Digging St. Joe

Digging St. Joe

This is the sort of thing I was talking about yesterday.

Donald Ward Cranley doesn’t need to look at the latest economic indicators to know how the real estate market is faring. He just checks the inventory in his shop, Ward’s Gifts, on High Street in Medford.

If sales of the beige, 5-inch St. Joseph statues are slow, it means the real estate market is strong. If sales are brisk, the market is weak. Lately, all signs point to a real estate meltdown: He’s selling 300 statues a month.

‘‘We can’t keep them in stock,’’ he said. ‘‘Everybody comes in here looking for them. Realtors are buying a dozen at a time.’’

St. Joseph statues have long been used by sellers to help move property. Tradition has it that if you bury a statue upside down and facing the property you are trying to sell, St. Joseph will direct a buyer your way.

There is a fine line between faith and superstition. It’s one thing to offer up prayers, but when you have to follow strict instructions about the way to bury it, you begin to ask questions. Why bury it? Why upside down? Is it some kind of “blackmail” against St. Joseph? “Find a buyer or I’ll leave you buried upside down.”

Custom or voodoo?

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  • Before anyone comments on it, yes, I know that the Google ads are showing ads for St. Joseph home sale kits. I am aware of the irony. I would filter them out, but there are so many of them that it would take half the day to do so.

  • This all reminds me of my mother hanging a rosary in the window before my sister’s wedding so that it wouldn’t rain!

  • The real estate market is tanking? Excellent!!!

    Maybe some realism and sense will return to house prices.

    As for the St. Joseph statues, I rather think the good saint will have the opposite effect from that which is inteneded. St. Joseph was a just man and I seriously doubt whether helping real estate agents make a killing is high on his “to do” list.

  • To clarify, I don’t disbelieve in intercessory miracles. I have experienced them myself. What I disbelieve is that burying the statue of St. Joseph upside down in your yard and saying prayers is any more efficacious than saying the same prayers without burying it.

  • We use the objects as signs of something: The candle is a sign of our prayer, holy water is a sign of our baptism, the paper is a sign of our petition.

    Burying the statue is what?

    It becomes superstition when we start to think that these things are necessary to the prayer being fulfilled. It’s superstition when we treat God like a heavenly slot machine that will only fulfill our requests if we jump through arcane hoops and who must fulfill the request if we do.

    I’m not saying that such practices are necessarily superstition, but when a real estate agent buys dozens of kits with his name emblazoned on them and buries them on properties he’s trying to profit on that’s superstition.

    And there is line somewhere between the two where we slip from true devotion to superstition.

  • Well, if a certain man says the words “This is my Body” while he holds up a wafer of bread, the substance of the bread changes into real flesh.  In this instance the exact words are essential, and they could easily be seen as “arcane hoops” by those outside of the faith.

    There is a vast theological distinction between the sacraments ex opere operato and pious devotions, but I’ll grant you that catechesis, whether before or after Vatican II, has done little to educate the faithful on it.