Offensive or on target? Speaking with St. Joseph

What follows is a story that was submitted for Commonwealth magazine. Most of me loves it, especially because of the point it makes. On the other hand, I know that these days people are particularly sensitive and easily offended. Will they ignore the underlying message (“work hard”)? Or will they take it in the spirit in which, I assume, it was submitted?

Let me know.

(Note: I’m not giving the author’s name, but it was written by a non-VAR employee. The piece was mildly edited, and I added the intro. Otherwise it’s intact.)


A conversation with Saint Joseph

It’s a common real estate superstition: Bury a statue of St. Joseph on a property you want to sell, and it’ll sell faster. There are disagreements about the details — Upside-down or right-side-up? Front or back yard? By the door? — but the basic idea remains the same.

So — at the risk of offending those whose sense of humor doesn’t extend to the ecclesiastical — we imagined how a conversation with St. Joseph might go. What would one of the most revered saints in Christendom think of the plastic statues available in “Home Sales Kits” from

* * *

Tell me, Joseph, how is it that you’re speaking in colloquial English?

That’s not what I’m speaking. That’s what you’re hearing. It’s a common problem.

I can believe that. So, here’s my question: You know things are tough in the real estate market—

Tough? Like, Darfur tough?

All right, times are relatively tough.

Perspective. Use it or lose it.

Well, my question is, does it really help to bury a statue of you in front of a house? Will that make it sell faster?

Think about it, really. I’m Jesus’ father…


Stepfather, whatever. The point is, do you really think that, with all that’s going on in the world, I’m spending a lot of time nudging people to a page in the MLS? I’m the patron saint of 10 countries and a dozen cities, of carpenters, pregnant women, and engineers.

You’re also the patron saint of fighting communism.

And of fighting doubt.


Is that a joke?

Apparently not. Besides, you split that workload with Thomas.

Yeah, and I help him out with the builders. The point is, I’ve got a lot of ground to cover. I’m the patron of the dying, and believe me, there are a lot more people dying then there are buying houses.

I don’t doubt it. But what about all the REALTORS® who swear by burying a statue of you upside-down in front of a house?

Why do you shout when you say “Realtors”?

I’m not shouting. That’s how NAR wants us to write it.

I’m gonna have to talk to Rose about this.


St. Rose? Of Lima? She’s the patron saint against vanity. Apparently she’s been slipping. Anyway, think about it. With all that’s going on in the world, do you really believe that I’m going to be worrying if some house on Maple Lane gets sold quickly? Perspective, remember?

So all those people—

Let me put it this way. Yes, people who bury a statue of me probably do sell homes more quickly. But the reason is obvious: The kind of person who will think of little details like that is also the kind of person who thinks of other details. And the kind of person so desperate to sell a house that she thinks burying some made-in-China plastic statue might help — well, she’s someone who’s trying everything.

You’re saying someone who works hard and thinks of all the details is the kind of person who’s going to sell more houses?

Amazing, isn’t it?

Er, but you don’t mind if they bury those statues, do you?

I was a builder and a woodworker. If you really want to impress me, wouldn’t you think it should be a handmade wooden statue that you’re burying? Tossing a plastic toy into a hole doesn’t really show a full measure of devotion, does it? Working hard, being a good person — that’s the kind of stuff that impresses me.

About Andrew Kantor

Andrew is VAR's editor and information manager, and -- lessee now -- a former reporter for the Roanoke Times, former technology columnist for USA Today, and a former magazine editor for a bunch of places. He hails from New York with stops in Connecticut, New Jersey, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Roanoke.
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