Memory, Identity, and Community: A Creatively Faithful Approach to the Formation of a Theology of Interment

John J. Slovikovski


While the die is cast regarding the valid inclusion of cremation in Catholic funeral rites and liturgies given that certain required criteria are met, recent years have given rise to a new problematic regard the treatment of cremains, in particular the assignment of a final resting place.  Recent statistics attest that approximately two-thirds of cremains are not interred by the family members too whom their care is entrusted.  Failure to bury the ashes may not imply a malicious intent on the the part of the faithful who remain; however, such inadvertence implies a lacuna in contemporary thought to articulate a clear theology of interment with sigificant attention to cremains.  Specifically, disregard for the importance of the burial of cremains indicates something of a theological void in three specific areas.  First, casual treatment of the deceased's ashes indicates a failure to be aware of and understand the connection between Christ's burial and our own, most notably in the theological meaning of Christ's rest in the tomb on Holy Saturday.  Second, a covert yet telling misunderstanding of the symbolic role of interment in the theology of the resurrection of the body is subtly communicated by this neglect in the obsequy.  Third, failure to inter a loved one's ashes may supplant the ultimate connection of all the members of the Communion of Saints with the need for a proximate connection of the physical possession of remains.  Accordingly, the present study will suggest anamnesis of Holy Saturday, awareness of the intricacies of the tomb in the theological dynamic of the resurrection of the dead, specifically the contours of resurrected identity, and a refined understanding of the various metaphysical components of the Communion of Saints as a both a pyschological and theological corrective to the need for physical connectedness through personal retention of cremains.  Such an amendatory approach will serve as the foundation for the fuller development of a Catholic Theology of Interment and better understanding of the eschatological context of Catholic funerary practices.

Inteneded Audience and Goal of Article:  Graduate Students, Clergy, and Professional Pastoral Ministers who teach, catechize, and minister in the areas of eschatology, liturgy, and bereavement.


Eschatology; Death; Resurrection; Interment; Christian Funerals; Cremation

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ISSN: 2169-1088