Viewpoint: Cemetery Jogging

At a recent burial in our local Catholic cemetery, I saw two joggers running past the grave site oblivious to the proceedings in progress. It has always irked me that people feel free to use cemeteries as sports facilities, and it demonstrates an  absence of a sense of sacred place.

Nowadays people think that they can do anything they want in public arenas, and that they have no obligation to follow traditional protocols of respect for others. For instance, people will talk loudly in elevators—even about personal matters—oblivious to the fact that there are other people in the elevator. 

So, the moral is: don’t jog in cemeteries; they are the holy resting places of the bodies of the dead.

7 comments

  1. Long before becoming a Pastor, I lived across the street from a large cemetery in Tucson. As a side note, my 19 year old son is buried there, but he wasn’t around when I lived there. Jogging/running wasn’t as visible back in 1973, so I rarely saw someone jogging in the cemetery, but one of horses got away from her handler and she headed out the main gate. By God’s providential care, she didn’t get hit by a car but made it into the cemetery. She proceeded to prance around the seemingly empty field…but in that cemetery had flat, ground level headstones. Knowing this mare as I did, I left her alone, stood at some distance and look downward, as staring at horse is too interpreted by the horse as “let’s play chase”. Having some grain in a bucket I just stood there. Before I knew it she trotted over to me and I caught her gently…..Oh, this technique works well on antagonists in the parish as well….but. I digress…..

    Oh, one quick one while I have your attention: I rarely go to the cemetery to visit my son’s grave. Instead, I take seriously the final line in most of our Proper Prefaces “with angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven, we laud and glorify your holy Name, ever more praising you and singing”. I take this very seriously, and preach on stand mention it in Bible Classes on campus. I see my son, who died 17 years ago at age 19being reckless on a motorcycle. I invite you to see if I am right, during your own Proper Preface and Eucharistic Prayers, to close your eyes and “see” what I am talking about. Not mechanistically it is then that Jesus enters the bread and wine, making it the True Body and Blood of Jesus, to receive the living Lord into our body! Doesn’t that just make you want to shout? OK, we are Lutherans, so a faint smile. I see heaven and earth come together at every Mass, and leave with Christ in me….how can I get any closer in this life.

    Sorry this got kind of long, but this is one of my passions.

  2. Weren’t the first modern cemeteries designed specifically to serve both as resting places for the dead and as public gardens? And I guess that would mean that the first urban parks were also designed specifically to serve both as public gardens and as resting places for the dead. I know that Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston and Green Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn were designed as such.

    I guess you could argue that a church graveyard is a different sort of space, but how many cemeteries are direct extensions of a church yard these days? Cemeteries tend to be big green spaces; they will be multi-use areas.

      1. Which is a change over from when these garden cemeteries were originally founded (you could race carriages in the cemeteries then, and even hunt and shoot). So this isn’t exactly about a decline of respect for resting places for the dead over the years.

      2. I was taught by my parents that the cemetery was a place set apart and one should comport himself accordingly. I might be old-fashioned, but I don’t see that as having changed.

      3. I have the great good fortune to live two blocks from the grand entrance of a garden cemetery founded in 1848. And while currently things like bicycles and pets are prohibited, I know from various tours (a parishioner is an architectural historian and part of the cemetery’s Heritage Foundation) that this is far from the way Cave Hill was originally conceived. It very much functioned as our current urban parks do now. Picnics, concerts, Sunday carriage rides were all part of its uses. It was seen as a place where city dwellers unable to afford lands or estates would have a place for recreation in beautiful surroundings.

        I’m not so sure that the more modern understanding of these cemeteries is better. There is something to be said for the dead being a part of the ordinary stuff of life as a vision of the communion of saints living and dead. Our current culture works too hard to sanitize and distance us from death these days.

      4. Which is what triggered the advent of rules of permitted/unpermitted uses even back in the 19th century as alluded to by Keith Eggener’s history of this genre of cemetery. (Warbler watching in the spring is of course a venerable customary coexisting use of the place – then again, bird watching requires personal calm.) I have to say I am very fond of Mount Auburn, and also that in my many experiences of being there, people are generally respectful of the rules. It may be that its many layers of attraction elicit that from them more than rules as such.

        https://www.popsci.com/sites/popsci.com/files/styles/1000_1x_/public/images/2018/10/mount_auburn_in_summer.jpg

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