THE annual ritual that is All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day will again be celebrated next week. This Christian ritual has been with us for a few hundred years or since the Spanish colonizers spread the Catholic faith in the country in the latter part of the 16th century. The celebration, a mixture of foreign and native practices, may have changed through the years but the basics of the belief and the ritual remain.
An interesting change in the past few decades in the country has been the rising popularity of cremation. While the resistance to the practice of cremation as opposed to the tradition of burying the body in a grave and a few years later gathering the bones to be transferred to smaller niches was obvious among Filipino Catholics early on, there is clearly a softening of that resistance as the years passed and globalization intensified.
Proof of that is the recent release by the doctrinal office of the Vatican of guidelines on the cremation of the Catholic dead. While the Church has long allowed the practice of cremation, the release of the guidelines showed that an increasing number of Catholics are doing it and that the Vatican has seen it fit to ensure that the practice is consistent with the Catholic doctrine.
In keeping with the Catholic teaching that the human body is a temple made in the image of God, the Vatican is calling on the faithful who choose to cremate their dead to keep the ashes in a sacred place like a cemetery instead of keeping them at home, dividing them among family members or turning them into mementos—practices that have surfaced with the growing popularity of cremation.
But even with the guidelines, the Vatican still stresses that it prefers burying the body in sacred ground. The guideline notes: "By burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body, and intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity."