I have noted before that the majority of Roman Catholics (especially those I know in real life) are quite different than the online Roman Catholics I have met who tend to be more well-versed in their Church’s doctrines. Certainly this practice of burying a St. Joseph statue in your yard to sell your house would be frowned upon by well-catechized Roman Catholics, I thought.
So I was surprised to find the following excerpts on the Catholics United for the Faith website:
“The custom of burying a statue of St. Joseph for the purpose of selling one’s home can be in harmony with the teachings of the Church when grounded in prayer for St. Joseph’s intercession. At the same time, the Church cautions against superstitious beliefs such as attributing some power to the act of burying the statue.”
“Burying a statue of St. Joseph for the purpose of selling one’s home is an action similar to wearing a saint’s medal or a scapular…an external sign of their trust in St. Joseph as a powerful intercessor.”
“The Church neither encourages nor discourages this practice. She recognizes that different forms of piety and popular devotion can be beneficial to believers, helping them to grow in faith, trust, and personal holiness.”
However, Jimmy Akin disagrees with CUF as stated in his article on the same topic:
“While it is reasonable to ask St. Joseph for his intercession in helping buy or sell a home… the idea of burying a statue of him upside down has no plausible connection to any patronly interest he might have in housing.
Because an efficacy is attributed to a religious act that has no apparent rational basis, the act qualifies as superstition or a perverse excess of religion. The Catechism notes that "Superstition in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion" (CCC 2110).”
However, some of Akin’s commenters disagreed with him. So who is right?
Apparently this is an area of uncertainty for the Roman Catholic since there is no infallible judgment by their Church and an area of general disagreement as to whether the practice would qualify as “superstitious” or not. On the surface this doesn’t sound like a big deal until you realize that the catechism paragraph that Akin referred to (CCC 2110) deals with the first commandment and keeping the commandments is necessary in Roman Catholic soteriology (CCC 2068).
That leaves the Roman Catholic walking a thin line between honorable Catholic piety and potentially damning idolatry. Despite their possession of an infallible authority to provide certainty in matters of faith and morals, the only thing the Roman Catholic is left with in determining whether the simple matter (with heavy implications) of statue-burying is superstitious or not is their own private judgment.
Funny how that works.
On an interesting side note…in the post by Jimmy Akin, one of his commenters had this to say in response:
“Jimmy, I fear that your Protestant background has coloured your response to this person's inquiry. This practice is not necessarily superstitous, if by it the worshipper is simply intending to visibly manifest his prayer to Saint Joseph.”
If you have ever been the target of online Catholic critiques of your personal motives, you may find Akin’s reponse back amusing:
“You need to be careful in the kind of attributions you make regarding others' backgrounds. I understand the temptation on the part of some to ascribe anything you disagree with that a convert says to his prior religious background, but this is a very dangerous and unreliable thing to do.
It also won't win you friends as nobody likes having their motives psychologically deconstructed as a way of ignoring the arguments they've made.”