Housing Crisis? St. Joseph to the Rescue

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin - Without a Doubt

In doing some research for another project I’m working on, I came across an internet article that explained a belief and practice that’s been around for awhile but is, apparently, growing in popularity. The belief is that St. Joseph can help you sell real estate; the practice is to bury a statue of St. Joseph on the property you want to sell.

Whether the custom’s an expression of faith, a harmless devotion, or a misguided superstition, without a doubt it has taken hold of the popular imagination over the last few years. Many individuals will fervently recite personal success stories that confirm the effectiveness of St. Joseph as a realtor. Some religious good stores even sell a St. Joseph Home Sale Kit which typically includes a plastic statue, a prayer card and an explanation of the devotion.

The origins of the practice are not clear. One legend claims that European nuns in the Middle Ages buried a medal of St. Joseph asking the saint to help them acquire property they needed for a new convent. Their quest was successful. (Apparently St. Joseph can help you purchase property as well as sell it.) Another source says that German carpenters often buried statues of St. Joseph in the foundation of the houses they built to ask for his blessing on the house and its inhabitants. In any event, the practice of using an image of St. Joseph for real estate transactions re-appeared in theUnited States sometime in the 1980s and quickly became the rage.

There are various theories about the most effective way of using of St. Joseph’s statue. Some say that St. Joseph should be buried upside down near the “For Sale” sign in the front yard; others insist that he should be right side up. One practice favors having St. Joseph buried in the back yard near a flower bed; another has him lying on his back and pointing “like an arrow” toward the house. Finally, some say that St. Joseph should remain in the yard after the sale; others that he should be dug up and be placed on the mantle, or some other place of honor in the home.

As you can imagine, lots of whimsical stories accompany the tradition. One story has the buried St. Joseph incorrectly pointing to the house across the street which was promptly sold – even though it wasn’t even on the market. Another legend tells of an impatient man who removed his statue from the front yard and threw it away at the local trash heap. Yep, you guessed it – a few days later a headline appeared, “Local dump has been sold.”

Oh well, frivolous stories aside, it does seem to me that St. Joseph is a perfect patron saint for the troubled times in which we live. After all, St. Joseph has some experience in providing for “domestic tranquility.” Remember that he was the protector of the Holy Family; it was his task to provide a safe and secure earthly home for Jesus, the Son of God, and Mary, His mother.

Twenty years ago Pope John Paul wrote a lovely pastoral letter about St. Joseph entitled, Redemptoris Custos, in English, “The Guardian of the Redeemer.” In it, the Pope said: “St. Joseph is the one whom God chose to be the ‘overseer of the Lord’s birth,’ the one who has the responsibility to look after the Son of God’s entry into the world. All of the ‘private’ or ‘hidden’ life of Jesus is entrusted to Joseph’s guardianship.” (#8)

Everyday we read of the housing woes – plummeting values, failed mortgages, sudden foreclosures and families forced into homelessness. But without divine assistance even the best of stimulus plans are bound to fail. We should turn to St. Joseph, then, to ask for his help. SurelySt. Joseph, who provided a good home for his family, will take care of our families too.

Likewise, we know that these days present many challenges to successful and tranquil family life. Extraordinary economic conditions are intensifying the normal societal forces and cultural pressures that families often experience today. How hard it is in this pagan culture to maintain a faithful marriage and nourish a truly Christian family. St. Joseph, whose vocation was to support and protect the Holy Family will certainly inspire your family to be holy and keep it safe and secure.

March 19 is the Solemnity of St. Joseph. In the Preface of the Mass that day we honor St. Joseph with these words: “He is that just man, that wise and loyal servant, whom you placed at the head of your family. With a husband’s love he cherished Mary, the virgin Mother of God. With fatherly care he watched over Jesus your Son, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Dear friends, you may or may not choose to bury St. Joseph in your yard to assist with your real estate challenges. You may or may not wear his medal to help you close the deal. Regardless of your devotional preference, however, whether you put him in the front yard or back, be sure to enshrine St Joseph in your heart. Imitate his virtues in your daily life and pray to him. He will become your faithful companion and will guide and protect your family during these challenging days.