Spirituality for Today – September 2008 – Volume 13, Issue 2

St. Joseph, Please Sell My House

By Sister Lou Ella Hickman, I.W.B.S.

Photo of a beige statue of Saint JosephFrantic, they ask, "Do you have a statue of St. Joseph?" (I work in religious retail.) Their house hasn't sold and they are willing to try anything. Somehow they've heard about burying St. Joseph-upside down no less. They decide to give it a shot, so they come in; and in a New York minute they're out the door carrying their hope for a sale in a small green bag. Such harried buying speaks volumes about their need for a quick fix to their problem. However, I have made it a point not to second guess their motive for I know that God can use anything to bring us closer to Him; even a small plastic statue buried upside down in a yard.

Others come in a bit more cautious. They, too, have heard about the ritual but they're worried that it is superstitious or worse, irreverent. After all, this isn't just any saint-this is the husband of Mary and foster-father to Jesus, the Son of God. Yet they also have a house that hasn't sold so they come into the store; torn between faith and desperation. When we talk, I reassure them. "No, it isn't irreverent as long as you do it with faith."

During a lull between customers, I caught myself thinking: what if these people had something they could actually use to help them through the difficult situation they're in? Sure, there's a prayer card in the kit they can use but for many of these people this card just glosses the surface; they want more. Bingo! My research began.

In between checking the Internet, I happened to mention in passing about the idea of burying St. Joseph in order to sell a house. An older sister quipped, "I remember realtors use to do that in the 50's." I checked with a retired realtor friend and sure enough she used the kits in the 80's. I even found a book entitled, St. Joseph, My Real Estate Agent. (The reviews were mixed pro and con about it.) Several Web site sources mentioned that the custom may have been started when St. Teresa of Avila reportedly buried medals of St. Joseph on some property she wanted but could not afford. As the story goes, it worked. St. Teresa was not only an astute businesswoman; she was a woman of great faith in her patron, St. Joseph.

The Church venerates St. Joseph in a variety of ways. While many Catholics know that May is Mary's month, few know that March is dedicated to Joseph. In fact, the Church celebrates two great feasts in honor of Joseph-March 19 and May 1. The Feast of St. Joseph Husband of Mary (March 19) began sometime in the fifteenth century. Pope Gregory XV added the feast to the universal calendar in 1621. Pope Pius XII began the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955 as an aid to stem the tide of Communism which celebrates the worker also on May 1. Pope Pius IX chose St. Joseph to be the patron and protector of the universal Church in 1870.

Along with using the prayer card that comes with each kit, there are a number of traditional prayers people can utilize as part of the burial ceremony. Check out the titles below on the Internet if traditional prayer books are not available.

Should a longer ceremony be desired, one can also turn to the Internet where a variety of prayer services can be found. If you are musically inclined, consider using the song, "O Joseph, Mighty Patron."

Then there is actual burying Joseph upside down. Couldn't that be taken for superstition? Maybe not. Reread the gospel story and discover a man whose life was turned upside down. God has a way of changing our best laid plans and we, too, struggle like Joseph to respond to God's invitation to do the right thing.

Alleluia!! The house sells. Then what? Thanksgiving would be in order. This can be done in several ways. I sent a kit to a couple who were beginning the process of selling their house due to the husband's loss of his job. Shortly after they received the package, the husband found a better job and they did not need to move. The statue was given a place of honor in the house after the couple prayed a no vena of thanksgiving. Another way to thank St. Joseph is to help provide shelter for others. For example, a donation to a homeless shelter or Habitat for Humanity® would be a gracious way to say thank you. As St. Joseph was the guardian and protector of the child Jesus and Mary, a donation to a shelter for children and/or women would also be a fitting way to say thank you. This is exactly what the couple I sent the kit did. "We know the value of a home. We want to share that so we increased out donations to Habitat® right after the blessing came. That (keeping our home) was an important element as I (the wife) work out of my home."

The late Pope John Paul II described St. Joseph in this way, "And yet, even without words, he shows the depth of his faith, his greatness." For some, the traditional prayers can help express their need for St. Joseph's intercession. Then there are burdens that can bring the heart to silence. No, burying St. Joseph is not superstitious when done with the desire to do the right thing. That's what St. Joseph's greatness consists of: when his life was turned upside down, he still did what was right. In fact, that's how he lived his entire life-doing the right thing even if he didn't understand why.