Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sale of Childhood Home Becomes a Grave Undertaking

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sale of Childhood Home Becomes a Grave Undertaking

Article excerpt

Regular readers (the check is in the mail) may recall that my mother was having some trouble selling my childhood home in suburban Philadelphia. She had put money down on a suite at the nearby retirement palace, and she was eager to get in before the Audubon Society caught up with her bird-murdering cat.

The house had been on the market for several months when a reader e-mailed me with a suggestion: Bury a saint.

You might have heard of this practice. When you want to sell your house, you get a statue of St. Joseph and bury it in the yard. You also get the roof fixed and do some painting, if you're smart.

Still, Mom had done all the spiffing up, and the house wasn't selling, so I thought, why not? We have buried stranger things in the yard, including a departed Siamese cat we had to store in a disused freezer until the ground was soft enough.

We're not Catholic, but that's all right. There is no redlining in St. Joseph's neighborhood.

So I went to a Catholic bookstore Downtown to get a statue. I was hoping they would be in a bin prominently labeled "St. Joseph" so I wouldn't have to ask. I could eliminate some of the statues -- that's obviously Mary, that's Jesus -- but not being good with saints I was stymied by a couple of gentlemen in robes that I didn't know from Adam.

(OK, Adam wouldn't have a robe.)

But the sales lady helped me, and soon I was giving the tiny plastic figure to my mother and repeating the instructions:

Bury the statue upside down, in the back yard, facing the street. I repeated this very solemnly several times, because my mother's memory is not what it used to be.

I may even have written it down, but I'm not sure about that, because my memory isn't what it used to be either.

A few days later, she called to tell me St. Joseph was in the ground and on the job.

Every time I mention this custom, people react in one of two ways. They either look startled and say, "You bury a what?" or their faces light up and they say, "Yeah! My sister/cousin/neighbor did that and the house sold within a week!" So I did a little reading up.

Though there are theories that the practice goes back to nuns or monks who buried medals in the past, St. …

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