Day of the Dead debate: Should sellers bury St. Joseph statues?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Real Estate Cafe
Screen shot showing WSJ most forwarded emailsEarlier this week, a friend sent an article from the Wall Street Journal about burying St. Joseph statues entitled, "When It Takes a Miracle To Sell Your House."  As show in the image above, the story was the MOST EMAILED link on the Wall Street Journal, five rankings ahead of Google's new G-Phone.  Amazing, and amazingly misguided IMHO.

Over the past few years, I've blogged repeatedly about the practice (click to continue reading original links).  In 1998, my initial objections were stated in a well-researched article, which journalists may find worth reading, entitled, "Beyond Superstition: Doing Justice to the 'Just Man'."  Nearly a decade later, I created an interactive map called "St. Joe 2.0:  Geography of Faith" where anyone who believed in the practice could document their prayer experiences to St. Joseph and others could propose alternative spiritual practices.

Then after a Catholic conference on Social Justice was canceled in Boston for lack of interest, my blog posts became more pointed: "Social Justice for Real Estate Dummies."

Unlike NPR's Talk of the Nation which kicked off their program "Selling Your Soul to Sell Your House" with an interview about St. Joseph, the Wall Street Journal told their audience that some Catholics are offended by the practice of burying St. Joseph statues upside down because they believe it is superstitious.  Some Catholic bookstores objective to selling the statues for the same reason.

For years, I've thought about offering a "St. Joseph Statue Buy-Back Program."  An employee of one local religious book store expressed an interest in exchanging statues for coupons to buy books which would give real insight into Catholic teachings.  My recommendation, the day after All Saints' Day, would be The Saints' Guide to Happiness.  (The author, Robert Ellsberg, was a classmate at Harvard and is the son of Daniel Ellsberg.)

Looks like the WSJ blog post is generating some heated discussion.  I'd love to invite anyone who wants to take a more positive approach towards "reinventing" this misguided devotion to St. Joseph to consider our fund raising campaign for AIDS orphans or to propose their own ideas to the honor patron saint of the Catholic church and Social Justice.  Isn't it time sellers, real estate agents, and the press do justice to the "just man"?  Your comments are most welcome here or on our wiki


Real Estate Cafe blog posts on practice of burying St. Joseph statues to sell real estate:

8/23/05:  Leading indicators:  Do sales of St. Joseph statues signal a housing slide?

10/28/05:  Realtors' "Anti-bubble reports" out of sync with emerging buyers' market?

3/26/07:  AIDS orphans sending an S.O.S. to real estate consumers

4/27/07:  Social Justice for Real Estate Dummies

Comments (6)

Frances C. Rokicki
Fran Rokicki Realty, LLC - Bolton, CT
Have Sellers who have buried it, hasn't changed their situation.  Sure makes them feel better though.  Back in the late 80's, it was the same scenario;)
Nov 02, 2007 04:17 AM
Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Eighteen Years Experience in Brevard County
I guess if it helps boost someone's hope for selling or contributes positively, why not? Not something I practice.
Nov 02, 2007 04:18 AM
Bill Wendel
Real Estate Cafe - Cambridge, MA

I am sitting at a table with some Catholic friends who have just came from Mass, and to my surprise, one of them buried a statue of St. Joseph to help sell her condo four years ago.  Apparently, she reluctantly buried the statue at the suggestion of her listing agent, who took over a year to sell the property.  (Note, this was while the housing market in Massachusetts was still rising.)

When I asked her what she thought of the practice, she called it "disrespectful"and said she is still doing penance.  So not only did this Catholic, who often attends daily mass, "lose her shirt" but she has been wearing a hairshirt ever since ;-)


Nov 02, 2007 05:32 AM
Bill Wendel
Real Estate Cafe - Cambridge, MA

Cross post of comment on another ActiveRain post about St. Joseph:

Todd's post: 

I hope it [burying a St. Joseph statue upside down] works, but at worst if you bury it upside down and you then have a new place to center your sign!


My guess is that there will be a record number of expired listings in the remaining eight weeks of the year.  I'd be glad to invite thousands of sellers (in states where rebates are legal) to participate in this campaign:

Proposed "St. Joseph Statue Buyback Program" will redistribute referral rebates to charities & causes

Anyone else interested in elevating the practice of burying statues upside down to sell real estate is invited to participate in the proposed referral campaign. 

Faithfully yours,

Bill @ The Real Estate Cafe in Cambridge, MA


Nov 05, 2007 12:10 PM
Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

Bill - I've experienced uncanny good fortune selling homes that had St. Joe buried.  In fact, I've not failed to sell a house with one.


Aug 18, 2008 04:57 PM
Bill Wendel
Real Estate Cafe - Cambridge, MA


Congratulations, seriously.

Please share your "success" stories on "St. Joe 2.0:  Geography of Faith" an interactive map where anyone who believes in the practice can document their prayer experiences to St. Joseph. As the patron saint of families, St. Joseph might also be pleased if you invite clients to "share the wealth" with millions of orphans.  See most recent comment on this ActiveRain thread:

Interested in starting a friendly, fund-raising competition in your local market? I'd be keenly interested to see if sellers who bury St. Joseph upside down can raise $1 million for orphans faster than sellers who believe that practice to be superstitious.

Excerpt from link above

  • *In recent years the practice has arisen of burying a statuette of Saint Joseph in the yard of property that is for sale in the belief that the sale will be concluded quickly. (Probably because of the saint's association with building and carpentry he has been adopted as the patron of real estate agents.)

    But for Catholics to bury an image of Saint Joseph to effect a quick sale is not a worthy remembrance of this saint! In fact, it is superstitious (emphasis added). To help distinguish true intercessory prayer from superstitious actions, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says this:

§2110: Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition. (emphasis added)

§2138: Superstition is a departure from the worship that we give to the true God. It is manifested in idolatry, as well as in various forms of divination and magic.

Aug 18, 2008 05:13 PM