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Happily Even After

Superstitious Home-Selling

January 23, 2012

Our home hit the market this week, and after hiring a real estate broker and bringing in a professional photographer and steam-cleaning the carpets, I can honestly say the most important thing we did to help sell our house is this: we buried a medallion of St. Joseph in the front yard.

Our Catholic faith has a long tradition of turning to saints for help. We ask people to pray for us all the time, so why not ask people who are proven (through recorded miracles effected by their prayer) to be in heaven? St. Joseph, as the stepfather of Jesus and husband of Mary, was a carpenter and provided for the holy family. Of anyone, he knows the importance of shelter.

The tradition is that when buying or selling a home, one should bury a statue or medallion of St. Joseph near the house. The custom goes back, some say, to Teresa of Avila, the nun (and doctor of the Church) who founded convents throughout Spain. A perfect location for a convent was discovered, but the nuns did not have enough money to purchase it. They buried St. Joseph medallions on the land, and sure enough, money came in.

The newly canonized St. Andre Bessette, the miracle worker of Montreal, used the same tactic—it is how the titanic oratory there was built. Stories indicate that medallions were buried to help procure the land. At one point, work stopped because of a lack of money while the giant church lacked a roof. St. Andre had a statue of St. Joseph placed under the sky in the sanctuary, exposed to the elements, and said, “If St. Joseph wants a roof over his head, he’ll take care of it.”

The dome to the oratory was completed and is the third-largest of its kind in the world.

Now, some of this smacks of superstition, as if we could hold St. Joseph hostage through a medallion or statue. That is silly. For those of us who do believe in the intercession of the saints, this is simply a way to ask for their help.

In the process of selling our house, I’ve found the buried medallion useful as an outward sign of prayer. Both Stacey and I get anxious about selling—Will we sell it? When? Will we get enough money out of it? Will we get ANY money out of it? Will the buyer be a good fit for our neighbors? Are we doing all we can to sell it? How long can we carry two mortgages if we don’t sell it? There is no shortage of questions and doubts.

When these anxieties strike me, I now have a place to put them—in the hands of St. Joseph. Having something tangible physically in the ground in our yard reminds me that we are not alone in this task, and it feels like the burden is being shared. We know St. Joseph is praying for us, and that is a great comfort.


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Happily Even After

Happily Even After

Josh and Stacey have been married for almost 20 years. They have three children in middle school and high school. The Noems live in Indiana, where Stacey teaches in the Master of Divinity program at Notre Dame and Josh is a freelance writer.

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