The Patron Saint of Household Slovenliness

Formally canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 2010, Saint André Bessette spent most of his life as Brother André of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, a generous and humble porter at Notre Dame College in Montreal, Quebec where he was known for miraculous healings and for his instrumental role in the construction of a chapel honoring Saint Joseph. Today the Oratory of St. Joseph is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and national shrine located on Mount Royal, overlooking the college.

The ever humble Brother André always credited Saint Joseph with the miraculous healings experienced by those the monk himself blessed and he was determined to honor the saint. When one of his confreres admitted that he consistently found his statue of Saint Joseph turned from where he had placed it to instead facing the direction of Mount Royal, Brother André knew what had to be done.

Convinced that he had found the right location for Saint Joseph’s chapel, Brother André formulated a plan. He quietly planted a medal of Saint Joseph on the land and for six years, he prayed for the opportunity to purchase the property. In 1896, Brother André’s prayers were answered and the Church of the Holy Cross made the purchase allowing for construction to begin 1904.

 I share Brother Andre’s tale because it is an early example of a connection between Saint Joseph and land sales. I have found sources claiming that St. Joseph is the patron saint of cabinet makers, carpenters, engineers, families, fathers, happy deaths, workers, doubters, social justice, travelers, Canada, China, Viet Nam, Peru, Korea, and the Universal Church. And yes, according to some, real estate.

This is important to me personally because I am currently trying to sell my house. A little over two years ago, my husband and I packed up our two young sons and embarked on an adventure to the Pacific Northwest. With the exception of a few of my husband’s early elementary years, we have both always been Midwesterners. And as much as we have both enjoyed Oregon (except for the rain), it’s become clear to us that it is time to head back as 2000 miles (with no direct flights) is a long way from home.

The details of jobs and school are pretty much all falling into place, but one thing remains. We have to sell our Oregon home. If you know anything about the real estate market, you know that, even in a thriving market (which this isn’t), fall is not really the best time to try to sell. I suspect that’s because no one (except us apparently) wants to try to move all of their possessions in the middle of the snow and ice of winter (or in Oregon, rain). But whatever the reason, in the three weeks that our house has been officially on the market, it’s been shown exactly two times.

In some ways that’s kind of nice. I don’t necessarily want a lot of people traipsing through the house where I still have to live for a few more months. After all it only takes one showing as long as it’s the right one, and if the house remains on the market until spring, I have no doubt the right buyer will come along.

The biggest problem is that it’s really hard to stay motivated to keep it clean when we don’t have many showings. I wouldn’t say we are exceptionally dirty people or anything, but the cleanliness is starting to get to us. For example, the other day I went to wake up my seven-year-old for school and with chattering teeth he said, “I’m too cold to get up.” When I questioned him about why he was so cold, he said he hadn’t wanted to sleep under his covers because then he’d have to make his bed. Oh, honey…

And he’s not alone in feeling the added pressure for cleanliness because even though no one is coming to see our house, at any moment someone could. Maybe even the someone who wants to buy it. Why not? It’s a beautiful home: four bedrooms, a bonus family room (with built in electric guitar cabinet!), nicely landscaped yard, in a great neighborhood with really good schools and easy access to the interstate. Someone should want to buy that, right? Seriously, let me know if you are interested.

So I find myself, as I am scrambling to make sure the toothpaste is cleaned out of the sink before I rush the boys off to school every morning, wondering if St. Joseph might put in a good word for us and just get the deal done so we could stop all this nonsense. So here’s how you make the request:

1. Get a plastic statue of Saint Joseph.
2. Bury it in your yard.
3. Make a deal.

Some sources suggest that it might be a good idea to also say a prayer. And various sources suggest different ways of burying your “Joseph.” He might go right side up, in the front yard facing the “For Sale” sign. Or perhaps he should be lying on his back and pointing toward your house. Some other people insist that that he has to be 3 feet from the rear of the house and/or buried exactly 12 inches deep. Be careful not to let him face away from your house because the house across the street will sell, whether or not it is on the market. And if you’re really desperate, bury the poor little statue upside down because Joseph will want to be righted as soon as possible so the deal is sure to happen quickly.

So I wondered what the Roman Catholic Church had to say about all of this. It turns out, this smacks of superstition rather than sound theology and while the church does approve of honoring the saints and even asking for intercession from them, it frowns on threatening saint statues with eternal internment unless they grant you a favor.

And though I myself am not Catholic, I can see their point. So I guess Saint Joseph is safe at our house, for now. But if traffic doesn’t pick up soon, I may find myself following the path of Brother André. Of course I’m fresh out Saint Joseph medals so perhaps I’ll have to raid the Little People nativity set.

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6 thoughts on “The Patron Saint of Household Slovenliness

  1. Debby

    You are truly gifted. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in such a creative way. I know you start my day with interest and a smile every time. Plus now I know how to begin my house sale after the new year!

    1. Thank you very much. You can buy kits complete with instructions online, or if you’re interested you might even ask your realtor. Often, I’m told, they keep a few statues on hand. I’m a skeptic myself, but there are a lot of people who insist it works.

  2. Always interesting to read your blog postings. We’ll miss you from our group (of course, that’s just me; perhaps I should take a poll).
    One point you didn’t address: why leave drippy Oregon in the middle of the damp? You could always wait until spring, when flowers are blooming, birds are nesting, and the sun sometimes shines through the clouds banked up against the Cascades.
    By delaying your departure, you increase your chances of experiencing an earthquake. You DO know we’re located on a major fault line, don’t you? That would give your boys something to tell back in the midwest.

    1. Ah, Sam. I will miss you all, too, and will certainly keep in touch. When you’re all famous and travelling on extensive book tours, I’m sure we’ll have a chance to catch up. Two interesting facts: 1.The new home to which I am headed has the same average rainfall as the Willamette Valley, just less rainy season and more stormy deluge. 2. I will be about the same distance from a major fault line whose massive rumblings have been known in history to cause the reverse flow of the Mississippi River. An intensely destructive earth quake has been overdue since I was a young child so I guess I still have that to look forward to. If I think about the fact that I am also moving to tornado alley, I guess I could begin to question my sanity. But what stories I will have to tell.

I love comments! Please keep them PG, though. I blush easily.

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