When the Time is Near to Say Goodbye

Every once in a while, I come across people who come and claim that a loved one has passed away and a funeral is requested in a Catholic church, because the next-of-kin claims that the recently deceased was baptised as a Catholic. While we empathise with such persons and offer our condolences, it may also be necessarily to furnish some proof or evidence that the recently deceased was indeed baptised and a practising Catholic, especially if we are not too familiar with the persons affected, or have not seen or heard of such persons affected.

Some of you may be wondering: "Are we being judgemental here?" Actually, no. As many of us know or ought to know, a person must be baptised and a practising Catholic before other sacraments or church rites could be administered. Also, some persons have, in the past, tried to find an easy way out or save cost by having a Christian burial, as a non-Christian funeral could rack up a substantial amount (for example, a funeral and burial according to certain Chinese customs could really burn a massive hole in your wallet, especially after taking into consideration the cost of the coffin, getting the services of a Taoist priest, Buddhist monk or some Chinese-belief religious leader; as well as other funeral expenses). Moreover, if a person has been found to have converted to a certain faith, the authorities of that faith would want to claim the body of the recently deceased for funeral rites of that faith, seeing how such issues had occurred in the not-too-distant past, and caused much consternation and anguish among the next-of-kin.  If such a scenario happens, a baptism certificate may not make much of a difference, though it may come in handy should it be somehow proven that the person's conversion to the other faith is null and void.

That is why, a baptism certificate is such an important document for all baptised Catholics. It seems strange that many of us would be careful not to lose our IC (Identity card, especially in Malaysia and in some other countries), or some other important document such as a driver's license or passport. Also, it seems strange that many of us would be extra cautious not to lose our ATM bank card, credit cards or debit cards, since we know the consequences of losing such important items. Yet when it comes to the baptism certificate, I wonder how many of us make the effort to keep it in a safe place where it could be retrieved and referred to when the need arises. Also, I wonder how many of us make effort to ensure that we have our baptism and other sacrament records kept up-to-date, and have a latest baptism certificate at hand, should the need to furnish one arises.

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: if tomorrow never comes, would our family members have the necessary documentation to proceed with the necessary preparations? Would we want to add to the anxiety and pain already being experienced by our loved ones? Let us not slack or procrastinate further, and do ourselves and everyone else some charity and mercy, by ensuring our baptism certificate and other sacrament certificates are up-to-date and accessible.

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