St. Joseph is a fraud.
Oh, it’s not necessarily the earthly dad of Jesus Christ I’m talking about–it’s the statue of St. Joseph that supposedly speeds up the process of peddling real estate.
Quite recently, we sealed the deal on selling our house of 16 years to a wonderful family that appears to be a perfect fit for the historic property. Certainly we enjoyed and cherished the house’s many distinctive features–built-in bookcases, sliding glass pocket and French doors, hardwood floors, a brick-framed fireplace, dark and bountiful woodwork, plenteous attic space and a spacious yard, to name a few–during the time we called it home.
But every house has its quirks, and not everyone is capable of–or interested in–appreciating the charms of a nearly 100-year-old structure.
So after a few months of regular showings, which required rapid and sometimes panicky pick-up periods, followed by breathless departures en route to killing time until receiving the “all clear” from the realtor/tour guide, we began wondering if there was something more we should be doing to move the process along.
Having already expended considerable energy and income on various fix-ups in the preceding months, we were at a loss as to what further steps to take.
Then, a buttoned-down banker with a kind but normally serious disposition learned of our plight and posed this puzzling question: “Have you tried St. Joseph?”
Well, no, we hadn’t “tried St. Joseph,” not being Catholic nor ever having heard him mentioned in connection with real estate transactions.
The thoughtful (and devout Catholic) banker soon took it upon herself to educate us, first emailing a link to a Sept. 16, 2009, New York Times article about the phenomenon and following that up with a small gift: a “St. Joseph home sale kit,” readily available (as it turns out) for a small fee via a website dubbed “Discount Catholic Products.” The kit included a six-inch plastic statue of St. Joseph (at least as someone envisioned him), a “how-to” sheet and a prayer card.
“St. Joseph can sell your home while standing on his head,” claims information shared at realestate.aol.com. ”If your home is languishing on the market, there are many tips that promise to help bring about a sale. But there’s only one that requires a prayer and a spade. The solution to your selling woes? Bury a St. Joseph statue in your yard, head down.”
Truthfully, I laughed out loud when the kit came. What was this, a modern day version of the Pardoner’s Tale from Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales?” Did people really believe and buy (apparently!) this stuff, and how could such gimmicks make a difference? More to the point, if St. Joseph was so successful a talisman, why didn’t realtors everywhere distribute St. Joseph statues along with their cards? (Neither our realtor nor insurance agent offered one to us, even though both are committed Catholics!)
Nevertheless, there we stood, in the chill air of late October, feeling ridiculous but reading aloud from the prayer card as we carefully wrapped poor St. Joe in a plastic bag before inserting him into the cold earth of our garden.
I’m not sure if St. Joseph knew we were skeptical, or if it is just as we suspected–little plastic statues have no more bearing on how fast a house will sell than attending prom is a predictor of whether or not a person will eventually marry–but NOTHING HAPPENED. For months!
Nothing, that is, except continued showings, billings for utilities and payments on not one property but TWO, and inches and inches of snowfall that required removal on a timely basis. Winter ticked on, and we heard nothing from St. Joseph except imagined moans of pain and displeasure at his unwelcome placement beneath immovable snowdrifts atop the frigid Minnesota landscape.
Ultimately, the family with whom we’d had a contingent purchase agreement since last fall was able to remove the contingency and the property changed hands–apparently no thanks to a certain saint.
He lies there still, awaiting discovery when birds once again chirp and flowers or vegetables are planted.
Sorry to say this, but I have no plans to retrieve him.