My friend Rose is selling her farm. No bites yet, but lots of "tire kickers," as my dad called them. Rose and I discussed the possibility of her burying a statue of St. Joseph to help bring a buyer.
For those of you who do not know about the St. Joseph connection, he is the patron saint of families, homes and single women (remember whom he married). According to Wikipedia, some Poor Clare Sisters several hundred years ago buried a St. Joseph medal on some land they were trying to sell and -- boom! -- it sold immediately, saving the nuns from starvation or some other wretched end.
Let me say here that there is an element to this that I feel is disrespectful, if not downright sacrilegious, and somewhat voodoo-like, but in 2000 I had a house to unload, and it seemed to help.
I was raised Roman Catholic in the 1950s, so I'm familiar with such quasi-pagan practices. And I feel that it is OK if done reverently, if such is possible.
Rose and I tried to find a St. Joseph statue in the Ligonier area, where we live. No luck.
So Rose thought she might bury the St. Joseph from her nativity set and dig him up when the place sold, but he is about 12 inches tall and would have required a suspiciously deep hole.
I, too, have a St. Joseph as part of my discontinued and therefore highly collectible Lenox "Jewels" nativity, but I have left him in my will -- along with the rest of the holy family, camels, wise men and angels -- to my friend Debbie. I did not feel it was appropriate to lend him out.
When I put my beloved Victorian on the market in 2000, there was not much interest. So I made my pilgrimage to the Catholic store in Bloomfield.
Nervously, I asked the tiny Italian lady behind the counter, who reassuringly looked a lot like my Great Aunt Bettina -- bun, still wearing numerous wedding rings even though my uncle had been gone for several decades, a black taffeta dress, smelling like warm pizzelles, the faintest wisp of a moustache -- for a St. Joseph statue. She pointed me to an overflowing bushel basket by the door with a large sign: "House Selling Kits." I picked out a basic model at $3.95 plus tax, not seeing why a more deluxe version would be justified (maybe if you are selling a McMansion?).
The kits had been blessed by a priest, a requisite, as otherwise St. Joseph's powers would not kick in.
The tiny aunt-like lady told me I should take him home and put him in a place of honor (above ground) and pray to him to guide a buyer to me.
Well, I started out with him plunk in the center of my kitchen table where I prayed for his intercession while peeling apples for pie, drinking coffee, yakking on the phone and so forth. My cat, Lily, had staked out this spot for nightly sleeping and kept smacking him, batting him as far as the dining room a good 30 feet away.
The first morning that I discovered him exported to another room, I was convinced that there had been a miraculous occurrence during the night, that he had been teleported by divine intervention as some sort of celestial sign. But after several cups of strong coffee and consultation with my neighbor Ginny, also raised Catholic, I was calmed by her assessment that St. Joseph's journey was most likely cat-related (she had cats herself).
St. Joseph wasn't helping, either. All I got was a string of crazy people who had no intention or means of buying my house.
"Boy, I always wanted to see the inside of one of these old Victorians," said one particularly nutty woman who had come through during an open house, then scheduled an appointment, only to drag along about 15 friends and family as she wanted them to see my long-haired Persian and Himalayan cats.
"They are so gorgeous," she kept shrieking. I threw her, her entourage and her real estate agent out of the house.
So it was time for St. Joseph's interment. I got an empty Ragu jar, wrapped him in a paper towel, screwed on the lid and buried him in the soft, loamy soil under my kitchen window. A few days later, the couple who would buy my house showed up, though it took months of Kafkaesque back and forth before the deal got done.
Only at this point did my know-it-all older sister, who had sold three houses without agents but with buried St. Josephs, inform me of all I had done wrong. He should have been buried upside down, facing the front door, near the "For Sale" sign. And I should have dug him up the day I moved and taken him to my new home for him to bless it.
I moved that January, the ground solidly frozen. I wonder if the new people have found him.
Well, the other day Rose and I made our pilgrimage to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic store in Bloomfield. An amazing place, a time capsule back to the 1950s but also with Steelers rosaries handmade by the two sweet little nuns who work there. Something for every spiritual need.
The store has been blessed by 500 priests and, if you sign the guest book, a perpetual Mass is said for you every day at a monastery on the South Side.
Rose got her statue, complete with directions. And I felt blessed as I left.
Susan Parker is a writer living in Ligonier. You can find her blog, Zuzu's Petals, at sue-parker.blogspot.com.