Sunday, August 07, 2005
Burying Statues  

Over at Open Book, one of the discussions veered on to some of the practices of Catholics which are done in the name of devotion to the saints. One practice in particular was brought up that really got me thinking. That act is the burial of a statue of St. Joseph, upside-down in the backyard of your house in order to help your house to sell.

On its face, this practice seems to be pure and simple superstition. This is like any of the weird actions someone might take to get some other thing to happen. For example, it seem like rubbing a lucky rabbit's foot, performing daily activities in a certain order, or insisting on wearing a lucky tie to an interview. Or is burying the statue different?

In order to think about this, I put together a sort of thought experiment. Let's suppose there are two Catholics who live on the same street, and they both are trying to sell their houses. The first one gets a blessed statue of St. Joseph, buries it in the backyard upside-down, ask for St. Joseph's intercession, and then goes about the usual business of selling the house. The other guy talks to his friends, gets their recommendation for a really good real estate agent, contacts the agent and starts the process of selling his house.

The difference between the two is that the former opened himself up to God, whereas the latter simply went about selling the house, as if it was of little or no consequence to God how he sold his house. God is interested in every detail of our lives. He is not distant and cold and only concerned about certain moral areas of our life. The former person might have used a somewhat odd way to ask for God's help, but it is clear that although quirky, the practice exhibits a degree of trust in God.

The point behind even the worst form of superstition is that you recognize that you are not completely in control. There is someone or something that has control over events in your life and in the lives of others. In order to ask for assistance from this entity, you perform some certain action.

The problem with superstition is when it is assumed that if you perform some action or same some certain wording, a particular event is "guaranteed" to occur, or at least it is more likely to happen. In other words, you are trying to gain control over this entity by binding it with your actions. Somewhere it is written that if you do X, the powerful entity in the universe must do Y.

The fact is that I do not believe that most people who bury statues think this way. Sure they want results, but they are also sure that it is not completely up to them. They have asked for the prayers of St. Joseph in a rather simple way. By burying the statue they have added a physicality to their prayers. There is a reminder that they invoked the intercession of St. Joseph. Perhaps this memory will remind them when the house sells that it was God who was in charge, not them, and they will thank God for the sale of their house. In other words, they have put their house selling in the hands of God, by asking one of his saints to intercede to God on behalf of the house seller.

Considering the second house seller, I might conclude that he has perhaps shut himself off from God's working in and through his house selling. Perhaps God does not want him to work with the most successful real estate agent in town. Maybe God wants him to work with another real estate agent who needs help which the house seller can give.

By praying to God, whether a simple mental prayer or burying a statue, he would have opened himself up to the Lord leading him to sell the house as God wanted. It is not just about the goal of selling the home, it is about the process of selling a house, or any other activity in which we engage.

Similarly, the goal of the Christian life is not simply to get to heaven, the process of getting there by God's grace is the important matter. This is our sanctification and the offering we present to God--our lives including the nitty-gritty daily tasks, activities, and decisions. The goal cannot be separated from the process because without the process there will be no reaching the goal. The key is to submit the process to God in order that He can help us in that process and ultimately to reach the goal.

Posted by David at 2:30 PM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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