The mayor announced that he was forced to enact this legislation when a neighboring town denied the village access to land that would have allowed them to expand their over-crowded cemetery. As a consequence, he decreed that, “all persons not having a plot in the cemetery and wishing to be buried in Sarpourenx are forbidden from dying in the parish… Offenders will be severely punished."
The mayor added, “It may be a laughing matter for some, but not for me.”
The mayor knows that sometimes you have to go to exaggerated ends to drive home an important point – and his point is important. Death cannot be ignored. It must be reckoned with. In addition, we have a sacred obligation to care for the dead. The care, or lack of care, with which we bury the dead says a lot about us.
Cemeteries are to have central importance in our communities. The condition and location of our cemeteries convey the measure of gratitude and respect we have in our hearts. They are to be spiritual places that are cared-for and adorned with great monuments and mysterious beauty. We have a solemn charge to remember and revere those who have died and to treat their remains with care and utmost honor.
We cannot live well until we do dying and death well.
In the days to come we will celebrate All Saints Day and commemorate All Souls Day. The Church exhorts her children to reflect often, even daily, on the four last things of death, judgment, heaven, and hell. We are to incorporate into our lives the corporal and spiritual works of mercy which include the duties to bury and pray for the dead.
It’s easy to pass our days as if death is something so far away. How blessed we are when we realize that it is close and interrelated with our lives. Death need not be morbid, but venerated as part of the greater miracle and mystery.
My gratitude to the many people who are involved with every funeral we have here at Nativity of Mary. It takes a whole parish to be present to the families, to prepare all of the food, to sing in the choir and to help with the liturgy, and to pray. When we have done dying and death well, then we truly have lived well. Thank you,