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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Up Above the Clouds

I promised I would explain about St. Joseph's involvement in buying and selling real estate, a phenomena that little old Catholic ladies love and I would guess just about every Catholic priest and bishop wishes would stop, all memory of it's existence wiped clean.

Let's start with explaining the practice for the uninitiated, should there actually be any left on the planet.

St. Joseph is the patron saint of building a house and making a home. By extrapolation, he became the patron saint of buying a house. Often in order to buy a house, especially with your ever expanding Catholic family, you have to sell the house in which you live. It's not hard to imagine that you might pray for the intercession of St. Joseph to help you find the new house that you can afford that's big enough, and pray you get enough money for your current residence to make the move.

It's not rocket science.


There's this thing that Catholics do. They don't just pray for the intercession of St. Joseph. They actually purchase a smallish statue of St. Joseph. They take said statue and bury it in the yard of the house, usually the front yard, facing the house.

And you know what? The house sells. Bang - 0- wango. Often for more than the asking price! Face it. People wouldn't keep doing it if it didn't work.

Obviously there are people who have a problem with this. It makes Catholics look like crazy people, out there burying statues in the yard. And poor St. Joseph. I forgot to mention that he is to be buried upside down. I think the idea is that if you put him in a 'stress position' he'll want to get that house sold so he can get out of there. (If you are selling a condo, you can put him in a flower pot.)

Because the most important part of the ritual is that once the house does sell and (and it will), you must dig him back up and take him with you to the new house where he must be honored. Which is another thing the separated brethren get all up in our business about. The honoring saints thing is a problem for them. So the St. Joseph real estate kit makes them apoplectic.

Oh yes! Did I neglect to mention that you can buy a St. Joseph real estate kit? You can get one is just about any Catholic goods store. It consists of a small 4 inch or so statue of St. Joseph and some instructions. I think it costs around $5. But then I haven't priced one in a few years. Adjusted for inflation, maybe $8.

Let's rest here for a moment and take this all in. It's a lot to take in.

Deep breath.

What do I think about it? I'm with the little old ladies. I say, "Go for it!"

First of all, I don't care what people think about Catholic traditions. I'm happy to glom onto anything that reminds the faithful to honor the saints. Especially lovely old St. Joe.

I'll admit I feel a little queasy about burying a statue in the yard. And if you are a St. Joseph bury-er , you have to admit, at least to yourself, that if it wasn't a little statue of St. Joseph that you had to bury but a big honking one, like the size of your Immaculate Conception garden Mary, you probably would feel really foolish getting out the spade to bury him. It could take a while to dig that hole and then you have to bury him. Upside down, no less.


Second...the fact that you have to bury St. Joseph makes the whole thing into a ritual. You have to think about St. Joseph the whole time you're out there with your trowel or your serving spoon, digging through the sod. You better mark the spot so you can come back for him. You have to wash him off when it's over.

And honestly, a while back I was ready to say enough already to the St. Joseph real estate ritual but for two things:

1. The gigantic St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal was built because Blessed Brother Andre relentless bugged St. Joseph to get him the land it on which it is built. Then after the whole thing was built--and if you've ever seen it, it looks like you arrived at the top of the beanstalk at the Giant's house--there was not enough money to finish it by putting on the roof. Everyone was wringing their hands over what a mess that would be and Blessed Brother Andre just smiled and said, "Put the statue of St. Joseph out there with no roof. He'll want a roof over his head and he'll build one." Guess what happened?

2. The St. Joseph real estate kits can be found in Catholic goods stores across the country. If the priests and bishops really wanted to put a stop to it they could. If they can denounce the woman in Georgia who sees Mary in her front yard once a month, they can ask the real estate kit to be yanked from Catholic goods stores. They don't. Why?

Because I think in as much as the poor buried upside down statue is embarrassing, when it comes right down to it, they feel as I have come to feel, that allowing the faithful this small ritual, as long as no one thinks they can just bury the statue and never think twice about St. Joseph or his intercession, that things that connect us together by way of tradition and to the Church by way of the saints is not so bad.

Just don't let your Baptist neighbor catch you out there with your statue and spoon in hand, for all our sakes. We'll never hear the end of it.


Jan B said...

So, here is my question, why is the baby aspirin named after St. Joseph and does do anything if you just bury a bottle of St. Joseph's Baby Aspirin?

Katie said...

My mom bought me "the kit" when we sold our last home. The thought of burying St. Joseph made me a bit queasy so I couldn't bring myself to do it. Maybe having him in the home is good enough because we had buyers literally knocking on our door with offers.

Kasia said...


There's a good reason why the thought of burying St. Joseph made you queasy. When my parents put their house on the market a couple of years ago (it's a buyer's market here in Michigan), one of my stepsisters suggested that my sister the Catholic procure a St. Joseph statue to bury.

