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A Natural End
Sr. Ruth Droege, OP, PhD
A Christmas Reflection by Sr. Ruth Droege
“A Natural End” is the title of an article written by Colin Price for the November 2022 issue of America. Father Price is a Jesuit Scholastic who is studying for a master’s degree in environmental sustainability at Loyola University Chicago. In this article, he asks “is it time to review our burial practices?”
For most of us in the United States, embalming or cremation have been the two choices. The Sisters of Loretto in midwestern Kentucky have chosen another practice, natural burial.
The first step is to place the shrouded body on a cart along with cedar branches, flowers and other plants, whatever is in season. They process with the body to the plot where the grave has already been dug. They place the body in the grave upon a nest of fragrant branches and shower it with plants and flowers before they take turns shoveling in dirt. The Sisters who have been part of this ritual say that it is not stark and uninviting, but embracing. There is a price tag on natural burial as there is on embalming and cremation; however, money is not the issue.
Duns Scotus believed that the Incarnation was willed through eternity as an expression of divine love and as God’s desire for consummated union with creation. Our redemption by the cross was likewise an expression of God’s love.
God wished to redeem us in this fashion to allure us by his love. Between embalmment and natural burial, natural burial seems the better way to respond to God’s invitation. Embalmment preserves us for what we were in the past. Natural burial, together with faith and hope in the Resurrection, looks toward the future.
Christ graciously shares our human lives. By freely opening our hearts to him, to responding to his love, we make his presence a reality. We, in and through Christ, can make the world a better, more peaceful, place. This is the gift of Christmas Eve. On this night the Word became flesh and dwells among us. This is the Gift that gives a weary world “a thrill of hope”.
Let the world and all creation respond with songs of praise, gratitude, and thanksgiving. “O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth”.