Catholics celebrate St. Joseph's Day
By Katherine Miller
CROWLEY – Thursday, March 19 marked a special day for Christians worldwide as St. Joseph’s Feast Day was celebrated nationwide. Locally, churches throughout Acadia Parish hosted traditional St. Joseph’s Altar gatherings.
Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is the Patron saint for persons with the name of Joseph, the universal church, workers, families, fathers and dying. In such countries as Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Italy, this day is celebrated as Father’s Day.
According to a legend that stems from Italy in the Middle Ages, a severe drought provoked the people to pray for their patron saint to bring them rain. They promised that if he answered their prayers, they would prepare a large feast in his honor. After the rain came, as promised, the people of Sicily prepared the banquet.
The fava bean, which was the crop that saved the population from starvation, is a traditional part of St. Joseph’s Day altars. Another custom on this day is giving food to the needy, while in some communities it is a tradition to wear red and eat a Zeppole, an Italian pastry.
A typical St. Joseph’s Day altar contains three tiers, which represent the trinity, and includes such items as flowers, limes, candles, wine, fava beans, cakes, breads, cookies and Zeppole. In keeping with the season of Lent, meat is typically not included. At the head of the altar, a statue of St. Joseph is displayed among the colors of the Italian flag, which are red, white and green. Most altars contain a basket where visitors may place their written prayer petitions.
“Each year, in keeping with tradition, we bake bread in the shape of chalices, staffs, hammer and nails on the altar,” explained Agnes Patin, coordinator of the St. Joseph’s Altar held at Redemptorist Catholic school.
Typical St. Joseph altar symbols baked of bread include: the Monstrance which holds the Sacred Host, the Chalice as the consecration of bread and wine at the Last Supper, the Cross as the crucifixion of Christ, the Dove as the Holy Spirit, the Lamb as Jesus the Lamb of God, the Fish as the Christian symbol of Jesus Christ, hearts as the sacred heart of Mary, wreath as the crown of thorns, palms to symbolize Jesus’ walk through Jersualem on Palm Sunday.
Many believe that the altar can bring good fortune, as many have reported special favors received after celebrating at St. Joseph’s altar.
Each visitor upon leaving the altar, is given a small paper bag containing a few blessed items from the altar. These bags typically contain a holy card with cookies or small breads and a fava bean. Many faithful believe that a fava bean serves as a token of the altar, reminding us of God’s provisions through St. Joseph’s intercession, and that if placed in a pantry, the pantry will never be bare.