021. Housing Melt-down

The real estate section in this morning’s Sunday paper  is, as usual, teeming with the never-ending bad news about the housing/mortgage crisis.  I just hate reading that stuff mostly because I feel a personal responsibility for my contributions to it.

I’m not entirely to blame, though.  I was aided and abetted by St. Joseph.

We used to live in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.  It’s kind of a Catholic ghetto that was often referred to as Rabbit Hill.  It was commonly presumed that nobody was practicing birth control there.  This was not correct.  Everybody was practicing birth control; we just didn’t know any methods that worked.  Obstetricians love it when they hear that you’re practicing rhythm because they’re thinking about all the business that’ll be coming in.

The women in my neighborhood were far too barefoot and pregnant to think about having a career in the outside world so, as housewives, we huddled together to make the best of things. And I learned a lot from this sisterhood. I did indeed.

We lived in St. Joseph’s parish.  It must be because the church was named after him, that the legends about its patron saint grew.   And grew.  None of the women would have spilled the beans to the Jesuit priests who would have sniffed at it, but there was a secretive and widely-held belief about St. Joseph.  I hadn’t been living there long before I, too, was convinced:  when it comes to the chicks, St. Joseph is a guy who can’t say No.  We had discovered a female’s most powerful prayer ally.

It makes perfect sense if you think about Joseph’s history.  Here was this hard-hat carpenter out for a little bubbly with his chums when he meets up with Mary.

Mary could never have been elected to be the homecoming queen.  Nobody was going to name her “Miss Nazareth” or write a song about her called “The Girl I Want To Marry”.  Far from it.  Mary was a teen-aged pregnant, unwed mother-to-be.  In those days and in that part of the world, the only thing her station in life could have qualified her for was death by stoning.   Certainly, as far as the Jewish bachelors in her village were concerned, Mary was dog-doo.

But, enter our hero.  I’ve never believed that it was Mary who proposed.  In the first place, the girls weren’t allowed to in those days, and anyway, she was probably too bashful.   No, it had to be like the nuns told us: an angel did it.

The conversation might have gone something like this:

Angel (think Tim Gunn here): “ Joseph, for your next assignment, you are to get this kid off the streets and marry her.  There’s something important she has to do.  In return, we’ll help you start your own furniture line.”

Joseph: “Well, I don’t know . . . “

Angel: “Do it!  Make it work!”

And he did.  Joseph just couldn’t say No.

Try to imagine the reaction of his drinking buddies:  “You’re going to marry WHO?  You’re going to marry a pregnant VIRGIN?  Are you nuts?”

Eventually, because of his woodworking skills, St. Joseph came to be known internationally as the Patron Saint of Housing.  Mary may have had a hand in that.  She may have said something like “I don’t mean to complain, but do we have to keep living in this stable?  Gimme a break.”

I’m sure he couldn’t refuse her.  He probably built a nice little bungalow, maybe on the shore of Galilee with a view, maybe with its own private well, and with solid Amish-style furniture including a really comfortable crib.  No way would Jesus ever again have to sleep in a manger.

Nope.  Joseph didn’t know the meaning of the word No.

That’s where I come in.  I hadn’t been living on Capitol Hill for long when I was initiated into an astonishing ritual. Whenever any of the ladies wanted to buy another house or remodel the kitchen, or get the roof fixed, it would be St. Joseph to the rescue.

This is how it works. You start small at first.  Just a novena or two. Everyday for nine days you say a prayer pleading with Joseph to intercede on your behalf and come through with the goods. If that doesn’t work, you have to go to step 2.

Step 2 requires that you go to a religious goods store and buy a statue of St. Joseph. (Or, you can get a kit online for $9.95 that comes with free shipping and a complimentary home listing.) The statue is usually about 4 inches tall and the rules for its use are carefully stated in the user manual that comes with it.

Basically, after you’ve picked out the house of your dreams, you visit it under cover of darkness, and dig a hole in the lot somewhere.  Then you plant the statue right-side up facing the house. After you cover it up, carefully spread some grass or bark over it so the present owners won’t spot it.  Then pray over it.  Fervently.  Then go home and keep praying.  And wait.

After you get the call announcing that your offer has been accepted (Hurray!) the statue is to be left in place.  There’s a lot of bad stuff can happen before the final sale goes through.  When it does, though, and after you have moved in, you must gently dig the statue up, bring it inside, wash it, and display it in a place of prominence.  Later, when it’s time to sell the house, you must take the statue back outside and plant it again – but this time upside down and facing away from the house,  That way, in case he’s confused, Joseph knows you’re trying to sell, not buy.

It’s an amazing, effective little system. And women world-wide practice it with passion.  (Except for realtors, I’ve never heard of any men doing it but they probably will now that I’ve revealed it.)  One time, before they got their condo, my granddaughter Gretchen went into a store and when she got waited on, she told the female store clerk that she wanted to buy a statue of St. Joseph.  “Oh, how exciting”, said the woman.  “What neighborhood is the house in?”

I hold St. Joseph in the highest esteem.  I’m proud to say that several members of my family are named after him: my mother Josie, granddaughter Josie, great-niece Josie, grandson Ford Joseph, and my grandson-in-law Joe.

Whenever I hear of anybody at large wanting to find a new place to live, or want to do any remodeling, I go into my spiel.  And anybody who listened had very effective results.  I have definitely made my contribution to the housing crisis.

St. Joseph may not have gotten much coverage in the Bible, but I bet his friends were stunned and amazed at what turned out to be his trophy wife.  Apart from that though, I always felt sad to think about how he never gets much credit. Of course, now I realize how outrageously wrong I was.  Of course, he was getting credit.  From the bank, the mortgage companies, loan companies, from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mae, from Home Depot and Sears even. St. Joseph can now be considered to be the Patron Saint of Housing and Foreclosures.

Joseph’s motto is “Ask and ye shall receive”.  He just can’t help himself. Nonetheless, girlfriend, if you should find yourself delinquent on your mortgage payments, for heaven’s sake, you know where to turn.  If Joseph got you into this fix, he can jolly well get you out of it.

Like I say, when it comes to the ladies, he’s a dude who can’t say No.  Whatta guy!  He’s a saint, that’s what he is.  For sure.

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2 Responses to 021. Housing Melt-down

  1. Linda Lewis says:

    When I was four, before we moved to the house I grew up in, there was a family in the next block that had 12 or 13 kids. That’s about twice the number of noses to count. Since I wasn’t allowed to cross the street, nor leave my yard without permission, and they lived at the far end of the block, I rarely played with any of the kids. One day, when one of their boys crossed the street to our block, I asked him why he smelled funny. He told me that he hated taking baths and on Saturday night when they lined up for their turn, he made his younger brother take his place so his brother had two baths and he could go two weeks without a bath, and was proud of it. So much for systems and procedures when y

  2. Linda Lewis says:

    ou are up against kids!

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