I wrapped my secret treasure in a towel and snuck outside at 10 P.M. that August night. The kids were sleeping and Richard was “on watch” because he knew what I was about to do and didn’t want me — well, really he– didn’t want to get caught.
I tip-toed through the back yard to the most Northern part of the yard and began digging a hole with a trowel next to the fence. I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure no one could see me or the measly, unsteady stream of light that dribbled out of the tiny keychain flashlight I was precariously trying to clench between my front teeth. I dug until I thought I had dug deep enough and then carefully unwrapped the treasure.
There it was. A white, 4-inch tall plastic St. Joseph statue. Several of our friends had used one and swore it helped to sell their houses. We needed to sell that house fast because we had found the house we live in now, and as hard as our broker tried there wasn’t much interest in our house. So we figured a little Divine Intervention was not a bad idea.
I had followed my friend Juliet’s advice and buried St. Joe in the most northern part of the yard, upside down, facing the house. Or, at least I thought that’s how she had told me to do it. It was her St. Joe I was using because it had helped her sell her house and she was kind enough to let me borrow it.
We waited. Nothing happened. Deep down I knew it was because we’re Jewish and Jews aren’t supposed to expect miracles from Saints, for God’s sake.
Later that week, after the landscapers had mowed the lawn, I went outside to enjoy the beautiful summer day noticing the leaves were beginning to turn colors as autumn quickly approached. The kids would be home from school soon and I was just moseying along when all of the sudden there it was. St. Joe had risen! He was standing on top of a mound of dirt right side up staring at me. Ok, so he was only a few inches tall, but the thing was going to strike me dead. I just knew it.
I slowly began to back up, looking at him the whole time. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t understand how he had resurrected himself. “I buried you,” I thought to myself. “I know I did.” It was like an Edgar Allan Poe story except, instead of a Tell-Tale Heart, I was dealing with a Tell-Tale Saint. I was pretty sure a Saint trumped a heart.
So, I did what I had to do. I ran screaming into the house. “How could this have happened?” I thought to myself. After I began breathing again I remembered that the landscapers had just been to the house and when they were tilling the soil they must have accidentally unearthed Joe. They probably thought they had found something I had lost and left it there for me to see. Or, what probably really happened was they found it, knowing fully why it was buried, thought they would play a little joke on me, and left it on the mound of dirt for me to find. They were probably hiding in the bushes next door and having a good laugh as they watched me running and screaming into the house.
Using St. Joseph to sell a house was a concept I had learned about from our friends Amy and Ed. Ed went to a local monastery to buy one to sell their house because they were building a new one. He walked into the gift shop and on a big sign in big letters he read, “ST. JOSEPH STATUES ARE NOT TO BE USED FOR THE PURPOSE OF REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS.” Well, Ed wasn’t going to be swayed by that sign, so he went up to the nearest Monk and told him he wanted to buy a St. Joseph statue. The Monk very graciously began showing Ed around the gift shop, pointing out St. Joseph statues in the $500 range.
“Oh,” Ed began, “I can’t afford one that big and beautiful. I need one that’s much smaller.” The Monk obliged and showed Ed statues in the $200 range. Again, Ed told the Monk, “Thank you, but I really can’t afford one that expensive either. Do you have a plastic one in the $10 range?” When the Monk asked him if he planned to use it for a real estate transaction Ed, the perfect, observant Catholic boy looked right into the Monk’s eyes and said, “No! Of course not!”
The Monk rolled his eyes under his hoodie and wrapped up Ed’s purchase, knowing full well what Ed intended to do with the statue. But, the Monk had the last laugh because Ed buried the statue where and how he thought it was supposed to be buried and the next day the house across the street sold. Either he had buried it the wrong way or in the wrong place, or that Monk had placed a curse on him.
Eventually Ed and Amy’s house sold and they believed that the St. Joe statue helped. That’s where Juliet comes into the story. Juliet bought a St. Joe and even though she and her husband are Jewish, she must have buried it correctly because their house sold, too. After that, she lent it to me.
After recovering from the resurrection of St. Joe in my yard I called Juliet who told me I had placed it in the wrong part of the yard. It was supposed to be right side up in the middle of the yard facing the house. So that’s why it didn’t work.
Ok. So, I went out after dark with my little dribbly flashlight balanced in my teeth once again and reburied St. Joe in the middle of the yard, right side up, facing the house. Still, no dice. No one seemed the least bit interested in buying our house, and we needed to sell it fast because time was running out on our contingency for the house we wanted to buy.
Feeling confused about the proper way to bury a St. Joe statue for real estate purposes, I looked on the internet to see if I had done it properly either time. I read that there was no right or wrong way to bury the statue. Some people believed you should bury it in the front of the house while others said it should be buried in the back of the house. Some said you should bury it on the property you wanted to purchase, which, they pointed out, also involved trespassing. Trespassing? I should be worried about trespassing? I had already buried a religious icon that technically I shouldn’t even know about. I became a Bat Mitzvah, for Christ’s sake! I read more. The article also said that the use of a St. Joseph statue was at best a “silly and borderline blasphemous ritual.” I began to agree with that statement. Cross my heart.
Then I read the most important part of all. After you use a St. Joseph statue to sell your house, you are supposed to either leave it in the ground or dig it up and put it in a place of honor in your new house. Oh! I saw what I had done wrong. I had borrowed Juliet’s St. Joe instead of buying my own. I promptly washed it off and gave it back to her. I didn’t buy another one and our house eventually sold – for a lot less than we had hoped for, but it sold.
We should have known better. When we first saw our current house it was plastered with religious icons everywhere. There was the St. of the Water Heater, the St. of the washer and dryer, and the St. of the white carpeting. There were depictions of the crucifixion of Christ EVERYWHERE around the house. No wonder St. Joseph didn’t work for us. He wasn’t going to help some clueless Jews move into a house formerly owned by Roman Catholics whose son was a Priest! There was even a huge photo of him on the wall shaking hands with the Pope. Holy Mother of God! Richard whispered in my ear when no one was looking, “Let us never speak of the St. Joseph statue again.”
Luckily, before the previous owners left, they took most of the religious paraphernalia with them. We found a few little crosses taped up here and there, and sometimes, 8 years later, still come across a St. this or that guarding something in the house. We don’t dare remove it. In fact, we try not to look directly at it.
The St. of the water heater didn’t like us, though, because right after we moved in the hot water heater began leaking what can only be imagined as holy water in our holy basement. So we had to pray to St. Sears for a new one.
I am not proud that I tried to use a religious icon to sell my house, but I feel a little bit better about it because I just found the website http://www.thecatholiccompany.com . You can buy the book St. Joseph, My Real Estate Agent (also available in Spanish!). There is also a St. Joseph Home Sale kit, and a book called Divine Favors Granted to St. Joseph . The description for that book reads, “This book will inspire a profound devotion to St. Joseph…” Then the description says, “See also St. Joseph Home Sale Kit.”