BUT FIRST, A FRO OR TWO!
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, let’s face it —he didn’t want to get caught.
I tip-toed through the backyard to the most Northern part of the lawn next to the fence, and began digging a hole with a trowel. I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure no one could see me or the measly, unsteady, simple dim ray of light, like the thread of a spider, dribbling from the tiny keychain flashlight precariously clenched between my front teeth. I dug until I thought the hole deep enough, and then carefully unwrapped it.
There it was. A white, 4-inch tall, plastic St. Joseph statue, borrowed from my friend Juliet. Several of our friends had used one and swore it helped lead to a sale. We needed to sell our house fast because we wanted to purchase the house we live in now, but time was running out on our contingency. As hard as our broker tried there wasn’t much interest in our house, so we figured a little Divine Intervention couldn’t hurt.
I had followed Juliet’s instructions 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.
Richard and I waited for a few days. Nothing happened. Our realtor had no news, which wasn’t good news, for us. Deep down I knew it was because we’re Jewish and Jews aren’t supposed to believe in — let alone expect miracles from — false idols, for God’s sake.
One week later I was sitting in the backyard, enjoying the beautiful breeze and the nuance of color as the leaves began to change. The kids would be home from school soon, so I decided to take advantage of a few moments of quiet. As I sat on the chaise lounge my eyes began to close. I didn’t fall asleep; I just wanted to observe the scents of late summer blossoms and, wait! Did I just see what I thought I saw?
It couldn’t be! I refused to open even one eye, even though the image felt as if it were burning through my eyelids. I had to open my eyes to believe them, but I did so, slowly.
Saint Joe had risen! He was standing on top of the mound of dirt right side up, staring at me.
I steadied myself as I stood from the chaise lounge; my eyes never losing sight of him. I couldn’t breathe.
“How can this be?” I thought to myself. “I buried you! How did you resurrect yourself?” I squealed at Saint Joe. He was only a few inches tall, but the thing was going to strike me dead. I just knew it. “I’m going to be struck by lighting,” I cried as I ran into the house beneath the cloudless, beautiful blue sky.
Once safely inside, I locked the door, and fell to my knees. Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Telltale Heart retold itself over and over in my head until I thought I would go mad, or, at least, suffer over-acuteness of my senses. I was pretty sure that a telltale Saint would trump a telltale heart, as far as the police were concerned.
The kids were due home any minute. I had to figure out a way to un-spook my face before they walked in the door. In an attempt to erase all traces of panic from my face, I grabbed the compact from my purse and flopped powder all over, which I realized, after looking in a mirror, only made my pale face whiter.
I struggled to make my breath return from turbo to normal. Kids are smart They know stuff. They sense it. I didn’t want them to be scared, or think something was horribly…wait a minute.
I remembered that when I had been inside the house earlier doing laundry, the landscapers had come. I walked back out into the yard and noticed all the soil had been overturned. Joe must have been dug up and left for us to find, in case we happened to be looking for him.
Divine crisis averted.
Using St. Joseph to sell a house was a concept I had learned about from our friends Pete and Sue who needed to sell their house quickly because they had started to build a new one. As Pete walked into a local monastery gift shop to buy his own St. Joseph statue, he looked up and saw a sign of gargantuan proportions that read, “ST. JOSEPH STATUES ARE NOT TO BE USED FOR THE PURPOSE OF REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS.”
Pete 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 Pete around the gift shop, pointing out St. Joseph statues in the $500 range.
“Oh,” Pete began, “I can’t afford one that big and beautiful. I need one that’s much smaller.” The Monk obliged and showed him statues in the $200 range. Again, Pete told the Monk, “Thank you, but we are of meager means. I really can’t afford one that expensive either.” The Monk smiled as if understanding the poor soul’s plight.
That is until Pete asked, “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 Pete, 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 Pete’s purchase, knowing full well what he intended to do with the statue. But, the Monk had the last laugh because Pete 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 Pete and Sue’s house sold, and they believed that the St. Joe statue had 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 which she lent the statue 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.
Later that night, as Richard stood watch, I went out to the backyard 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. It had been shunned.
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 — at a loss I felt we deserved— 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 Saint of the Water Heater, the Saint of the washer and dryer, and the Saint 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 good Roman Catholics whose son was a Priest! There was even a huge photo of him on the wall shaking hands with the Pope.
Luckily, before the previous owners left, they took most of the religious icons with them. We found a few little crosses taped up here and there, and sometimes, 14 years later, we still come across a tiny, plastic Saint this or that guarding something in the house. We don’t dare remove it, and we never look directly at it.
I was not proud that I tried to use a religious icon to sell my house, but I felt a little bit better about it after I found the website www.thecatholiccompany.com . You can buy the book St. Joseph, My Real Estate Agent http://www.catholiccompany.com/st%2Djoseph%2Dmy%2Dreal%2Destate%2Dagent%2Dbook-i11862/ (also available in Spanish!) There are also many other St. Joseph items from which to choose, not to mention the Saint of this, and the Saint of that…