Joseph is one of the Bible’s immediately recognizable figures. His profile can often be seen hovering over the manger in Christmastime Nativity scenes, and his presence is a well-known aspect of many film and TV adaptations of the story of Jesus’ birth and life.
In death, he has been sainted as a significant figure among Christian icons, who watches over families, workers, and homes. It may be going too far to call him the “patron saint of property,” but his presence is keenly felt in specific Catholic observances and nowadays even plays a quiet role in home sales and realty.
Burying St. Joseph is considered a sacred and advantageous practice by those who do it. Where did this practice come from? As with many religious observances, burying St Joseph before selling a house is a combination of different practices. Read on to learn where it came from and why you might still pay respect to this day before you leave your old home.
There are parades, feasts, and other celebrations around the world in observance of the life of St. Joseph, the father of Jesus. Any pocket of Roman Catholic or Italian communities is likely to have some kind of yearly tradition related to him, from New York to Rome.
So where did the tradition of burying him to help sell a house come from? There are several possible origins, disputed by historians. One involves a 16th century Catholic named St. Teresa of Avila. The story goes that she and her nuns buried pictures of St. Joseph and prayed for land so they could open another convent. Of course, the story ends with the land being offered to them.
Another version of the origins of the practice (or perhaps merely another example), involves the German practice of burying these statues in the foundations of new houses. This tradition was given new life when Brother Andre Bessette paid tribute to that St. Teresa we mentioned by burying St. Joseph and praying for land for his new chapel. He soon received news that they were ready to make the sale.
All of this could be called history by believers and folklore by doubters. What remains entirely true is that only some people believed in this practice throughout history. In fact, the Catholic church doesn’t recognize burying St. Joseph statues as a legitimate Catholic observance (it doesn’t condemn it either). This means that you don’t have to be Catholic to take advantage of this good luck ritual.
The practice didn’t reach its modern heights until the 1990s. Today, burying a St. Joseph statue is relatively common, even supported by many realtors, some of whom buy these statues in bulk to give to their sellers.
This begs the question: if you want to bury a St. Joseph statue in the hopes of improving your chances of making a sale, how do you do it?
Since the Catholic church doesn’t officially practice the burying ritual, there’s no agreed-upon method for doing it. Some people do it in whichever way they please without ever looking up how to bury a St. Joseph statue; some follow the instructions on their burying kits, which are sold in huge retailers online and in stores. There are a lot of big and small rules for doing this right, even though there’s no one “right” way. Here’s a guide to some of the information that seems consistent across multiple accounts, and at least partly makes sense.
Seal him up
Protecting the statue is probably the most agreed-upon practice when observing the St. Joseph burying ritual. He needs to be covered. Some people wrap him in a dish towel while others use a plastic bag. It’s meant as a sign of respect, to prevent him from coming into contact with the dirt.
No matter who you talk to, covering the St. Joseph statue is the first thing you need to do.
Where to bury
St. Joseph should be buried on the property you want to sell, of course. However, there are some conflicting ideas on where exactly he should be buried since the history behind the tradition is a little fuzzy.
Most agree that the convenient spot to bury him is by the For Sale sign, or at least close to the property line near the road. Some people specify that it should be 12 inches deep, though we can’t find a specific reason for this to matter. We suspect it may have something to do with the 12 disciples, but we’re not sure.
The statue position
Here’s where the rules start getting a little strange. Not everyone follows this part, but some people think it’s important. For instance, many bury St. Joseph upside-down in the belief that selling the house will motivate him to get right-side up.
Other people bury him facing the house and lying on his back. Some people forego the For Sale sign altogether and bury him in a flower bed. In fact, people who live in apartments or houses without yards sometimes leave St. Joseph buried in a flowerpot when they leave.
A prayer to St. Joseph is another common practice. Daily prayer is said to increase the odds that the house will sell quickly. After it sells, you’re supposed to take St. Joseph with you since leaving him buried forever is considered to be ungrateful for the saint’s help.
Whether you believe in the Christian folklore about buried St. Joseph statues helping houses sell quickly, the tradition is easy to practice. Not everyone agrees on the particulars of the procedure, but these “rules” should help you understand the process and the history behind it.
No matter how you perform the ritual, most accounts agree that St. Joseph should be covered, buried near the road, and given daily prayers to work his magic. Whether it works or not, it’s becoming a more common practice as time goes on. In any case, it couldn’t hurt. But don’t rely solely on burying St Joseph to sell your home. Make sure you still take the necessary steps to sell the home, either by hiring a skilled real estate agent or by putting in the necessary effort and marketing if you go the for sale by owner route.