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“Ask a Priest: Did I Err by Burying a St. Joseph Statue to Sell My House?”
Q: I’m selling my home and my cousin asked if I had a buried a St. Joseph statue. I didn’t. I went to a parish gift shop and they had a home-sellers kit, which is a small statue of St. Joseph, and instructions to bury him upside down, feet pointing in the direction you want to move, and a prayer and novena. After the house sells, you are to go get him and put him in your new home for all to see. I posted about it and was torn up by one woman. Did I do something horrible? Should I go get him? Can I leave him? I don’t know what to do. I bought him from a Catholic church gift shop. If it was wrong, why would they sell it? I’m so conflicted and confused. -D.T.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: In principle it is OK to bury the statue and say the prayers if it is intended as a petition for the intercession of St. Joseph. The Church has long accepted the custom of the faithful having statues and images of the saints.
The danger with this particular practice is that it can border on superstition, or at least give others the impression that Catholics endorse quasi-superstitious practices.
The Catechism in No. 2111 says, “Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It 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.”
In other words, a Catholic shouldn’t bury the statue thinking that, with a few prayers added in, a house sale will be automatic.
Indeed, the instructions spelled out in the “kit” could be perceived as leaning toward the error of presumption. And one should never presume that a certain prayer or act is going to bring a desired result.
If you want to leave the statue buried, that is OK; that is an acceptable way of disposing of blessed items. If you want to retrieve it and display it later, that is OK too.
Whatever you do, do it with a genuine interior spirit of prayer and trust in God’s providence. His main interest is bringing us to an eternal home of rest.