The care with which we bury the dead expresses our faith in the victory over everlasting death which Our Lord Jesus Christ has won in our human nature by His own Death and Resurrection. We bury the dead in the sure hope of the resurrection of the body, when their mortal bodies will share fully in the glory of the Risen Christ.St Augustine, On the Care of the Dead, (circa 422)
In the middle of the 11th century, St. Odilo, the abbot of Cluny (France), said that all Cluniac monasteries were to offer special prayers and sing the Office for the Dead on November 2, the day after the feast of All Saints. The custom spread from Cluny and was was adopted throughout the entire Roman Catholic Church. Now the entire Church celebrates November 2nd as All Soul's Day.
Yet it this does not mean that the bodies of the departed are to be despised and flung aside, and above all those of just and faithful men, whose bodies have been used by their spirits as instruments and tools for doing all their good works. For just as the greater the affection one has for his parents, the more treasured are the father’s clothing and ring and all such things to those who survive him, in the same way the bodies themselves should not be neglected, since we wear them and are joined to them more closely than anything which we ourselves put on. For our bodies are not some ornament or aid which is added from outside, but belongs to the very nature of man.
Funerals with dutiful pietySo also in ancient times the funerals of just men were arranged with dutiful piety, and their funerals were celebrated, and burials provided for, and while they were still alive they gave instructions to their sons about their burial or even about moving their bodies to another place.
Tobias also was commended by the testimony of an angel for burying the dead, thus obtaining favor with God (Tobit 2:9). The Lord Himself also, when He was about to rise on the third day, both proclaimed, and commended for preaching the good work of the pious woman who poured a precious perfume over His limbs and did it for his burial. And the Gospel commemorated with praise those who took Christ’s body from the cross and carefully and with reverent honor saw it wrapped and laid in the tomb.
However these authorities in no way suggest that dead bodies can experience any feeling; but rather, they signify that the providence of God (Who is pleased with such acts of piety) is concerned also with the bodies of the dead, in order that our faith in the resurrection might be strengthened. From these we can also profitably learn that the reward for giving alms to those who are alive and have their senses must be great, if God does not overlook even those things which with duty and diligence we do for the lifeless bodies of men...
Mark of good and human dispositionIf this be true, then also providing a burial place for bodies at the memorials of saints is a mark of a good and human disposition towards the remains of one’s friends. For if there is a sanctity in providing burial, there must also be sanctity in paying attention to where the burial occurs. But while it is desirable that there be such solace for the survivors, by which means they can show their pious attitudes towards their beloved, I do not see what assistance this can be to the dead except in this way: that when remembering the place in which the bodies of those whom they love have been laid, they might with their prayers commend the departed to those same saints as if they were patrons undertaking to aid them before the Lord. Indeed they would still be able to do so, even if they were not able to be interred in such places...
Supplications for all the departedBut even if, due to the lack of opportunity, some necessity does not permit bodies to be interred, or to be interred in such places, one should still not neglect prayers for the souls of the dead. For in its general prayer the Church undertakes to make such supplications for all the departed in our Christian and catholic fellowship, even without mentioning their names. Thus those who do not have parents or sons or any relatives or friends still have the one pious mother common to all Christians to perform these acts for them. But no matter how holy the places where lifeless bodies are laid, I think their souls will not profit in the least without such prayers for the dead and if they are not made with the right faith and piety.