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Published: Sunday, 1/9/2005

Search for a buyer begins in backyard

Do I want to begin 2005 with a burial ceremony? Especially if the burial is of a saint, head first? Then, again, I surely want to sell the house. Otherwise, there wouldn't be a sign at the roadside. Thus the decision about burying a statue of St. Joseph is a big one.

They say - they being people who have done it or heard about it from friends - that if a statue of the good saint is buried in your yard, buyers will flock to your property. That may be a little exaggerated, but after hearing the good luck stories a few times, and having a house for sale, it's easy to slip into the belief that it just might work.

Obviously I discussed the subject with enough people so that now I have not one but two statues of St. Joseph along with many testimonials of successful sales.

One of the statues is silver-colored and not more than an inch and a half tall. My good friend Sister Paul Mary from New Orleans mailed it. Sister Paul recently was transferred from the Little Sisters of the Poor in Oregon to the Little Sisters in New Orleans and we exchange letters. Our friendship bloomed when I judged the Dog Days parade at the Little Sisters of the Poor facility on Navarre Avenue at her request last summer and she judged the Toledo Rib-Off at my invitation. That sealed it; friends forever. In her last letter she wrote that obviously St. Joseph wasn't doing his job if my house was still for sale.

I didn't tell her I had not yet put the lovely little statue into the cold winter earth.

The second statue is a gift from Therese Stump of Hudson, Mich. It is flesh-colored plastic and about three inches high.

I don't want to show partiality so I may as well place one in the front yard and the other in the backyard.

The burial should follow rules, or superstitions. Most believers say that St. Joseph should face the front of the house and be buried 12 inches deep, exactly, which is not an easy task in zero Michigan temperatures. Of course the rules, or superstitions, vary with the house sales. People who buried him in the backyard believe that's the right place. Most people say he should be upside down, which personally offends me, but which I will do if it means a sale. Others say, feet down is the right way.

Let's face it, the right way is the position that works, front yard, backyard, upside down, or right side up. There is always the chance when you buy a house that St. Joseph is already in the yard, having been placed by the seller. Sharon and John Garand of Perrysburg didn't take St. Joseph with them after they sold their house in Rossford. The Garands say upside down is best. After burying the statue right side up, they changed their mind and turned it over and the house sold. Who knows?

St. Joseph is the patron saint of carpenters, which explains why his symbols are the rod and a plane.

According to one story, the statue tradition began in the late 1800s in Montreal. Supposedly, when property owners refused to sell land to a priest, he planted several St. Joseph medals on it. The owners gave in to the sale. The priest got the land and St. Joseph got the credit.

You have to wonder how many St. Joseph statues have been, or are still, a part of the landscape. Ken Churchill, owner of Churchill's Religious Goods on Tremainsville Road, can vouch for hundreds. A $5.95 house-selling kit that includes a statue, novena prayer, and instructions is so popular he buys them 100 at a time. A book, St. Joseph, My Real Estate Agent, is also a good seller, he said.

Mr. Churchill insists, "It works," referring more to the prayer than to the statue. You just can't bury the statue. You have to pray for the sale of your house, he said.

You know what my decision will be. The 12-inch ruler and a digging trowel are in hand. One statue will be right side up in the backyard, and the other one will be planted head first in the front yard. But both will face the house.



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