Sunday, March 19, 2017

All Who Are Hungry are Guests at St. Joseph’s Table

The Feast of St. Joseph, or the Festa Di San Giuseppe in Italy where it is a very big deal, is celebrated in honor of Joseph the Carpenter, husband to Mary and human father of Jesus.

St. Joseph’s Day is celebrated annually on March 19.  Joseph, the husband of Mary—does that make him Jesus’s stepfather?—is the Patron Saint of Poland, of carpenters, workers of all kinds, and of assorted other things.  In many Latin countries it is also the occasion to celebrate fathers.
Joseph is particularly revered in Sicily where he is credited with bringing an end to a drought and famine in the Middle Ages.  Devotion to him spread through southern Italy and was brought to the United States by emigrants.  Sicilians, who arrived in New Orleans in the late 19th Century promoted wide spread celebrations in that city.  On the East Coast, particularly in Providence, Rhode Island, there are sometimes major parades featuring the wearing o’ the redSt. Joseph’s color—as more than a subtle tweak of the Irish, who attracted a lot of attention with their little festival two days earlier.  These parades actually were shows of political force as the Italians muscled the Irish out of control of city governments. 
A lavish and ornate St. Joseph's table laid out in New Orleans Church sanctuary.

Politics aside, the main feature of the celebration is St. Joseph’s Table, a feast set out in thanks for the miracle of saving Sicily.  Usually laid out buffet style and decorated with the good Saint’s statue, lily blossoms, and votive candles.  Food includes elaborate meatless offerings—it is Lent after all—including stuffed artichokes, pasta and fish, as well as breads, cookies, pastries, cakes and other delicacies.  Fava beans, the food St. Joseph provided to relieve the famine, are prominently featured.   
What makes the St. Joseph Table different from other feasts is that it is supposed to be laid out for the poor, homeless, and oppressed.  No one is turned away.  You don’t have to go to mass or even be Catholic.  You can smell like Richard’s Wild Irish Rose and stale piss, be covered in tattoos with nails piercing your face.  Who knows?  You can even be Gay or have had an abortion.  Come. Eat.  Share with us.
St. Joseph's Day is not just for Italians and Poles.  Here is an ethnic Czeck parade in Ceder Rapids, Iowa.

What a great holiday!  Beats teenagers puking up green beer.  And from what I understand it is just what the new guy at the Vatican, Pope Frances, who has a soft spot for the poor and a generous and forgiving attitude, would like to see the Church do more than once a year.  

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