(Not my photo)
Lately I've been collecting tales about New Mexican folk remedies and beliefs, and that made me remember St. Joseph. Now, stay with me here while I tell you this story.
Back when we owned the charming and terrible 1770 money pit farmhouse in New Hampshire, we sporadically tried to get out from under the crushing financial burden by listing it with yet another realtor. This went on and on (and off) over a couple of years--no one would come and look, the listing would expire, and we would give up yet again. Mind you, this was in the olden pre-HGTV days, and we didn't ever really try to give the house curb appeal--it weighed us down so with repairs, we could hardly get beyond hoping for functional, let alone attractive. However, we eventually got really serious about selling when Beez got a job offer in New Mexico. Still no buyers, until...
One day, in the teachers' room at my school, I said something like "we're just never going to sell that old house." One of the teachers spoke up, saying, "Well, you know all about St. Joseph and selling houses, right?" Of course, I didn't, but sat back to listen as this very Catholic lady explained that all I had to do was to bury a little statue of St. Joseph, upside down in the yard of the house facing the For Sale sign, and the house would sell within a few weeks. I'm sure I had that polite look on my face that one gets when listening to something crazy that someone else believes, but another teacher spoke up and assured me that it would work. Now this second teacher was an ex-nun, so I was just thinking that this was some weird Catholic thing when, suddenly, people--people of all faiths--around the table started relating stories of how the St. Joseph thing worked for them or for their cousin, etc. etc.
Well, we had nothing to lose. We went down to the Cathedral Store in Manchester, certain that lightning would strike us at any moment if we told anyone why we were there. We wandered around for a while and were about to leave because we didn't see what we thought we might be looking for, when the gentle and very saintly-looking saleslady inquired as to our needs. We were reluctant to say, but eventually and very sheepishly said that we were looking for a small statue of St. Joseph. "Oh," she exclaimed, "are you selling a house? We can't keep those little statues on the shelves. We just got a big shipment in--let me get you one from the back room."
Long story short, we took him home and wrapped him in plastic before burying him. I couldn't put his little face right into the dirt, could I? It was St. Joseph, after all. I felt that I might need him again sometime in the future, and being a frugal New Englander I thought that he might enjoy being recycled. I left a marker so that I could dig him up again at some future date.
I'm sure you're smiling that tolerant smile right now but, get this--within a month we had found the one person in all the world who wanted that house. He was a bachelor fellow, and so overlooked many of the details that had turned off other buyers (details like the single bathroom located on a different floor from the bedrooms, the old clapboards that needed to be repainted practically every six months, the resident ghosts, and the ceilings that had an inclination to fall down in the night) and saw only wide-pine floors, big Colonial fireplaces, and a house full of history that he wanted to grow old in. He signed an offer, arranged for financing, and booked a tour with me so that I could tell him all the stories associated with the house.
We dug up St. Joseph, who was later to star in another story about selling a little adobe house; we moved out, the bachelor moved in, and he happily lives there still.
This St. Joseph thing has become so mainstream that Amazon.com offers house-selling kits consisting of--you guessed it--a statue of St. Joseph, instructions for planting it, and a little prayer you can read if you can't make one up yourself. The mortgage website, Bankrate.com, even has an article on asking St. Joseph to help you with selling your home in these tricky times.
And you thought that New Mexico was filled with unusual stories, strange happenings, and mystical beliefs...