A primer on the difference between devotion and superstition

Here’s the entire “Catholic Answers Live” show from yesterday, January 3rd. One of the issues we covered in this show is the superstitious practice of burying a statue of St. Joseph in the yard of a house one is trying to sell. As you’ll hear, I don’t look at all favorably on that deplorable custom. One of the most intriguing calls came from a man named Larry, whom I assume is Catholic (or perhaps he’s just “Catholic”). He argued that Catholic piety regarding reverence toward the Eucharist is “superstitious.” You read that right. I’ve fielded thousands of Catholic-related questions over the years, but that one was among the most bizarre. Take a listen and please feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts on that or anything else we covered (or should have covered) in this show.

P.S. The debate on religious images and the communion of saints that I had with Protestant apologist James White (which I reference in this show) is available here.  


  1. Kellee

    Wow. That guy talking about the Eucharist, I'm blown away by his comments. I know that people don't always understand our faith, hopefully those people want to learn rather then ridicule what they don't understand. I am happy to learn more about our faith. That is why I am thankful for Catholic Radio, because the things that have been talked about are things that I've either A: haven't thought about or B: don't know how to ask.

  2. Jordan

    What I think so many of us Catholics today- so thoroughly modernized, secularized and inundated with the material and the benefits of technology- don't really understand is how many of the beautiful pieties and old devotions that we now remember with fondness (and long for with a reverent nostalgia), were indistinguishable from the same logic which produced these "superstitions" that some now decry. To be afraid of the "messy" and unruly Catholicism of the once superstitious masses is to be afraid of the enchanted universe in which such Eucharistic piety first sprung. It would be far better to call burying the statue of St. Joseph a "practice of the devil" than to call it "superstition"— a thoroughly disenchanting concept which reduces things to inanimate, spiritless matter. "Superstition" reminds us that God controls everything from the skies- until, that is, we doubt Him being there too. The Eucharist is the first superstition of the Church, because "the Son of man has been betrayed into the hands of sinners" and divinity becomes (first in the Mass) present through man's actions. Is the world full of spirits, or not? Is it animated by angels and demons and cherubim? Or is the sacred withdrawn? Can wicked invisible forces be warded off, the house protected, good luck gained, success pleaded and spiritual *power* attained? Or has God kept himself into the skies, where the Body Christ sits solely at His right hand? The war on superstition is the beginning of atheism, save but a handful of pseudo-intellectual types and their pets who think that the sacred can be kept within safe, sanitized boundaries. Isn't this the history of our civilization? From the Reformation to Richard Dawkins?

  3. Patrick Madrid

    Thank you, Jordan. I will mull over your comments and, in due time, post what I hope will be an equally thoughtful response to them. But for the moment . . . judging from your familiar diction, verbiage, and obvious erudition, I get the impression that I just might know who you are.

  4. Nick

    Hey Patrick, good to see you're showing your 'stache next to your username in the comments :)How about a blog post on the arguments for the Revelation of God, like the reality of sin and Virginity of Mary, as presented in the Catechism? It might help clarify the difference between superstition and devotion, devotion and revelation, etc.

  5. EJC Martin

    An aquaitance told me a story about burying St. Joseph. His sister was having trouble selling her house so he told her about burying St. Joseph. She told him that she didn't have a statue. He asked her if she had a Nativity display, if so she should use the one from that. Turns out she did, so she took the statue, carefully wrapped it up and buried it in her yard. After a couple of months my friend was visiting his sister, whose house had still not sold. She complained that it wasn't working so he asked her to see where she had buried it. They went out to the yard and dug up the statue he turned to her and said "that's not St. Joseph, that's one of the wise men!"

  6. Kristian

    It would seem that the first caller was subjected to the "symbol only" error in his catechesis, if he is a Catholic, and does not know the actual teaching of the Church in regards to the Eucharist becoming the Body and Blood of Christ. It would have been nice to hear his follow-up at least to arrive at a clearer prognosis as to the root of the error. Thanks for your perseverance and example in evangelization and apologetics.

  7. Susan L

    We found a small statue of St Joseph buried in our lawn. Probably from the people before us because they were having trouble selling this house. I don't think that the sale came so much from the statue as it was lowering their overblown price. (smile)

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