If you’re selling your house, there’s a set process. You hire a realtor and buy a St. Joseph statue.

You bury the statue upside down, facing the house — or no, wait.

You bury him standing up, looking out towards the street.

You bury him 12 inches deep, within 12 inches of the for-sale sign. Or maybe you bury him on his back, pointing toward the house near your flowers in the backyard.

(Which leads to the joke: Did you hear about the people who buried St. Joseph sideways? The neighbor’s house sold.)

Jokes aside, whichever way you decide to bury the statue, you definitely say the prayer, asking for St. Joseph’s intercession with God, and you pray every day until the house is sold.

“O St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord ...”.

But does it work? And is it appropriate?

Burying a little statue of St. Joseph and praying for his intercession with God has legions of advocates in real estate, among Catholics selling their homes and even non-Catholics.

“I’ve done that,” said Brigitte Robinson, a member of The Madeleine Parish in Northeast Portland and a real estate professional with Urban Nest.

Robinson said the last time she suggested the practice to a client, it was because the woman’s house had been lingering on the market. The woman went straightaway to The Grotto, bought a St. Joseph home sales kit, buried it and prayed. It sold that very day. Admittedly a reduced price had also gone into effect that day, so perhaps this wasn’t the perfect experiment.

But still.

“I felt it worked,” Robinson said. “You’re saying you need God’s help with the process. You’re praying for help in selling the home, giving thanks for the home, and thanks in finding the right buyers, people who will also appreciate the home.”

Karoline Ashley, another parishioner at The Madeleine, works with her husband at Ashley Realty Works with ReMax. She said she has a few St. Joseph statues in her car. “During the Recession I had a whole bunch. I leave no stone unturned.”

Michael Dooney, also at The Madeleine, is a realtor with Windemere. He sees the St. Joseph tradition in line with his belief that buyers need to fully commit to the process of selling and to be in the right place spiritually. “That’s when things go forward,” he said.

Dooney thinks the process of home buying and selling brings constant reminders of God. “We like to think we’re running things, but actually we’re just in attendance.”

It makes sense that prayers around houses would go to God through St. Joseph. He was the earthly protector of his holy family, who saved the baby Jesus by fleeing into Egypt and found a new home for them there. Although the tradition of burying the statue and praying for St. Joseph’s intercession seems to have begun only in the 1970s, some stories give it earlier precedents. By one account, in the 1500s, St. Teresa of Avila couldn’t find property for building a new convent. She asked the nuns to pray for St. Joseph’s intercession and to bury blessed medals of him. It worked.

Another account says that centuries ago German contractors buried figures of their patron saint, St. Joseph the Worker, in the foundations of houses they were building.

In a third story, the Montreal gatekeeper St. André Bessette prayed and buried a St. Joseph medal when he wasn’t able to buy property for his chapel. The sale then took place.

The church doesn’t have an official position on the custom, although people certainly shouldn’t be burying St. Joseph as a good luck charm. St. Joseph isn’t wood to be knocked on or a four-leaf clover to find. The prayer for the saint’s intercession and the reliance on God’s will is what is important.

“We can pray for anything, even silly things like a parking spot,” said Msgr. Gerard O’Connor, director of the Office of Divine Worship for the Archdiocese of Portland. “So yes, we can pray for anything and we should,” he said. “As long as it doesn’t devolve into superstition, and as long as we accept God’s will in all our prayers.”

In other words, there’s no magic, no power gained from prayer — or from burying a figure. The prayer is for God’s help if it is his will, and God’s help in accepting his will.

Dooney’s experience in real estate has borne that out. “One of the more gratifying things in my profession is when things work out the way they’re supposed to,” he said. “Not the way we might have planned it, but God’s way.”

Msgr. O’Connor, from a town in East Yorkshire in England, said he hadn’t heard of the St. Joseph tradition before arriving in the United States.

The St. Joseph statue, after a house has sold, should come with you after you move. There’s general agreement on this. You can thank the saint for his intercession and give him a place in your new home, where the little plastic figure can remind you of the saint’s patience, love, courage and hard work.

Another real estate tradition has to do with the blessing of a new home.

When a Catholic family moves into a new home, they can call upon the parish to ask a priest or deacon to come to bless the house. Kim Nguyen, a longtime photographer for the Catholic Sentinel, invited family and friends to come and share prayers at the blessing of her new house. Father John Amsberry, then pastor of St. Joseph the Worker, led the prayers and sprinkled holy water in each room and around the perimeter of the house.

Part of one prayer for a home blessing goes like this: “In you every dwelling grows into a holy temple; grant that those who live in this house may be built up together into the dwelling place of God in the Holy Spirit.”

With the response being: “For this we pray.”

Robinson, the Urban Nest realtor, vividly remembers when her parents asked their priest to come bless their house. “A blessing is a good start over for a house,” she said. “I know it sounds a little New Agey, but I do think houses hold on to energy.”