Print Edition: Feb. 22, 2015
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Selling your home? Don’t bury St. Joseph — venerate him
BY JOSEPH PRONECHEN
The foster father
of the Son of God was a hard-working man — an industrious and dedicated
carpenter, to be precise.
We remember this aspect of his
life on May 1, feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
But his builder’s skills and
diligent work ethic are not the main reasons many people turn to him as a
patron of real estate. They’re hoping he will sell their houses quickly.
“He’s a logical patron for finding
a home or helping someone else find your home,” explains Father Joseph Linck, director of the office of divine worship for the
Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn. He points out that God called St.
Joseph to find shelter for the Holy Family in Bethlehem,
Egypt and Nazareth.
To be sure, seeking St. Joseph’s intercession
is always wise and admirable. Problem is, today there are many goads to turn
away from devotion and toward superstition: Some crafty marketers are making a
bundle on St. Joseph
These generally consist of a small
plastic statue of the saint with a set of instructions. Bury St. Joseph in the front yard, you’re told.
For surest results, place him near your sign and facing your house. Tell him
you’ll dig him up when he sells the house and put him in a place of honor in
your new home.
Is this the way to treat Jesus’
“Don’t hold the saints hostage!”
says EWTN’s Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa.
“That’s the basic underlying issue. Pray to St. Joseph for his intercession. That’s a
good thing. If anybody understands what its like to be in a high-risk situation
for homes, it’s St. Joseph.
It’s a good idea to ask his intercession to sell you house and other things.
But don’t hold him hostage.”
Lonny and Linda Hofer, who had to
relocate from one part of Rapid City, S.D., to another, did turn to St. Joseph for his intercession with their
sale. Not knowing the history behind the statue-burying custom, they planted
But first, says Linda, they began
a novena to St. Joseph.
“Very shortly afterwards, the house sold,” says Linda. “We did the novena with
At their new home, they got a
“When we moved here, my son found
this little statue of St. Joseph
in the yard lying in the grass,” says Linda. “And it wasn’t ours.”
Missionary Oblate of Mary
Immaculate Father William McSweeney, director of St.
Joseph the Worker Shrine in Lowell, Mass., is uncomfortable with burying the
statues, yet appreciates and admires the faith some people put in the saint via
the problematic practice.
“I don’t want to do anything that
is opposed to that [faith],” says Father McSweeney.
“Most people’s intentions are good.” Best of all, he has an opportunity to
gently set things straight when they ask or tell him about the burying.
When and where did it become de rigeur to
plant St. Joseph
in a hole in the ground to help with a home sale? And what’s the right way to
enlist his aid in the process?
traces the first of two iffy influences to misdirected piety in the Middle Ages, when some folks’ devotional fervor went well
beyond the bonds of what the Church actually endorsed.
“It was actually thought that, if
you did something to an image of someone, you did it to the person
represented,” says Father Linck. At some point people
got the idea that the saints could be threatened with various punishments if
they didn’t perform certain intercessions. It wasn’t the common understanding
but, yes, such silliness happened.
“An image of the saints is meant
to be venerated,” reminds Father Linck, who finds
devotion to the saints wonderful and encourages balanced piety. “But you can’t
say you’re venerating an image of the saint if you’re burying him in the
kit” is also a misinterpretation of a legitimate 16th-century practice of St.
Teresa of Avila.
Very devoted to St. Joseph,
she prayerfully buried his medals to consecrate any property she wished to
obtain for convents.
The practice of sanctifying the
ground with a religious medal, so as to place the site under the protection or
patronage of a saint, is very different from expecting a cause-and-effect
response from the handling of a talisman or a lucky charm.
“The important thing in all this,”
he adds, “is prayer.”
It’s a route Stephen Carter
recently took. He didn’t even consider burying St. Joseph’s statue. “I didn’t need any of
the superstition,” he says. “I just used good old-fashioned prayer.”
Contemplating job changes and his
responsibilities uprooting his wife and family to a new
city, Carter prayed for St. Joseph’s
intercession for every area and lit a seven-day vigil candle by St. Joseph’s statue in
Within that week, he changed jobs
smoothly; before the realtor listed the their house, somebody surprisingly
knocked on their door to ask if they wanted to sell it; and the Carters
immediately knew the house they inspected in Woodbury, Minn., was for them.
“We looked out the bedroom
window,” says Carter, “and there was a statue of Mary with her hands stretched
toward our new home.”
In Plain Sight
Linda Hofer tells about her sister
Carolle Weber and her husband moving to Sioux Falls from Scottsdale,
Ariz., last spring. Carolle didn’t think the house would sell fast.
“She had a deep devotion to St. Joseph,” relates
Linda. “She didn’t put the statue of St.
Joseph outside and do all those crazy things. She said
their parish priest told them to put St.
Joseph on their mantle. She did. She started a novena,
and the house sold the first day on the market.” That whirlwind answer amazed
says homesellers should invoke St. Joseph’s intercession by placing a
picture, icon or statue somewhere in the home — and looking upon it as a prayer
“Pray daily to St. Joseph and ask him for his intercession,”
says the priest. “Upon selling the house or finding one, honor St. Joseph in your new home. Make him a
patron of the home and the family. And continue to ask him for his intercession
for the life of the family and home life.”
The American family has never been
under such strain as it is right now, Father Linck
“We need St. Joseph,” he adds, “where we can see him.”
Joseph Pronechen writes from
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