Christine's innocent mentioning
of a statue of St. Joseph in her yard brought to mind what is, in my view, one of the funniest Catholic customs in existence. This is the kind of thing that convinces fundamentalists that their worst rumours they've heard about Catholics are true.
I'm referring to the centuries-old tradition of burying a statue of St. Joseph outside your house in order to expedite its sale. But don't forget the specifics: upside down, so the head is facing downward, in the rear of the house, approximately three feet from the exterior wall, and twelve inches underground. And don't forget, once the house is sold, to dig it up and place it in the new home for appropriate veneration. Perhaps placing him upside-down is meant to give him a headache, which will give him a little encouragement to get things moving.
No one seems to know where the practice originated; I'm not even going to dignify some of the absurd claims out there by stating them. Though some put its origins back in the Middle Ages, it seems to have only gained popularity in the contemporary United States, where it has become so popular that realtors - Catholic, Protestant, or athiest - are marketing St. Joseph House Selling Kits
, which sell like hotcakes.
Needless to say, this a prime example of what the Catechism refers to as 'superstition':
CCC 2111: "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."
But, idolatry or no, it's also one of those things that make me happy to be Catholic. I mean, what other religion gives birth to such hilarious eccentricities as these?