Fr. Janes E. Shea, C.Ss.R.
Dear Parishioners and Friends:
The solemn feast of St. Joseph is universally celebrated on the 19th of March. However, when St. Joseph’s day fails on a Sunday, the solemnity is transferred to Monday. There is a long standing tradition of having a St. Joseph’s Table.
A minister was called to a church in a small town. The day after the minister and his family moved into the parsonage., a woman in the neighborhood welcomed them with homemade pie. The pie turned out to be a disaster. It tasted horrible. No one in the family could eat it. They tossed it into the garbage. But now, how could the minister’s wife thank the neighbor and at the same time be truthful.
After much thought, she wrote this letter: “Dear Mrs. Abernathy, I am so grateful to you for baking a pie for our family. You are so kind and thoughtful. I can assure you that a pie like yours never lasts long in our house!”
And so it is with food. Some is delicious. And then, other food won’t last long in any house. Not so with the food which graces the St. Joseph Table. St. Joseph is the patron saint of the universe. But the Italians have adopted him as they religiously turn to him in the time of dire need. In the middle ages a drought and famine devastated Sicily. They prayed to St. Joseph. Then the rains finally came and the crops prospered. Their prayers were answered. They gave credit to St. Joseph for interceding for them. In thanksgiving, the community made offerings to St. Joseph. The greatest offering they could present was food. They introduced the St. Joseph’s Altar which is also known as the St. Joseph’s Table.
Every year the Italians erect a lovely altar with three levels. The levels reflect the Holy Trinity. They drape the altar with a white altar cloth and adorn it with flowers. With the decorations they thank God for a safe return from war: health; happiness; success in studies or business and whatever blessing God sends their way. They also want to share their gifts with the less fortunate.
This custom and devotion continues unto the present day. Families spend weeks cooking and baking. They bake bread in many shapes which symbolize a wreath, a crown of thorns, a heart a chalice or a monstrance. And, of course, cookies are everyone’s favorite at the St. Joseph’s Table.
In addition to all the wheat products, there is a delightful variety of fruits, vegetables, cheeses and seafood. Of course Pasta Milanese is the leading entree. The green fava bean is also served. When dried, roasted and blessed, the bean becomes the popular ‘Lucky Bean.’ Legend has it that you will never be broke as long as you carry three fava beans.
Everyone looks forward to the children playacting the holy family, coming to eat. Sometimes the angels and saints accompany them.
This sign appeared in the window of a business of London: “We have been established for over one hundred years and have been pleasing and displeasing customers ever since. We have made money and lost money. We suffered from high taxes, government control and bad payers. We have been cussed and discussed, messed about, lied to, held up, robbed, and swindled. We’re still in business just to see what happens next.”
Almost sounds like the Catholic Church. Many folks are anxious to see what happens next to our Church. But all of us know that the best is yet to come. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Christ came to redeem the world. He then opened the doors to heaven and invites his faithful followers to enter. it doesn’t get any better than that.
For centuries, March 25th has been celebrated by Catholics as the “Feast of the Anunciation.” Mary’s fiat – “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say” – brought our Savior into the world. As the first disciple of Christ, Mary shows us that we must listen to and do God’s will.
Doing God’s will is not always easy. We usually have our own plans for our lives. It is good to have plans, but never at the expense of our growth in relationship to God. Like Mary, we must trust that God’s will is the best for us and our world. Let us follow the example of Mary and call upon her to help us open our hearts to say “yes” to God!
A dietician was addressing a number of elderly folks about harmful foods. Toward the end of his presentation he said, “There is one food which most people have eaten or will eat, that will bring pain and suffering for the rest of their lives. Does anyone know what food that might be?” An outspoken woman in back of the room shouted, “Yes! I know. Wedding cake!”
Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.