Thursday, August 24, 2006

Saint Joseph the Realtor

From Heartland News:
Cape Girardeau, MO - If faith can move mountains, surely it can move homes. If you're having a tough time selling your home, why not call on St. Joseph. A statue may be the answer to a home sellers prayers. The claim is: Call on him. He's the only realtor you'll ever need.

The door is slamming shut on a sellers market. Housing sales are no longer blowing through the roof, leaving many paying more attention to the outside of the home.

David Hulshof is a father at Saint Vincent de Paul in Cape Girardeau where a statue of Saint Joseph hangs on the church walls. "Our Catholic tradition has, and continues to be, the patron saint of the home with Mary, and the care of the child, Jesus," explained Hulshof.

When all else seems to be failing, some weary home sellers look for heavenly intervention. "Anytime you have a situation where you find yourself a little bit anxious, even in some cases, desperation, you're looking for any angle that you can get," said Hulshof.

In the past six months, statues have been flying off store shelves. Home owners bury them in their yards. "They talk about him being upside down because that's a difficult position for him and the house will get sold a little quicker," said Hulshof.

There is no hard and fast rule, but there are number of ways Saint Joseph's blessing claims to fall upon the household, upside down, right side up, in the rear, front, 3 feet away, 12 inches deep, away from the house, towards house. Once he's buried, comes the faith of asking, believing, trusting, thanking, moving the statue, and sharing the experience. "Their home is sold not because of burying him in the ground, but because of the prayer and patience, said Hulshof.

Father David wants to be absolutely clear that this practice is not an official teaching of the Catholic Church. The important thing to remember is that the power is in the prayers and devotion to him, not in the burial practice.

I first heard of this bizarre practice years ago. I don’t know what to make of it. On the one hand, it is such rank superstition as to approach classic pagan idolatry and occult magical practices. On the other hand, I have known a number of people who have done it and swear that it worked. I can’t help wondering if God in His mercy sometimes honors misplaced but child-like faith, in spite of really bad theology.

I’m sure as heck not advocating a laissez-faire approach to heretical teachings. If the Church doesn’t identify and suppress such things, the faithful soon have nowhere to turn for the truth. A glance at my former denomination shows the end result of accommodating deviant doctrines – befuddled, splintering congregations and sheep with no shepherds. But it’s a little bit different when you just have some oddball ideas floating around the general population. I would expect the clergy to use this as an opportunity to gently instruct their congregations in what is and isn’t real – that prayer to the saint for his intercession is appropriate, and devotion to God’s saints is a form of praise and honor to God Himself, but burying upside-down statues is a little over the top. At the individual level, however, I suspect the Lord is more concerned with whether we’re seeking Him than whether we have each and every doctrine exactly correct. Perhaps His response is something like, “Your brain may be a bit addled, my child, but your heart’s in the right place. We’ll get the brain sorted out in due time.” I hope so, because I’m sure I don’t have it all quite right myself.