April 26, 2009

Breaking Even (Almost)

A parish community can make a rough estimate of its relative growth or diminishment by comparing baptisms and funerals. If more are baptized into the church militant than leave for the church expectant or triumphant, the community is growing, and vice versa.

As of today, just in my particular ministry, I'm the closest I've ever been to breaking even. In 23 months as parochical vicar:

42 baptisms

44 funerals

6 comments:

Rachel Gray said...

And if you consider that everyone needs a funeral but not everyone gets baptized, maybe your parish is doing pretty well...

Brother Charles said...

You would think so, Rachel, but unfortunately more and more Catholics aren't having funerals. Some families have lost the practice of the faith and are either uncomfortable or don't know their obligations. Sometimes we have to deny someone a proper funeral because the family openly tells us that they are unwilling to bury the remains of the deceased. (I.e. in the case of cremations.)

It's too bad, because the funeral liturgy, i.e. wake-Mass-committal is really one of our most beautiful, and so full of hope and meaning for the final destiny of the baptized...

ben in denver said...

I went to a funeral last week that was so beautifully hopeful. My neighbor's mother passed away on April 17. My wife had known her for 20 years.

It was beautiful. She had 8 children and 42 grandchildren, and all of them were present for the funeral...now that is a lot of baptisms!

If you have a moment, please pray for the repose of her soul. Her name is Ann.

Since I've commented here, we have also had the baptism of our newest, Cristina Felicity, born April 2 and baptized Easter Sunday.

Brother Charles said...

Ben!

So great to hear from you! Congratulations on Cristina Felicity's birth in the Lord. May she be a happy image of Christ for all.

Tomorrow I have my first Paschaltide funeral Mass, and I was just reviewing the special antiphons for the season.

Anonymous said...

Father Charles, on the point you made regarding people who have lost the practice of their Catholic faith, it is sad that the absence of religious ritual after their death mirrors the absence of such rituals in their lives. I had an elderly aunt pass away last year in her 80's. She was raised as a devout Catholic, had a sister who was a nun, and yet lost her faith at some point in her life. My uncle, who was also raised in a devout Catholic home and was a seminarian for a period of time, also does not practice his faith. My aunt was cremated immediately after her death and her ashes scattered some weeks later by her immediate family on a New England coastal beach.

Brother Charles said...

Thanks for the comment, Anonymous. Let's praise Providence for allowing devotion to stay alive in the family through you. It's very hard for me to have these arguments with people who have got the idea--from where, I don't know--about scattering cremains. It's just one example of how quickly some shallow novelty replaces generations of thoughtful Catholic tradition based on the Sacred Scriptures.