Saints, statues, and superstition

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is No. 21 in the series. Please read my introduction and explanation here.

St. Joseph sold our home!

I am so happy I bought St. Joseph! I buried him upside down next to our mailbox and where the realtor put our For Sale sign.

Truly, St. Joseph did have his MOJO working,… we put out our For Sale sign, planted him at the base of the sign, head down, facing the street, at a shallow depth and said prayers.

I buried our St. Joseph Statue and we put our for sale by owner sign in the ground, walked into our house and received a call almost immediately. We sold our house in 10 days and I have been thanking St. Joseph ever since.1

Now I’m guessing a lot of Catholics cringe at stuff like this. Or laugh…like I did. Because it’s just so silly. The problem is, a lot of Catholics don’t and the Church does not discourage it.

Superstitious practices are officially frowned upon by the Catholic Church,2 but some are allowed to flourish anyway because they are closely tied to official doctrine. Such as the popular belief that if you bury a statue of St. Joseph somewhere on your property while trying to sell your house, he will act as your personal realtor and get that house sold. Since St. Joseph is said to be, among other causes, the patron saint of house hunters, and the Church says we can pray to saints to help us, the element of superstition is mitigated by the fervency and devotion of the seller’s faith in the saint.

The Catholic apologist website defends the practice of burying St. Joseph by equating it with other “incarnational” elements of Catholic spirituality like kneeling at Mass or folding one’s hands in prayer. “It is not blasphemous or sacrilegious, but an authentic form of Catholic folk piety.” The article does go on to warn against actually attributing any positive results to the physical act itself instead of to God or the saint’s intercession. But is it reasonable to suppose that anyone who goes to the trouble of purchasing the St. Joseph Home Seller Statue Kit and burying it according to the accompanying directions would perform those acts of piety if they didn’t believe they were efficacious?Catholic shrine

The Catholic Church’s fondness for icons also contributes to superstitions like this. Multiple statues of saints adorn Catholic churches and shrines all over the world, as well as many Catholic homes. Catholic Online at encourages believers to maintain an altar or shrine in their home…a “space reserved for God and the saints,” with statuary and candles.

Pope Francis slips prayer requests under a statue of St. Joseph he keeps just outside his room. It’s one of the few things he requested be sent over from Argentina after his election. No need to bury it – the papal residence isn’t for sale. But the pope is so devoted to the saint that he consecrated the whole of the Vatican City State to St. Joseph and Michael the Archangel.3

All the attention, attribution, and veneration the Catholic Church gives to men and women who have gone on to the next life – the cult of saints…how can this not detract from the praise and honor due God alone? Yes, you may maintain that it is God who actually gets the job done. But in practice this is similar to the father who gives his young son money and takes him to buy his mommy a birthday present. Without the dad this gift could never have been received by the mom. But who gets all the hugs and kisses?

Superstition thrives where truth is not valued highly enough to make it worth the effort to seek and know it. And the Catholic Church flirts with idolatry when the cult of saints and their iconography serve to divert glory and praise from the only One who deserves it.

Jeremiah 10:3-4  for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move.

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2111