She and I were a little uneasy about it, so we did some research. Turns out that the tradition actually grew out of a medieval tradition of threatening St. Joseph in order to get what one wanted. See, apparently in the Middle Ages St. Joseph was seen as...well, as a guy who'd been cuckolded by God. (I can't imagine a better way to be cuckolded, but...) Here he is, engaged to Mary, and then she turns up pregnant with someone else's baby. Yes, with God's baby, but still. So St. Joe didn't command a lot of respect in the Middle Ages, and there was this prevailing idea that one could basically coerce him into helping you. Kind of like Canada now...and St. Joseph is also the patron saint of Canada. Coincidence? ;-)

Seriously - this is one of the times I have to respectfully disagree with SMM. Buy the statue and display it in your house; ask for his intercession; but for mercy's sake, don't bury the statue! I know he's not actually IN it, but it's still less than respectful.

I should add that it took my parents' house a year to sell, and well below their original asking price. Of course, my brother-in-law decided to tease my stepmother by hiding the statue and telling her she was the last one who had it...and he hid it down his shorts...so maybe St. Joe was just a little irked at the whole thing.


Cris said...

Kasia... maybe if you did bury it your parent's house would have sold sooner and for more than the asking price. Maybe St. Joe is one of those guys that is always willing to take one for the team...even if it means he has to be buried upside down. Maybe St. Joe is a SAINT who can look past our crying and begging and demanding and see that we are a people in need-much like Mary was a young girl in need of a strong protector and such.
I gave my St. Joe to a friend who could not bring herself to bury the guy-so he sat on her mantle and he watched her eat ice cream and watch tv every night. The house was not getting any hits. I finally told her that St. Joe was tired of seeing her in her undies on the couch every night and that she should bury the guy.
A week later the house sold-
It is when we let our disbelief in the amazing get the best of us that we start to blame crazy rituals. My St. Joe now sits on my kitchen window watching over all in the house-you can bet that he will be back in the dirt when the time comes to sell this home he found for us.

Or you can just go it alone and see how far that gets ya.


Bridget said...

I don't see the big deal about buring the statue. After all we have to bury old rosaries, scapulars, broken statues, broken crucifix's and anything else that has been blessed.

Kasia said...


No, we actually did bury the statue AND said the novena. Our joke was that if Tom hadn't stuffed the poor guy down his pants, maybe the house would've sold sooner. Our research came after we buried the statue.

Maybe St. Joseph *is* willing to 'take one for the team,' and I don't question his sainthood or general good-egg-ness. (The Canada crack was an affectionate jab at my boyfriend's country of origin.) But I still think burying the statue is superstitious, and always recommend to people that they simply pray for St. Joseph's intercession rather than burying the statue. So I'm not really going it alone. ;-)

What does the Vatican say about burying the statue? That'd settle it...

Cris said...


I thought SMM had an inside track to the Vatican... didn't you? :)

Kasia said...

LOL. I'm betting she has Papa Benedict on speed dial...

...or maybe he has her on speed dial... ;-)

Sparki said...

We bought the statue and said the novena, but we didn't bury it. We sold the house in 4 months, longer than we wanted to but quicker than expected the way the market was this past winter. Thanks be to God and thanks for the help, St. Joseph!

(Now would you please help my husband find a new job?)

Sharon said...

This is one Catholic custom from the USA which hasn't reached Australia.....yet. Of course some enterpreneur will get to hear of it and the custom will take off.

4HisChurch said...

I did it 4 years ago. It worked. St. Joseph sits in a place of honor on my kitchen window sill now.

Sister Jean said...

I don't know if it works or not, but my husband is a carpenter and I wanted a nice St. Joseph statue for his office.

When I went to the statue store, the owner came over and said, "Hey, there! Selling a house? We have these crappy plastic ones for that!"

I said, no, it was for a real carpenter, and he seemed puzzled, but he eventually found me a mid-range small statue (with blue eyes and light hair, something like a Dane) in the back of the room.

I asked my girlfriend who was at the store with me what the deal was about the house selling.

She said her aunt buried one (upside down like Sister says) and the next day, a water main busted, and St. Joseph had been spurted up out of the dirt and was looking at the house in an upright position.

They decided it was a sign, and they decided not to sell, and they still live there. It's true. I been there!

Twice Told Lori said...

OH NO!!!! Our real estate agent didn't tell us we had to dig him back up again after the house sold!!!! He must still be there and that was 7 years ago this July!!!

dani MarieBernadette said...

I wonder how I would go about it if I know that in September I want to move and I am renting not buying and selling ?
Any ideas?
I have been planning on starting to say a Novena every month from the 10th to the 19th. I have a picture of St. Joseph maybe I should get a statue as well and keep it in a place of Honor.

cattiekit said...

I think burying him in a flowerpot applies here. :>)

Not that your plans aren't good enough. :>)

Maybe the flowerpot burial will give it that little extra push in the right direction. ;>D

eastmoormom said...

Sr. your post was timely. my husband and four children are living through the nightmare of selling our home with him in another state. we burried St. Joseph over 5 months ago. we are priced to sell and have done everything we've been asked to do by our realtor. it has been a huge struggle and continues to be. I pray daily, sometimes hourly as the weeks turn into months but i haven't lost faith! I just keep looking for God in all this. may i ask for a prayer from you for a quick sale so that we can be reunited soon?

cattiekit said...

twice told lori!

