Join us for St. Joseph celebration

Published 12:57 am Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Please come join us in Tuite Hall at Assumption Church, 10 Morgantown Road in Natchez, from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Saturday as we celebrate St. Joseph’s Day. The Altar Society celebrates the feast of St. Joseph every year and this year is no exception. For those of you unaware of the history behind this celebration, I would like to offer you a bit of historical background.

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 help, since he is the patron saint of farmers, workers, fishermen, families, and for the dying.

The townspeople begged him to bring an end to the famine, and their prayers were answered with a great rain. The crops flourished and the people were saved. As an act of thanksgiving, they bestowed upon St. Joseph a huge feast laid out on a three tiered altar representing the three persons in the Blessed Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).

Email newsletter signup

The feast was meatless, as is customary today, because it typically falls during the Lenten Season, when all meat except seafood is to be abstained. During the famine, the Sicilians’ ancestors ate mostly bread, vegetables and fish which are the main components of the altars. 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.

You will also find symbolic breads decorated and 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 as 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, breads and cakes are made to reflect symbols associated with St. Joseph, such as a hammer, saw, nails, breadcrumbs (to represent “sawdust”) in honor of the carpenter saint along with his staff and sandals. You will also find on the altar, Italian fig cookies, grapes, the traditional Italian olive salad and a large 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 Day celebration.

Traditionally, many individuals and their extended families create altars in their home for St. Joseph’s Day. Many of these altars are in fulfillment of promises made to St. Joseph for favors granted. Others create theirs solely as a devotion to him in honor of a loved one, or an ill person, or possibly for jobs, and safety of family members, especially those serving in the military.

In my hometown of New Orleans, they are everywhere because New Orleans has a large Catholic influence. There are signs on just about every corner directing you to some. It’s a huge feast day that can be seen in many public places, including churches, schools, hospitals, halls, homes and restaurants.

Please come join us in celebrating the wonder of St. Joseph on his special day. We will also be collecting canned goods, dried goods as well as accepting monetary donations that will be donated to the less fortunate in our community. As they say in New Orleans, “Laissez les bon temps rouler” (Let the good times roll), and we hope to see you there.

Nona Columbo is a member of Assumption Church.