|It could be you! So don't get cremated...|
I really hope he wasn't a Saint. St Francis of Assisi asked to be buried on a rubbish dump because of his great humility and overwhelming conviction of his own unworthiness before God. Taking his opinions into consideration, the Franciscans decided to build a Basillica over his tomb instead.
This sounds a little different, however. The Bishop's decision flies in the face of the Church's tradition. It is extraordinary, if you'll excuse the pun, quite unique, and I find it rather odd that even from the grave, a Bishop should teach something that isn't really analagous with the tradition of the Church. While I had not really heard much about the life of this Shepherd, I am sure he still has many admirers. I hear that he was, for instance, a very loyal defender of human life from conception to natural death. His decision is mysterious and we can't know why he would decide to be cremated, but I find it a little bewildering why a Bishop should teach us from the grave something that goes against our Holy Tradition.
For us, there is something sacred about the body because all Catholics, whether they were great sinners or inspiring Saints, both have been touched by the Divine, by Baptism, by Confirmation, by the Holy Eucharist, by the Sacrament of the Sick and Confession. These things matter. Our Bishops and Priests and even laymen may not be 1st century martyrs, but neither are they pagans. All of our lives, as Catholics, are touched by God, Who breathed His spirit into us and adopted us as His children by virtue of our Baptism. The Church has left us, apparently, with cremation as an option, but, much like the issue of communion standing and in the hand, it is an option.
The Church has left us also with a tradition of what the preferred option - the norm, if you like - really is. Communion in the tongue, kneeling, teaches the reality of Christian belief in the Real Presence. Burial teaches us the reality of Christian Death, in the hope of the Resurrection. Christ was buried and Priests and Bishops are indeed conferred with a special Grace upon their ordination to be Alter Christus. I don't know whether the decision by the Bishop was out of a sense of unworthiness or humility, but I do think that he may have misunderstood the huge, unfathomable dignity and greatness of his Office.
I remember going to Westminster Cathedral recently and being shown around the crypt and touching the tombs of Cardinals Wiseman and Manning. I know very little about their lives. All I know is that they were popular, still popular Cardinals and here their bodies reposed, but to be so close to their remains was special because of their Office and our shared communion with them. Obviously, I know they are both in Heaven because Cardinal Manning said to me, "I don't like how they do things here nowadays."
The Holy Father continues to present us with the Church's norm - Holy Church's preference for us - more so now in times of confusion, scandal and neglect of those mysteries which the Faithful have held as most sacred for generations. I cannot imagine any Successor of St Peter asking to be burned and Christ Himself has in all things shown us an example for follow, even in His Death and His Burial, but then, this is England and Wales and we do things differently here...right? Are we going to get to a stage where we have a new Catechism for England and Wales which is different to the Church's Universal one? Do our Bishops see Rome as a "foreign power"? I could go on, but I won't. May the Soul of Bishop Michael Evans and all the Faithful departed rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon them.