October 15, 2008
The Other Saint Joe
I grew up in the St. Joseph Stake, the 25th stake of Zion. When it was organized in 1883, its eastern limit was El Paso; its western limits were St. David, on the road to Tucson (which didn’t have enough Mormons to need any sort of church leadership), and Miami, AZ, on the road to Phoenix (which was taken care of by Mesa). Its headquarters were in Thatcher, the little farming town whose first white inhabitants were my great-great-great grandfather and his family. Still located on Church Street is the Stake Presidency Building, thank god--so many other important buildings in Thatcher’s history burned down in the 1980s due to faulty wiring installed by some douche nozzle, including the wonderful old church where I was baptized, and the administration building of the old Gila Academy, one of the first junior colleges built west of the Mississippi.
Because I grew up in the St. Joseph Stake, I knew exactly who St. Joseph was: Joseph Smith, the first latter-day saint, the guy who made it possible for me to grow up a saint. When I would encounter things like St. Joseph’s baby aspirin, I would think how nice and how strange it was that a bunch of heathen recognized Joseph Smith’s importance by naming their pills after him.
I was pretty old--in junior high or so--before I realized that the aspirin was actually named for the other St. Joseph--you know, the guy who married Mary, the mother of Jesus. I remember thinking, “All he did was marry a pregnant lady. How does that qualify him to be a saint?"--not in the Mormon way, of course, where all you have to do is be born into a family who believed in the proper set of doctrines but in the Catholic way, where you have to do miracles or something.
It became easier to understand when I learned that another translation of “saint” is simply “holy,” and another translation of holy is simply “set apart, unusual, other,” or special. It’s very easy to think about how a guy in an old patriarchal society who is willing to go ahead and marry his fiancé when she’s knocked up with someone else’s kid is, indeed, special.
This preamble has been designed to establish two things: one, I still have to remind myself, every time I hear a reference in the world at large to Saint Joseph, that it’s about the other Saint Joseph, not the Saint Joseph of my childhood (indoctrination runs deep); and two, I’m now going to tell you a story about that other St. Joe.
As I mentioned back in July, I sold my house. What I didn’t mention is that I was lucky enough to sell my house less than a month after I put it on the market, at a price high enough over what I paid for it that I made a small profit, even after I forked out for things like painting and some upgrades; and with my equity, I had a nice chunk of change in my pocket after all was said and done.
And although I can’t say for certain, St. Joseph might have had something to do with this. See, there’s a belief that he can help you sell your house. My loyal reader and commenter Juti told me about this, and, not one to skip out on divine intervention when I can get it, I paid 99 cents plus tax for a three-inch plastic statue of St. Joseph at my local Catholic book store, buried him upside down in my backyard; then, when he'd done his job--because I didn't want to lose the magic, should I ever need it again--dug him up just before I moved away and hauled him to my new home.
Here he is on my kitchen table in my new apartment, soil from my old garden still clinging to him.
I left the mud on him because I thought it would make for a cooler photo, but I was too hurried to take a picture right when I dug him up. Now the dirt has flaked off considerably, but I kind of like the look. (And I realize it's the pears behind him that are in focus, and that the sunlight from the window behind him makes him even blurrier, but I like that too--it looks like a halo to me.)
So--if you're trying to sell a house, invest a buck in a plastic statue and bury it in your backyard in some appropriately hopeful and respectful ceremony. OK, if you're a hardcore nonbeliever when it comes to supernatural and religious phenomena, you might be betraying your principles, but aside from that, what can it possibly hurt?
Posted by holly at October 15, 2008 9:02 AM