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COMMENTARY: The Power of Prayer _ and a Statue

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Amid row upon row of neatly arranged religious items in the Society of St. Paul/Alba House Bookstore on Staten Island, N.Y., sit bins of modestly priced plastic St. Joseph statues in a back corner. Just right for burial in your front lawn to ensure the quick sale of your […]

c. 2006 Religion News Service

(UNDATED) Amid row upon row of neatly arranged religious items in the Society of St. Paul/Alba House Bookstore on Staten Island, N.Y., sit bins of modestly priced plastic St. Joseph statues in a back corner.

Just right for burial in your front lawn to ensure the quick sale of your house.

So long as you bury St. Joseph upside down. Some say his feet should point to the road; others believe he should face the house.

Folklore? Yes.

Superstition? It would seem so.

Does it work? Maybe.

Is it worth a try?

Hey, what have you got to lose.

In today’s buyer-friendly home sales market, in which sellers are seeing their houses languish on the market for longer than they’d like, some are reverting to an age-old formula: Putting their faith in the Almighty as well as their Realtor.

THE LEGEND’S ORIGIN

“People do come in asking for St. Joseph,” said Elisa Ziel, who works in the religious bookstore. She said as many as a couple of dozen home-sellers come in each week to purchase the statues.

“They ask for a statue and I ask them, `Are you selling your house?’ They tell me yes and I say, `Then you’ve come to the right place.”’

“Even the Realtors are telling their families to come here and purchase St. Joseph,” added Ziel.

St. Joseph is the patron saint of family and home and by virtue of that, some say, of carpentry, building _ and home sales.

Some say the belief is rooted in a 300-year-old legend that European nuns would bury St. Joseph medals hoping he would help them secure property for additional convents.

Others say it stems from the habit of German carpenters burying statues of St. Joseph in the foundations of houses they built.

As for burying him upside down, with his feet facing heavenward, the belief holds that he’ll work harder to get out _ and get your house sold for you.

“We believe in it _ strongly,” said Laird Klein, associate broker and general manager of Staten Island’s Connie Profaci Realty. “We give them out. I’ve bought them for people. If you believe it can work, it can work. It’s the power of positive thinking.”

“We do know of cases where it has been successful,” affirmed Profaci. “We do everything in our power to get a house sold. Some people get a little down, and we tell them, ‘We’re trying everything, here is something you can try. Go to Alba House and then bury the statue in your yard.”’

“I believe it to be a superstition,” said Ziel of Alba House. “I tell people it’s really all about the power of prayer. We offer prayer cards to go with him. And I do think it’s important that once you sell your house that you take St. Joseph out of the ground and bring him with you to your new home.”

IS IT SACRILEGE?

Alba House bookstore manager Brother Emmanuel said he first heard about burying a statue of St. Joseph in order to sell a house when he ran the St. Paul’s bookstore in Dearborne, Mich.

“When I first learned about it I said, `But, it’s a sacrilege!”’ said Brother Emmanuel. “Of course, what counts is our faith and prayer; the belief that someone upstairs is listening.”

That and knowing your clientele, according to Realtor Douglas Franks.

“I haven’t heard about that superstition,” Franks said. “But I think it’s bad luck to believe in any superstitions. When you sell houses, it’s your knowledge of the area, knowledge of the product, knowledge of the buyers and knowledge of the sellers that count. I put knowledge ahead of any superstitions.”

Still, said Maria Furia, who sells houses for Diane Realty in Willowbrook, N.Y., in today’s changing market every little bit helps.

“A former listing of ours used the statue and their house did sell,” Furia said. “And they were Jewish.”

While Ziel believes in the power of prayer, she said once homeowners have buried St. Joseph in their front lawn if their house still doesn’t sell, “Maybe they should think about knocking off a couple of thousand dollars.”

Meanwhile, if you’re looking to sell your condominium, and have no lawn in which to bury a St. Joseph statue, don’t despair: I’m told sticking him in a flower pot works, too. That and saying a prayer.

(Judy L. Randall is a columnist for the Staten Island Advance)

DSB END RANDALL

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