Ask Fr. Thaddaeus

Father Thaddaeus Lancton, MIC, the spiritual director of Friends of Mercy, answers questions from club members:

Linda wrote in:
If someone is born on the 13th day of the month and dies on the 13th day of the month, are they a saint? Is there a sign there for family members?
The fact that someone is born and dies on the same day of the month may indeed have some significance in the eyes of God, but only He can ultimately tell us what that meaning might be. Most likely, we would come to know that at the Last Judgment - when all is revealed. To answer your specific question, however, that is not the sign that someone is a saint or in Heaven. There are many saints who do not have the same birthday and day of death. Typically, the Church considers heroic virtue and scientifically verifiable miracles as the criteria for whether someone is to be considered a saint. There are smaller signs that the Lord does provide for those who go to Heaven in order to console family members. I would encourage you to continue to pray for the deceased in your family, at least so that they not be in Purgatory. If that person is already in Heaven, then your prayers will nonetheless benefit other souls in Purgatory.

A concerned parishioner from Guam wrote in:
I know that the Church allows cremation. What happens though if the family of the deceased doesn't bury their loved one right away? Also, what is the Church's teaching about scattering the ashes of the deceased on the ground or in the ocean? If the Catholic faithful continue to abuse the laws of cremation, why doesn't the Church put a stop to permitting cremation?
Let me begin with your last question. In Latin, there is a phrase abusus non tollit usus ("abuse does not take away proper use"). Sin can be defined simply as the abuse of something good. Hence, one cannot forbid something good simply because it can be misused. If that were the logic, then we would have to ban coffee, alcoholic drinks, and just about everything else, because anything can be abused or misused.

As for cremation, there are two primary reasons for the Church allowing it. The first is that of expense. In the United States, funeral and burial costs can be quite expensive. In my own family situation, such costs simply would crush us with debt, and so my own parents were cremated and placed in the cemetery. The second reason the Church allows cremation now is that it does not always have the same significance as it has had in the past. Cremation in Hinduism and ancient Greek philosophy, for instance, is connected with the idea of being set free from the body as from something evil. Today most people don't have such an attitude toward the body.

One of the key conditions for cremation is that the ashes be buried properly, as would a body. The Church forbids keeping the remains in your house or scattering them abroad. They are to be kept intact, as a body would be in a casket, as a sign of the unity of the body to be raised on the Last Day.

Rita wrote in:
We are living in a world that is a "cesspool of sin." How much longer will our Lord allow the evil one to reign his power over the earth?
First, Satan does not reign over the earth. He attempts to, and pretends to, and through those who willingly place themselves at his service, Satan has a certain power over the world. We cannot deny that his power seems to be growing. But one thing to be aware of is this: Evil boasts and loves to flaunt its strength and power. Good - genuine good - is quiet, discreet, and hidden. When is the last time, for instance, that anyone has heard news about the work the Missionaries of Charity do, day in and day out? Rarely does such good news make the headlines. Part of Satan's strategy is to convince us that the world is worse than it is, because Satan will never report about how many saints are hidden in monasteries or in families around the world. They are busy with the work the Lord has given them, and a large portion of that is their suffering for those who sin, begging God for mercy for the world.

As Jesus told St. Faustina, there is no limit to His mercy (see Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 1602). We do have only a set period of time, though, to receive that unlimited mercy. How long of a period of time that is, no one knows except God Himself. Our duty is not to question when or why, but rather to beg and plead for mercy while there is still time for conversion. That is our duty as Christians: to look not at the evil or become discouraged by the sin around us, but rather, to remain focused upon Christ Crucified. United to Him, His mercy will flow through us to this world.

Got questions for Fr. Thaddaeus? Email us at [email protected] or write to Friends of Mercy, Marian Helpers Center, Stockbridge, MA 01263.


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