Church to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Come join us in Tuite Hall at Assumption Church, No. 10 Morgantown Road, in Natchez, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday as we celebrate Saint Joseph’s Day. For those of you unaware of the history behind this celebration, I’d like to offer you a bit of historical background that I learned and experienced regarding St. Joseph’s Day.

Officially, St. Joseph’s Day is March 19, and in Sicily many years ago, there was a severe famine. The Sicilians turned in prayer to St. Joseph for deliverance (since he is known in the Catholic faith as the patron saint of farmers, workers, fishermen, families and for the dying).

They begged him to bring an end to the famine, and their prayers were answered. The rains came, the crops grew and the people were saved. As an act of thanksgiving, they bestowed upon St. Joseph the same kindness that he gave them in the form of a feast laid out on a three tiered altar.

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They prepared an elaborate meatless feast. The altar for his glory was built on a three tiered platform, representing the three persons in the Blessed Trinity, (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). A statue of St. Joseph or a picture of the Holy Family will always be placed at the top tier surrounded by flowers, candles, greenery and fruit.

Part of the altar is decorated with symbolic breads shaped in familiar Christian symbols such as the Monstrance (Spada) which holds the Sacred Host, a cross; signifying the crucifixion of Christ; doves representing the Holy Spirit; lambs since Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God; a Bible, (usually a large cake that is one of the focal points of the altar) and palms, since palms were cast at Jesus’ feet as he entered the holy city of Jerusalem.

In addition, you will find breads and cakes in the symbols that best reflect St. Joseph, such as his staff, ladder, saw, hammer, nails and sandals. The altar is also adorned with cookies, figs, grapes and traditional Italian olive salad. Other symbols decorating the altar to include breadcrumbs, (representing “sawdust” in honor of the carpenter saint.)

It is believed that no meat is served because St. Joseph’s Day typically occurs during the Lenten season and also because St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in New Orleans’ research revealed that the “Sicilians’ ancestors ate mostly bread, vegetables and fish.”

Even though the tradition was begun by the Sicilians in Italy, it is still an annual tradition today in the Catholic faith and we invite everyone to come and be a part of Assumptions St. Joseph’s Day celebration.

Traditionally, many individuals and families create altars in their homes for St. Joseph’s Day. Many are in fulfillment of promise made and favors granted. Some create theirs solely as a devotion to him, or in honor of a loved one, an ill person, and for jobs and safety of family members. In my hometown of New Orleans they are on just about every street corner. It’s a big feast day. They can be found in many public places such as churches, schools, hospitals, halls, and restaurants. My family and I were very happy to know that far away from our old home we could find an alter here in Natchez.

The ladies auxiliary society at Assumption hope to grow awareness of St. Joseph’s Day and will continue to make their altar bigger and better with every passing year.

Please come join us in celebrating the wonders of St. Joseph on his special day, and if you find yourself to be of good fortune, we’re also accepting donations of canned or dried foods, as well as accepting monetary donations for the less fortunate in our community.

Hope to see ya’ll there.

Nona Colombo is a member of Assumption Catholic Church.