Encouragement abounds: “It’ll sell.”
“It’s a great location.”
“Only takes one buyer.”
Then: “Tried burying that saint?”
“Yeah, bury St. Joseph upside down in your backyard.”
“Worked for my cousin.”
Your house has been on the market too long when conversation turns to St. Joseph, especially when you’re a recovering Catholic. I’ll admit, I’m desperate. After twelve open houses, keeping the house clean with kids experimenting with gravity at mealtime, I’m more than ready to sell.
So, here I am outside “Catholic Books & Gifts.” Feeling ridiculous and a little paranoid, I look left then right hoping I haven’t drawn attention, standing outside a religious store muttering to myself.
What am I worried about? The holy-looking man at the register will know I’m fallen-away and refuse to sell me a knickknack of St. Joseph to sell my house?
Anyone who doubts the power of Catholic guilt needs only tap into my neurotic thoughts to realize it’s tangible. A teenager buying his first box of condoms has less angst than I do.
Then, I think, Hey, I have as much right to buy a St. Joseph statue as the next person. It’s not a confessional, for God’s sake. It’s a store that profits (prophets?) from this stuff. I’m not the bad guy.
Anyone who doubts the power of righteous indignation to battle Catholic guilt needs only watch me square my shoulders and march right back to the Saints Section.
Wait. Other than the BVM (Blessed Virgin Mary) and St. Francis of Assisi with his birds and rabbits, they all look alike: brown robes, beards, sandals. Standard saint uniform. Which one is Joseph? They look at me like they already know what a phony I am. I start to sweat.
Damn! I’ll have to ask for help.
Wait, maybe it tells on the bottom. I start turning over statues looking for names. Shoot! Only price tags. I must look like a bargain hunter trying to find a saint on clearance. Thirty-five ninety-nine?!? You’ve got to be kidding. I debate whether I could ever spend this kind of money, then bury it in my garden.
“May I help you?”
Damn! Now I do have to ask. “Yes,” I put down the unidentified forty-dollar saint. “I’m looking for St. Joe.” I use his nickname to show I know what I’m talking about. St. Joe and me, we’re tight. I almost wink.
I feel ridiculous. What if he asks me what I want it for? Do I admit I want it to sell the house?
Before I can decide, he saves me the trouble. “Trying to sell a house?”
I nod, dumbfounded. No inquisition.
“We have just plain statues or The Kit,” he says over his shoulder.
I’m relieved he’s so matter-of-fact. “What’s in The Kit?”
“Directions and prayers.” He holds up a plastic, 2½ inch Band-aid colored figurine in one hand, “The Kit” in the other. “The Kit’s three bucks. One-fifty for the statue alone.”
I have no intention of saying the prayers but, “I’d better take the kit.” Maybe the extra $1.50 will bring me luck.
“Now, this isn’t a magic charm, you know.” He looks me in the eye. “It’s a devotion.”
I put on a pious face. “Of course.” I’m going straight to hell, I know it.
“But it does work.” He steps closer. “My son? He’s having a devil of a time selling his house. I give him one of these. It sells the next week.”
“I’ve heard lots of stories like that.”
Someone else needs help at the counter, so I am left alone with Joseph and my conscience. He looks like a realtor in saint’s clothing. I picture his slick suit, leased car, refrigerator magnets with head shot in the right hand corner. He doesn’t even charge a commission.
I’d like to say I take the high road and leave the sale of the house up to chance and time, good location and low interest rates. Instead, I walk Joe up to the register and pull out my wallet.
As the clerk makes change, I notice a rack of saint medals on the counter and read about the various causes for which each saint is a patron. St. Joseph, it says, is patron saint of the home, family and carpenters. Good enough. Then I read further … and the patron saint of morticians and a happy death.
The man smiles. “Good luck with that house!”