If you ask most Catholics to name the corporal works of mercy, most would probably come up with feeding the hunger and tending the sick. But the work of mercy that is probably the least practiced today is burying the dead. Today, burying the dead is a billion-dollar-a-year industry, and for most of us, that corporal work of mercy has been reduced to writing a check for thousands of dollars.
But what happens when someone dies destitute or with no family to look after their final arrangements?
In the Diocese of Cleveland, an organization called the Callistian Guild assists by providing a Christian burial for those who haven’t got the resources to give their loved ones a proper, dignified burial.
The Callistian Guild is named for Pope St. Callistus, who in the third century persecutions in Rome established church control and administration of cemeteries and catacombs.
Today in Cleveland, members of the Callistian Guild help by providing the services of a funeral director, a funeral mass in a Catholic Church, transportation, casket and vault, a cemetery plot, flowers, and a monument. The Guild’s members include funeral homes, casket manufacturers, florists, and individual funeral directors. It’s work is administered by the Cleveland Catholic Cemeteries Association.
This Guild’s assistance to poor families is a very literal “corporal” work of mercy, caring for the bodies of those who have died. But their mercy extends to families in mourning, who are able to say good-bye to their loved ones without being crushed by debt and poverty.