Saturday, June 4, 2005

MH - St. Joseph the Realtor?

A very interesting discussion (here and here) over at Zippy Catholic about the practice of burying a St. Joseph statue to aid in selling your home. This originally started over at Jimmy Aiken’s blog, and Zippy has carried it over with comments of his own (and further debate in the comments box).

The question boils down to this: is burying the statue an act of superstition? Jimmy thinks so; Zippy isn’t so sure you can say that categorically:
[I]f the person performing the act views it as a devotional act pleasing to the saint, intended as a concrete act of devotion in conjunction with asking for the saint's intercession, it is not superstitious. If the person performing the act views it as something that compels the saint to grant a wish like a genie summoned from a bottle, it is superstitious.
Now, we do have some experience with this, having sold two homes in the last three years. We were given the St. Joseph selling kit as a gift, and while we did bury the statue (in the garden; we thought St. Joseph would appreciate the peace and color of the flowers), we also said the prayers that went along with the kit, and continued to pray until the house sold (which it did in four days; the good Saint is also a good realtor). More recently, we did not bury the statue (we kept it on a display shelf where it’s rested since being removed from the earth), but did say the prayers. Again, the house sold, and while it wasn’t as fast as the first one (the market’s not as good, either) it sold more quickly than other houses in the neighborhood.

I don’t mean to strike a flip attitude about this, but my purpose is to throw my lot with Zippy’s comments; had we simply buried the statue and figured that was all there was to it, I think that would clearly have been an act of superstition. Our success in selling our second house indicates to me that it isn’t necessary to bury the statue at all; having it as a symbol of our devotion to St. Joseph and as an aid in our prayer is sufficient. But what was essential was prayer – that, and gratitude afterward for our prayers being answered.

We have absolutely no doubt that our prayers to St. Joseph were heard and answered. Were it not for our trust in Jesus’ foster father and our confidence that he would intervene with his Son on our behalf, I don’t believe either of our sales would have gone as smoothly or as quickly as they did. True, it helps to have good realtors; but who’s to say St. Joseph didn’t have something to do with that as well? And if your house doesn’t sell as quickly as you’d hoped? Well, it’s reasonable to assume someone else might be out there praying to St. Joseph for help in buying a house; finding yours might be the answer to their prayers, and should we be so selfish as to suggest that St. Joseph can’t answer both requests at the same time?

As the man closest to Jesus during His childhood, we should be confident that St. Joseph remains close to Him in Heaven. As protector of the Holy Family and of the Church, we should not doubt that he wishes protection for us as well, and wants to do what he can to help. Perhaps the statue is unnecessary, but the tradition of the Church welcomes religious art as an aid to prayer and a visible sign of the veneration we have for the saints. Used in that manner, and not as a magic tonic (nor in thinking that you have to bury him in a particular position, location, or in fact at all), I see no problem in having a statue of St. Joseph accompany your prayers for success in selling your house. But the statue isn’t the important thing: prayers, and faith, are.

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