dignify of the body of their loved one, but even more who, in the words of St. Augustine, offered his services "rather for the solace of the living than the comfort of the dead." They have used modern means to bury their dead, but, as followers of Christ, they have looked deeper, they have Christianized the modern American funeral system.--Brown Friars, Spring 1962 Edition. IITP I III Services of the Qualified An average funeral requires three days -- help and facilities. In most Seattle mortuaries, the prices on the caskets include the particular casket and all normal services rendered by the mortuary. The type of casket selected by the family determines the cost of the service which can range from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars. Most mortuaries have funeral services that start slightly under $300.00. The following is in- cluded as part of the service. Immediately after receiving a call that a person has dled, two funeral directors go to the place of death and bring the deceased to the mortuary--no mater what time of day or night. The person is bathed, embalmed and dressed. In the case of a woman, a hairdresser's services are used. Family Supplies Statistics When the family comes in to make arrangements, they bring the clothing for the deceased. Certain statistical information required by the Health Department is obtained at this time. Before bur;el takes place the mortuary must have authorization from the Health Department whlch includes obtaining death certificate signed by physic;an and giving specific cause of death. This certificate is filedwith the Health Department and kept on permanent file there. ; The family is asked if the deceased was a Veteran and Vincenfians Bury "The Corporal Works o t Mercy are seven: to teed the imngry, rejfresh the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the home- less, tend the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead." roviding a Christian Burial to indigent persons or those who have no relatives or friends to act for them, is a major task of the Central Office of the St. Vincent de Paul Society's Par- ticular Council of Seattle. It is a frequent and solemn service. '*The h;st0ries, stories nd heartaches in many of these burials spell mlsfortune and despair in: the. lives of men and women," commented John A. Peluso, Central office executive secretary. At a majority of funerals, Pelus0 potned 0ut, the only persons present may be the priest, funeral director and Vincen- fians, the laHer serving as pall bearers. ' " There have been known instances Where Catholics might have been cremated instead of receiving suitable burial if the Society had not acted on behalf of the deceased. During the last fiscal year of October 1962 through Sep- tember 1963, 75 funerals have been arranged. There have been some years where the number has been more than 100. In 10 years time, 758 funeral cases have gone through the Central Office. I