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.
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.