Burying a Statue of St. Joseph to Sell One’s Home

Issue: What does the Church say about the custom of burying a statue of St. Joseph for the purpose of selling one’s home?

Response: The Church teaches that the faithful should pray to the saints for their intercession. 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.

Discussion: St. Joseph—patron saint of the Universal Church, patron of workers, and protector of virgins—is also the patron saint of the family and of household needs. Many have trusted in him as a powerful intercessor.

The origin of burying a statue of St. Joseph for the purpose of selling one’s home is uncertain. Some say the tradition can be traced back hundreds of years to St. Teresa of Avila, who invoked St. Joseph’s intercession in order to obtain land for new convents. According to this tradition, St. Teresa encouraged her companions to bury their St. Joseph medals as a symbol of devotion. Over time, the practice of burying medals evolved into that of burying statues. Today, some organizations promote this practice and have developed complete “Underground Real Estate Agent” kits. Many home-sellers and real estate agents nationwide continue this tradition.

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, having religious art in one’s home, or placing a statue of a saint in one’s yard—it is an outward sign of an inward devotion. Ideally, people who turn to this custom do so as a symbol of their devotion—an external sign of their trust in St. Joseph as a powerful intercessor. They demonstrate their faith in the power of prayer and the communion of saints. The individual consecrates the ground in the name of St. Joseph and asks him to intercede with God the Father on his or her behalf for the sale of the home.

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. While such practices do not replace the liturgical life of the Church, they do extend it (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1675). The tradition of burying a statue of St. Joseph is rooted in the practice of intercessory prayer, which in turn is rooted in the mystery of the communion of saints. Asking for the intercession of the saints is a healthy discipline that the Church promotes. The Scriptures state: “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (Jas. 5:16). The saints in heaven surpass the faithful on earth in righteousness; they have been perfected by God’s love and their prayers are powerful indeed. To ask the saints to intercede on one’s behalf affirms one’s belief in the communion of saints and trust in God’s love.

At the same time, to bury a statue of St. Joseph is not a recipe for guaranteed success in selling one’s home, nor is it a totem that will magically produce the desired results. To perform the outward signs without inward devotion can reduce the custom to superstition. The Church warns against the dangers of superstition. The Catechism tells us that superstition

can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition. (no. 2111)

If a person’s decision to bury a statue of St. Joseph rises from superstitious belief, it can be detrimental to his or her faith. Devotional practices must be in harmony with the life and spirit of the Church and should always lead to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of Christ (see Catechism, nos. 1674-76).

The faithful can benefit from following the custom of burying a statue of St Joseph so long as they are careful not to fall into superstition or attribute success to an improper source. The Church encourages practices that prioritize prayer, foster devotion to the saints, and draw people closer to God. This custom has the potential to help the faithful do all three.

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Recommended Reading:

Holy Bible (Catholic edition)

Catechism of the Catholic Church (Paperback and Hardback available)

Vatican II Documents

Hahn and Suprenant, eds., Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God

Leon Suprenant and Philip Gray, Faith Facts: Answers to Catholic Questions

Ted Sri, Mystery of the Kingdom: On the Gospel of Matthew

Leon Suprenant, ed., Servants of the Gospel

Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Without a Doubt: Bringing Faith to Life

To order these and other titles, call Emmaus Road Publishing toll-free: (800) 398-5470 or visit www.emmausroad.org

Other Available FAITH FACTS:

• All in the Family: The Communion of Saints • Holy Things to the Holy: Sacred Things, Places, and Times • Signs and Symbols • St. Joseph: Patron of the Universal Church & Co-Patron of Catholics United for the Faith • St. Mary Magdalene: A Model Penitent • St. Nonna: Patroness of Information Services • St. Patrick: The Apostle of Ireland • St. Thomas More: Co-patron of Catholics United for the Faith • Ss. Peter and Paul

Call 1-800-MY-FAITH (693-2484).

FAITH FACTS are a free membership service of Catholics United for the Faith.

Catholics United for the Faith
827 N. Fourth St., Steubenville, OH 43952
(800) 693-2484

www.cuf.org

© 2005 Catholics United for the Faith

Date created:
10/12/2005
Date edited:
9/26/2007

Location of the Choir during Mass

Issue: What is the proper location of the choir during the Mass?

Response: The choir should be placed where it is part of the assembly, where it allows each member to fully participate in the Mass, and where it has the ability to be heard.

The Vatican II Instruction on Implementing the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy (Inter Oecumenici) states: “The choir and organ shall occupy a place clearly showing that the singers and the organist form part of the united community of the faithful and allowing them best to fulfill their part in the liturgy” (no. 97).

Discussion: The choir aids the community in prayer and worship. It helps focus the community’s attention on the liturgical action taking place at the ambo, the altar, and the chair.

In accordance with Inter Oecumenici, the General Instruction to the Roman Missal states that the position of the choir should show that it is part of the assembly—but a part that has a special function. The location should help the choir to exercise its duties and allow each member to fully participate in the Mass (GIRM nos. 294, 312).

Music in Catholic Worship (1972, 1982), issued by the United States Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, affirms these principles: The “proper placing of the organ and choir according to the arrangement of the church will facilitate celebration. . . . Visually it is desirable that the choir appear to be part of the worshipping community, yet a part which serves in a unique way” (no. 38).

The document Built of Living Stones, issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in November of 2000, also provides guidelines regarding the choir’s placement. The stated preference is for the choir to be in a position where it is part of the assembly, and not to be in or near the sanctuary. At the same time, occasions or physical situations (such as lack of space) may necessitate that the choir be placed in or near the sanctuary. In such cases, the choir must not be a distraction from the liturgy or overshadow the priest (no. 90).

With the aid of music, the congregation is drawn into the beauty of the liturgy. Having the choir in an appropriate location to perform its proper function enhances the community’s ability to worship.

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Recommended Reading

Holy Bible (Catholic Edition)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Documents of Vatican II

Sacrosanctum Concilium

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy

General Instruction of the Roman Missal

USCCB, Built of Living Stones

USCCB, Music in Catholic Worship

Hahn and Suprenant, eds., Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God

Leon Suprenant and Philip Gray, Faith Facts:Answers to Catholic Questions

Ted Sri, Mystery of the Kingdom: On the Gospel of Matthew

Leon Suprenant, ed., Servants of the Gospel

Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Without a Doubt: Bringing Faith to Life

To order these and other titles, call Emmaus Road toll-free: (800) 398-5470 or visit www.emmausroad.org.

Other Available Faith Facts

• Smells, Bells, and Other Liturgical Odds & Ends • Following Our Bishops • Dogmatizing Discipline • Defending Our Rites: Constructively Dealing With Liturgical Abuse • Liturgical Dancing • The Mass: Timeless and Changing

Call 1-800-MY-FAITH (693-2484).

FAITH FACTS are a free membership service of Catholics United for the Faith.

Catholics United for the Faith
827 N. Fourth St., Steubenville, OH 43952
(800) 693-2484

www.cuf.org

 

© 2005 Catholics United for the Faith

Date created:
10/12/2005
Date edited:
7/2/2014