Maybe the present owners have this nagging notion that they should sell this house....but they can't put their finger(s) on the exact reason *why*.... ;>D

monica said...

eastmoormom, is there any way you can leave the house furnished to sell, and send either you or hubby back to pack up after it sells? that's what we did so we wouldn't have to be separated - just took what we needed and left the rest to 'stage' the house. We're doing a novena now, so we'll include you.

Twice Told Lori said...

Cattiekit, I should ask our real estate agent if she knows if the house has been resold since then...maybe even more than once! Wouldn't that be a real estate agent's dream? The house that always goes up for sale...over and over and over again ;-D I feel so guilty!

Denise said...

Probably pure hooeym but I heard a story:

A woman was having trouble selling her house and took the advice of a friend and buried St. Joseph in her yard and prayed as required.

The house did not sell.

She tried re-burying it facing the house instead of the street.

The house did not sell.

Over the next several months, she tried every combination of upsidedown, rightside up, facing street, facing house, facing neigbor...

She gave up and threw the statue away.

The next week, her local paper ran a story headlined:

County Finally Finds Buyer for Landfill


eastmoormom said...

Monica, so appreciate the extra prayer. given financial situation we are unable to pack up and go. hubby has a very small efficiency apt that he currently stays in. no TV and one burner cook top.

Monica said...

So do I bury my lucky fava beans upside down too or what? I just found them on the bottom of my purse.

: )

cattiekit said...

So, twice told lori? Haave you had a chance to ask the real estate agent about your former home yet? ;>D

denise, that's one good story. Almost has the force of an Urban Legend. Or at least a Really Good Joke. ;>)

monica, when did I miss the story about the "lucky fava beans"?

Somebody enlighten me? Please? :>}

Monica said...

cattiekit, It was at our parish's St. Joseph dinner where they handed out blessed, lucky fava beans in honor of St. Joseph, but they didn't really explain the connection to St. Joseph, to Italy, or wherever the connection is, leaving us with a random puzzle to sort out. That's all!

cattiekit said...

Oooooh, thank you so much, monica! Blessed, lucky fava beans *indeed*!

cattiekit said...

And *please* DO plant those fava beans in your purse - them's good eatin'. (smack) :>)

Just wait until the first frost-free date in your area. :>)

cattiekit said...

If they're upside-down it'll take them just a little longer to sprout. :>)

CMinor said...

cattiekit, I really do think that planting the fava beans in the garden would be preferable to planting them in her purse!;-)

cattiekit said...

Oh, *der*, cee! Of course one must remove the aforesaid fava beans from the aforementioned purse! ;>D

Thanks so much for pointing that out. ;>)

eastmoormom said...

we have a showing tomorrow at 2:45 est...on Palm Sunday...and i have one lonely tulip in bloom...could this be the day our buyer comes?

Anonymous said...

Folks, does the person who buries the statue have to be the owner? I am already in another state but have a friend (or a nephew) who could do it for me. I am ready to try it as we made the horrible mistake of trying to sell in this bad market and already bought another house!!
Thanks so much.

eastmoormom said...

we did it!! we have good contract, movers scheduled and a new home to go to. i've prayed, screamed and cried...and you know. The Lord knows and the Lord handles it in the time that He knows is best.
i will however been diggin up poor st. Joe...it's been a long lonely winter for him down there by the for sale sign!!

eileen said...

Eastmoormom...I just saw your announcement of your house selling! My husband and I are trying to sell his parent's home across town from us...it is a "handyman's special" ...we are praying someone wants it soon as the taxes and (small mortgage) are still looming on us...We have St. Joseph placed in the kitchen window and I have said the novena, but I believe I will bury the good saint this weekend! Any additional prayers from you good people would be wonderful! God Bless...

Stephanie said...

My husband and I are trying to buy our first home. I bought a St Joseph statue and I am set to start my novena. But where are you supposed to put St Joseph if you are wanting to buy a home? My friend said that you have to bury a St Joseph medal on the property you want to buy but in the middle of the night. Is this true?

AnnieO said...

What do you do when you go to dig him up and he is missing ? I buried him three months ago and nothing happened so I thought maybe I buried him too deep and today I attempted to dig him up rebury him shallower and repeat the prayer. I have dug a hole four feet across and he is nowhere to be found. Ever heard of this happening ???

Omayra Sanchez said...

Today I heard on a tv show about this. We just moved a year ago to our new home, last spring/summer while gardening I found this little statue burried upside down. I asked my mother if she recognized the sait and she said it was St. Joseph. I didn't knew about this and I kept him on my kitchen. Is there anything else to know, about finding him?

Ana said...

My question is, do I remove my St Joseph statue if I'm renting my house to a couple that wants to buy my house? They are waiting for her dad to sell some land so then he can give her the money to pay cash for my house. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to move out into a new place with my mom, a house for us both, but we don't have a house for sell, what can we do?