Simon of Cyrene. Veronica. Mary. Even Jesus needed a little help along the way. Even He found strength from the temporal care of others. So, too, does His Church offer relief along the sacrificial way of Lent. The saints’ feast days are always reason to celebrate, and St. Joseph’s is no exception–even though it falls on March 19, during Lent.
Recognized as the great intercessor who saved the city of Sicily, Italy, from famine many centuries ago, St. Joseph is traditionally honored with feasting and festivity in Italy on his feast day. Great tables, called St. Joseph’s Table, are laid in three tiers representing the Holy Trinity. The top tier holds a statue of St. Joseph and flowers or greenery. The other tiers hold an assortment of meatless food: minestras, or thick bean and vegetable soups, breads and pastries in the shapes of chalices, carpentry tools, lilies, fish, monstrances, etc., wine for the miracle at Cana, 12 fish for the twelve apostles, pineapple for hospitality, lemons for “luck”, and pasta with seasoned bread crumbs, or “carpenter’s dust”, instead of cheese. The fava bean carries special significance since it was the one crop that thrived during the famine in Italy so long ago.
Decor on the tables’ tiers includes candles in green, brown, and deep yellow to represent the colors of St. Joseph’s clothing, as well as lilies and white carnations to match the white linen table coverings. There might also be a basket for prayer petitions and pictures of the dead. These great tables are laid for celebration either in homes, or in public squares where the wealthy can provide food to share with the poor.
Take a break from your Lenten fast and honor the great man who stood by Jesus’ side as His earthly father and humble servant.
Adapt the huge Italian celebrations to your own family. Prepare a festive meal of minestrone soup, fish, and/or pasta, hearty breads, and pastries. Lay your table with white and pick up some fresh lilies or carnations to place beside a statue or picture of St. Joseph. Try your hand at making fava beans or a traditional dessert for the feast day, Sfinge di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Cream Puffs). And consider imitating the gesture of Italy’s public square tables by making an extra donation to your local food pantry.
Gather strength by uniting your family with St. Joseph in celebration, and enter into Holy Week renewed to embrace the Cross.
Image credit: Cream Puff by Romi (Pixabay, CCO Public Domain)