A View To Die For – 32 Story High Rise Cemetery!

Well I guess I am not surprised to learn that as land values continue to rise, space for cemeteries gets scarce! I have seen more and more mausoleums be built at the local cemeteries and they are getting taller as the years go on. But the picture to the right really takes the concept to new levels! The picture is  The Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica III, a vertical cemetery in Santos, Brazil. It  is the world’s tallest cemetery, with burial spaces on 32 floors. There’s also a restaurant, chapel, lagoon and peacock garden. It has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Santos.

I don’t know what to say really. There is nothing wrong with the concept insofar as Catholic teaching goes and perhaps it is a better or more efficient use of land than our current American approach. It just takes some getting used to. I might have some concerns too in the event of an earthquake or the like. Also, will the building be maintained well once it is full? But that is a problem even with traditional cemeteries. Here in DC we have had several non-Catholic cemeteries that were full and then went into terrible disrepair (eg. Woodlawn, Congressional and Rock Creek) requiring the local community to come to the rescue. Once a cemetery fills and no longer has an income stream it tends to be neglected. Recent laws require cemeteries to establish an endowment to provide for perpetual care. Hopefully that is the case here.

While we are on the topic, a few random thoughts on Christian burial and cemeteries to offer:

  1. Regular visits to cemeteries have declined in recent years. As the practice of praying for the repose of the dead has fallen (shame on us) there are also fewer visits to gravesides. It is true many are busy but such visits provide us a way to honor those who have preceded us in death and gives us a context in which to pray for them and remember our own mortality.
  2. When I go to cemeteries I experience a strange kind of peace. As I look about and see all the head stones it occurs to me that all these people had struggles like me. They had worries, joys, successes and failures,  gains and losses. Perhaps like me they got all worked up about things from time to time. But all that is over now. If they were faithful they have gone on to God, perhaps by way of purgatory. Nothing here remains for long. We all return to the dust and our soul flies away. Cemeteries give me a kind of perspective that brings peace. An old spiritual says “Soon I will be done with the troubles of the world, goin’ home to live with God”
  3. The Church does not encourage but does permit cremation. I am seeing more of it in recent years. But a concern has also arisen as this practice increases. It seems to me that not all families are arranging for immediate burial of the ashes. Too often long periods of time elapse after the funeral but before interment of the ashes. On a few occasions I have had to call the family and gently remind them of the requirement for proper burial or repose in a mausoleum. When there is a body, burial is soon for obvious reasons. But ashes don’t present the same urgency to many. So the funeral Mass comes and goes and the family says they have arranged burial at a later time. But the phone does not ring and I get busy and forget. Let’s be clear, the fireplace mantle is NOT an appropriate place to retain ashes. Proper burial or placement in a cemetery is required and essential. Neither is it ever appropriate to scatter ashes. No matter how meaningful this may seem,  human remains are not to be scattered.
  4. Catholic Cemeteries are preferred for the burial of Catholics because the ground is consecrated. It is true that a priest can bless a grave in any non-Catholic cemetery. But the consecrated ground of a Catholic cemetery is special. Further, the Catholic practice of regular prayers for the dead are properly observed in Catholic cemeteries. Each year on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (Sept. 15) and also on Memorial Day  masses are offered at Catholic cemeteries. Other devotions, such as stations of the cross and rosary processions are also offered and all the dead buried there benefit from the help of these regular prayers. Catholic Cemeteries are special places for Catholics.

Remember to pray for the dead. Prepare also for your own death by regular recourse to confession, Holy Communion every Sunday, daily prayer, daily scripture, repent of your sins and pray to be delivered from a death sudden and unprepared. Requiescant in Pace (May they rest in peace).

7 Replies to “A View To Die For – 32 Story High Rise Cemetery!”

  1. I’m glad you brought up the topic of cremation, as my mother and I disagree on the topic. My mother wants to be cremated when she dies and have her ashes scattered. We don’t agree as to this being moral, but what should one do when their loved one’s wishes are problematic like this?

  2. In terms of the ashes-sprinkling, morality issue aside:

    Cremation doesn’t completely reduce the body to a powdery pile of ashes. There still will be bone fragments.

    Many jurisdictions restrict or prohibit the scattering of cremains, particularly in beach communities. Private property owners in such areas don’t care to have people washing up on their shoreline.

  3. Does anyone know much about the history of the Catholic cemeteries in DC? Holy Rood is now owned by Georgetown University but was once the parish cemetery for Holy Trinity, correct? Was St. Mary’s Cemetery founded by St. Mary’s Parish? It seems to have a lot of German names, whcih would indicate it was but also some Italian names. I believe all graves have been sold but are all used or could an owner sell one? What about Mt. Olivet? Wasn’t there a Ukrainian Catholic Cemetery in DC?

  4. My mother wants to be cremated when she dies and have her ashes scattered. We don’t agree as to this being moral, but what should one do when their loved one’s wishes are problematic like this?

    Say, “no.”

    Last year, my mom plopped a durable healthcare power of attorney in my lap and asked me to sign. Like most “living wills,” this one was poorly drafted — not only very ambiguous, but seemed to equate things like food and water with “medical treatment.”

    I told my mom right out, “no, I’m not signing this, I’m not going to starve and dehydrate you to death.” My mom the nonlawyer objected that that was not what the document said. Her son the lawyer said, that is exactly the way that it will be interpreted. So I told her, the only way that I’m signing this is with the understanding that I am going to use my own best judgment — prolife Catholic judgment — if ever she is incapacitated and I must make healthcare decisions on her behalf. She said, “fine.”

    There are times when one must say “no” to mom and dad. Our obligation is to love and honor them. To love and honor them does not mean to go along with their foolish, wrong, or ill-considered wishes. It means to refuse to go along with them and, instead, do the right thing.

    As for myself — I don’t know why anyone would want their body all burned up like that. I really, really fail to see the appeal in it.

  5. My siblings don’t think much about visiting my father’s grave, saying “he’s not there.” But I like to go and reflect back on his life and to think ahead to when his body will be raised whole again from that cold, dark pit. I also take the time to thank God for the gift of life given to me through his body and for all the blessings I received from his life. I feel at peace when I’m there.

  6. Oh, if only everyonewould read and follow this advice! The world would be a betterplace.

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