Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Gentle Plea to Catholics: Stop Burying St. Joseph!

 I love St. Joseph. He is the patron saint of the worker, the Patron of the Universal Church, and a good guy to get to know. (Anyone known as The Terror of Demons is someone I want on my side. And that terror is caused not by Buffy the Vampire-like powers, but by his humility.)

And I love having statues or paintings of saints around the house. They are a reminder of the example set by these people--an example of how to live like Christ.

And, being Catholic, I believe in the intercession of saints, both those with a capital "S" and those friends and relatives who have passed on.  And with the popular book and movie "Heaven is for Real",  maybe Protestants will even believe. After all, one of the things that Colton does in heaven is pray for his father.

Finally, I understand that certain saints are the patrons of professions or situations, because in life, they either worked in these industries, worked miracles in Jesus' name for certain people, or received a certain miracle themselves.

St. Peregrine is the patron saint of those with cancer, because he was miraculously cured from cancer.

St. Genesius is the patron saint of actors. He was an actor, and legend has it that during a performance of a play that he wrote to mock Christians, (appropriately enough, during a baptism scene), he converted to Christianity. It cost him his life.

St. Monica is the patron saint of alcoholics. Her son, St. Augustine, embraced an immoral life, and she prayed for him for many years until his conversion.

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I get it. These stories are inspiring, and people keep up these devotions because they've seen results.

And then we have the  "St. Joseph Home Seller Kit".

The practice is to bury a St. Joseph statue underground in order to sell your house.  Burying a statue is weird enough, but there is something particularly disturbing about burying it upside down.

I can even understand why people think of St. Joseph as an intercessor when they need to move. He uprooted the Holy Family and took them into Egypt and back again at the advice of a messenger of God, which was a difficult task.

And I want to be clear:  I'm not questioning the intentions of people who bury the St. Joseph statue.  I just don't believe they've thought through what there actually doing.

Here is an example:

My mother wants me to visit her, so she buries a Jackie doll in her backyard to get me to come.

First off, I would be flattered that I had my own doll. Then I would be incensed that Mom would bury it in the backyard. I mean, why not just ask me?

And there it is in a nutshell. It's all about relationship, whether your talking to Jesus or Joseph.  Neither Christ nor his saints (including His mother) are at our beck and call. Performing rituals to get something out of them is a bit impersonal, insulting, and, dare I say it, pagan.

Does this mean you shouldn't ask St. Joseph for his help?

Not at all, but have a conversation with him! Tell St. Joseph your need, and ask him to intercede for you. You would ask family members to pray for you, and St. Joseph is a member of that big, extended family--the Body of Christ, also know as the Universal Church.

I know that many Catholics look on this practice as a harmless old wive's tale, but I think that it demeans both the importance of St. Joseph's role in Jesus' life and the relationship that should exist in prayer, whether you are praying to Jesus or asking for the intercession of a saint.

You can be confident in your prayer, knowing that God answers all prayers, but have the humility to understand that it will be according to His plan and His will.

There is absolutely nothing wrong in asking St. Joseph for his intercession, but please do it in a respectful manner!

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