Monks Persecuted for Burying the Dead. Works of Mercy, Religious Freedom and Economic Liberty
These Monks have been making caskets for over a hundred years.
The State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors subpoenaed Abbot Justin Brown and Deacon Mark Coudrain. If found guilty, the Abbot and Deacon will be subject to 180 days in jail and thousands of dollars in fines.The Monks of St. Joseph Abbey did not back down. They sought legal help. The lawyers from the Institute for Justice stepped in. "The state is trying to require them to abandon their calling as Benedictine monks. ... They want to sell wood boxes, not become funeral directors."
This March, the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors subpoenaed two members of the Saint Joseph Abbey - Abbot Justin Brown and Deacon Mark Coudrain. If found guilty, the Abbot and Deacon will be subject to 180 days in jail and thousands of dollars in fines.
COVINGTON, LA (Catholic Online) - Those who read me know that I have a special place in my heart for Monks. I am not alone, the Lord does as well. In fact, any honest student of the history of the Christian Church should share this admiration and esteem. They have always been a source of great spiritual inspiration, renewal and encouragement for the entire Church. They have also played a prophetic role throughout Christian history, calling every baptized Christian to live their Christian vocation - no matter what their state in life - with heroic virtue.
This is part of the reason I took a special interest in the challenge faced by the 36 prayerful and hard working monks of St, Joseph Abbey just outside of Covington, Louisiana. They are followers of the Rule of St. Benedict, the father of Western Monasticism. On All Saints day in 2007, they prayerfully decided, in response to the clear teaching of the Church to bury the dead, to begin making handcrafted caskets to sell to the public. As a Deacon of the Church in my 15th year of diaconal ministry, I know the importance of such tasks within the apostolate of the Church. I have the privilege of ministering to those who are dying and burying the dead. I know the importance of every detail concerning the passage from death to life.
As I have shared in my writing, I am a "revert" to the Catholic faith. My journey home led me through a Protestant Bible College and into a Benedictine Monastery as a very young man. There I not only recovered my Catholic faith, studied the early fathers of the Church, and fell in love with the ancient and ever new faith handed down to use from the apostles, but I studied Church history and lived the Rule of St. Benedict. That wonderful Rule makes it very clear in Chapter Four under a section detailing the "instruments of good works", that one of the "Corporal Works of Mercy" is "To bury the dead". Monks must bury the dead! In doing so, they stand as a prophetic sign of the call of every Christian to do the same.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church in a section concerning the "Works of Mercy" reminds us, "The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God: (CCC #2447).
The Catechism summarizes the longstanding teaching of the Church concerning respect for the bodies of the dead. This is rooted in our absolute Christian claim that these bodies shall be raised from the dead : "The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection. The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy; it honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit." (CCC#2300)
The Monks of St. Joseph Abbey crafted caskets from wood to bury their dead brothers. They have done this for decades. On their website they explain: "For more than 100 years, the abbey has maintained and cultivated an abiding spiritual presence in southern Louisiana that is manifested in our daily rhythms of prayer and witness through a life of simplicity. One physical symbol of the simple Benedictine life of prayer has been the pine caskets in which we monks are buried.
"Over the years, the abbey has been asked to produce these caskets for individuals and has done so only on a very small scale and to select friends. Today, in an effort to support the needs of the abbey and to help maintain its communal life and apostolates, we are beginning to make available to the general public a line of cypress caskets under the name Saint Joseph Woodworks. We also hope that this enterprise will serve as a witness, to educate the greater community to the true meaning of death as taught by our Catholic faith."
In 1992 one of their wooden caskets became the place of repose for Bishop Stanley Ott of Baton Rouge. Then in 1997 Bishop Warren Boudreaux of Houma-Thibodeaux was buried in another Abbey-crafted coffin. The beauty of the monk's craftsmanship touched the faithful who began to request their beautiful product. In 2007 they built St. Joseph's Woodworks and began to offer caskets to the public. The proceeds from this work helped the Monastic community provide for themselves and thus live the motto of the Benedictine vocation "Ora et Labora", prayer and work.
This kind of initiative and charity should be welcomed in a Nation which respects the Free Exercise of Religion and ...
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Vocations News
- Archbishop Josť H. Gomez on Praying for Priests and Promoting Vocations
- COL EXCLUSIVE: Fr. Pontifex - See what this priest does to deliver his powerful message
- Sisters of Bon Secours Host Project Good Help to Assist Underserved in Baltimore
- Benedictine Monks from Oklahoma Move to Ireland's Stamullen Priory
- Benedictine Monks from Oklahoma Become Missionaries to the Irish Church
- Knights of the Holy Eucharist Announce Facebook Page
- Child Casket Fund: Trappist Monks of New Melleray Practice the Corporal Works of Mercy
- Melkite Catholic Church to Ordain Married Men to the Priesthood in the US
- Trappist Monks and Nuns Revive Interest in Monastic Vocations Online
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?