Disclaimer: The following piece is not religious satire. If you are easily prompted to get haughty about such things, go read something else. If you would like a peek at American culture and consumerism at its most absurd…read on, MacDuff.
My family and I are in the midst of selling our New Orleans home, as part of relocating back to our home state of Minnesota. The process has been much slower than we would like, and I have shown a bit of my frustration in that regard on Facebook. The other day, a friend of mine (an avowed agnostic) mentioned in response to a humorous post I had made that she knew some people would bury the statue of a saint in their backyard, in order to sell their house.
Knowing I was a person of faith, with a good sense of humor, she correctly presumed (I’m guessing) I would find the suggestion amusing. She was not the first to offer up the suggestion, but knowing her beliefs, I was more amused than I was with previous nudges in the ritual direction.
I laughed, but it got me to thinking – a dangerous habit.
My first encounter with the ritual of burying of a St. Joseph statue came in the mid-70s. I was in high school, and our next doors neighbors -good friends of my folks – were selling their south Denver home. Devout Roman Catholics, Madeline, the wife, was more vociferous in her faith than her husband, George, and one afternoon after work, my parents were out in our yard and they saw Madeline – a rather petite woman – digging a hole. My father, from whom I inherited my immense curiosity, asked her what she was doing. Madeline explained that their house wasn’t selling quickly enough, and, to my parent’s bemusement, explained the St. Joseph statue concept in great detail.
Within two days, they had an offer on the house, and accepted it – much to the smug delight of Madeline, and a fair amount of chagrin for her husband George…the realtor.
My friend’s Facebook message the other day got me thinking, that, should I decide to bury a statue in my backyard, it would be as easy as hopping on Amazon to buy one and have it shipped right to my door. Just for kicks (as I needed a break from resume send-outs) I clicked on to Amazon.
It was indeed that easy – or should I say queasy. True to form of modern society, not only could I find a St. Joseph statue – ‘suitable for burying’ – in any number of forms, in prices starting as low as $5.99, but I could also buy complete St. Joseph House Selling Kits (statue, instructions prayer) in various forms.
In typical online shopping style, the product descriptions alone were of great interest – as far as the theology here, you’re on your own. A sampling (verbatim; all misspellings, etc as I found them):
‘Countless millions have followed the age-old practice of burying a statue of St. Joseph with the hope of selling or buying real estate. Practitioners say that petitioning St. Joseph for help brings almost immediate results.’
‘You can bury the statue upside down, in the back yard, in the front yard, near the “For Sale” sign, in a flower bed, or even to bury him exactly 12 inches deep.
Kit is 3.74″H x 0.98″W x 0.98″D, and includes 3.0″ RESIN St. Joseph figure, prayer to St. Joseph, and instructions.’
Grammar not their strong suit, but they have the specs aspect nailed. On the other hand, these folks cut right to the chase:
‘Bury it next to your for sale sign & say the included prayer. It’s a tough economy. Get every advantage available.’
‘In more recent times it has become common practice to bury a St. Joseph statue to help sell your home. Pray to St. Joseph daily and witness the power of prayer! Results not guaranteed.’
Results not guaranteed, but the product itself? Yeah, not so much on that front, either. Ah, ye shoppers of little faith.
This version seems to be the spiritual equivalent of a Yelp review:
‘It is important to proudly display your St. Joseph statue and share your story with others if your prayers are answered’
Befitting the price range, there are many different forms available for St. Joseph statue buyers: wood, plastic, resin, pewter. And while you can certainly purchase the statue, why not just buy the full kit: statue, instruction manual, prayer card. Again, there are…options.
There are also multiple cultural kit options; instructions and prayers in different languages, and this cultural visual:
‘St. Joseph House Home Sellers Kit Deluxe Italian Picture, Selling Instructions BEST KIT ON THE MARKET IT WORKS ! Exclusive Copyrighted
xxxx xxxxx xxxx
Can one copyright a prayer?
My St. Joseph Amazon adventure was an eye-opening reminder of how even the most basic of ideas takes on a whole different aura in our Internet age. Amazon being Amazon, most sellers also offered bulk-pricing options.
Not a fan of Amazon? No problem. Modern-day accouterments to the ritual of selling your house via burying a statue are available all over the Internet, and can ebb-and-flow easily from the ridiculous to the sublime:
Various religious supply companies (though interestingly, a few specifically state they do not stock St. Joseph kits) and other retailers of note?
• TrueValue Hardware’s website offers a ‘St. Joseph Statue For Home Sale Practice’
• On the WalMart website, they have the green kit. (Biodegradable, in case you leave the statue when you move). But wait, there’s more! Thanks to WalMart’s helpful algorithms, you are also shown the ever-popular ‘Customers also viewed these products’ feature:
’16 inch Buddah statue, Design Toscano Aloha Hawaii Tiki Moai Haku Hana Statue, a $149 Venus of Pietrasanta Statue (nude! at WalMart!) and (my personal favorite product non-sequitor) Loonie Moonie Bare Buttocks Garden Gnome Statue: Medium’
(thank you Lord, that there is no ‘large’ version of Loonie)
Of course, you can also find a variety of new and used statues and kits on eBay.
My personal St. Joseph-statue-on-the-Internet favorite? The ‘plaster, paint-it-yourself St. Joseph’ available on Etsy.
Don’t laugh; it’s how Michelangelo got started.
And man, that dude had some really big holes to dig in his yard.