Countdown to St. Joseph’s Day: 6 days
Last week at their monthly meeting, the Young Adult Ministry of St. Catherine of Siena Parish hosted its very first St. Joseph’s Table (La Tavola di San Giuseppe also called St. Joseph’s Altar). On a three-tiered table surmounted by a statue of St. Joseph, these Catholic young adults placed food to share (including home made focaccia—so they literally broke bread together) as well as canned goods to donate to the hungry.
As we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of our great patron and father, let us seek to imitate his virtues. The St. Joseph’s Table can help us do this, for around it loved ones gather to pray and share a meal; it is a reminder to model our own family after the Holy Family and, with grateful hearts for the many blessings of God, to show charity to others in need.
There is even an approved blessing for your St. Joseph’s Table, including a special provisions that a lay person can say if a priest or deacon is not available.
As part of the Rite of Blessing, the minister says,
Today we honor the memory of Saint Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary and patron of the universal Church. We rejoice at this table, which is a sign of God’s generous blessings and of our call to serve the poor and hungry. We pray that through the intercession of Saint Joseph we too might join the saints at the banquet of the Lord in the heavenly kingdom.
All-provident God, the good things that grace this table remind us of your many good gifts. Bless this food, and may the prayers of Saint Joseph, who provided bread for your Son and food for the poor, sustain us and all our brothers and sisters on our journey towards your heavenly kingdom.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
If you can’t have your own St. Joseph’s Table, you can go to the online Virtual St. Joseph’s Altar. There you can place a symbolic item on the altar, submit a prayer request, view photos of more elaborate St. Joseph’s Tables, and even learn traditional recipes.
From the above website, here is a little bit more of the history and customs of the Tavola di San Giuseppe.
The St. Joseph Altar is Sicilian in origin. During a terrible famine, the people of Sicily pleaded to St. Joseph, their patron saint, for relief. St. Joseph answered their prayers, and the famine ended. In gratitude, they prepared a table with foods they had harvested. After paying homage to St. Joseph, they distributed the food to the less fortunate.
The Altar is set up in three tiers, representing the Holy Trinity. A statue of St. Joseph is placed on the top tier, usually surrounded by flowers, greenery & fruit.
No meat is prepared for the Altar. This is probably because St. Joseph’s Feast falls in the Lenten Season and also because meat was a rarity to the Sicilian peasants. Breads, cakes and cookies, baked in symbolic Christian shapes, are prepared for the Altar. Pastries in the shapes of monstrances, chalices, crosses, doves, lambs, fish, bibles, hearts, wreaths and palms adorn the tiers of the Altar. Symbols of St. Joseph - such as lilies, staffs, sandals, ladders, saws, hammers and nails - are also used. There is symbolism in many of the items on the Altar. Breadcrumbs rerpresent the sawdust of St. Joseph the Carpenter. Twelve whole fish represent the apostles. Wine is symbolic of the Miracle at Cana.
The Altar is a medium of petition and thanksgiving. Petitions of the faithful are written on pieces of paper and placed in baskets on the Altar. Photos of deceased relatives & friends may decorate the Altar as well.
Viva San Giuseppe!!!
Day 4 of our novena. Ite ad Ioseph (“Go to Joseph”, Genesis 41:55)