St. Joseph ~ The Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

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Just like our Heavenly Father gives us love, care, stability and the standard to live by with his holy word in the scriptures, he is a true Father to us who wants the very best for all his children.  St. Joseph follows our Father’s example, as both husband and step-father.  He gives us examples which men should follow in their lives. Joseph cared for and provided for the Holy Household. There are many qualities that Joseph had which we could use to be the role model for Christian husbands and fathers. Joseph was a very compassionate man.  We can see an example of this when he suspected his wife of infidelity; he planned to divorce her quietly rather than denounce her publicly and expose her to public shame and penalty.

Joseph was always obedient to God and did what he knew was God’s will without hesitation.  Examples of this are that he kept Mary as his wife; he protected and provided for his family when they had to flee to foreign lands to protect them from danger.

Joseph led a life of deep prayer and was in communion with God, and would always seek out that which was God’s will. God often told Joseph his will using dreams.

Joseph was a provider of care, When Jesus’s life was threatened, Joseph would take them out of danger. He took his family to Egypt and only returned when it was safe to do so, and when Jesus went missing ataged twelve, Joseph went searching for him bas both parents were obviously extremely worried about Jesus’s safety.

Joseph also brought much more to Jesus’s life, he taught him his trade which Jesus worked in for about twenty years, he gave Jesus love, stability and was his earthly male role model, which was and still is vitally important for a good father to give any child.

Sadly not all children are brought up in such a way today, but husbands and fathers truly should seek to follow this sincere man of God in the way they run their lives. Are you married? Do you give all the love, trust and respect to your spouse? Or with stresses and strains do you always argue or not truly make time for each other? If you have children, do you know where they are and if they are safe, or who they might be talking to online? Do you give emotional stability, patience and unconditional love? Do your children see you as the role model they need in a Father?  We should strive to be as our heavenly Father is to each of us, to our spouses, our children and in fact to all as our brothers and sisters.

While the Gospels do not shed much light on St. Joseph’s life, it is believed that he died before Jesus’ public ministry.

Over the years, many traditions and customs have sprung up in celebration of St. Joseph’s Feast Day.

According to legend, there was a famine in Sicily many centuries ago. The villagers prayed to St. Joseph, foster-father of the Infant Savior, and asked his intercession before the throne of God. Their prayers were answered. With the ending of the dreadful famine, a special feast of thanksgiving was held in commemoration of the Saint. This celebration became tradition. Wealth families prepared huge buffets. They then invited the less fortunate people of the village, especially the homeless and sick.

The celebration begins with a religious tableau. Selected villagers portray an elderly man, a lovely young woman, and a little child. The three are seated at the head table and remain there during the early part of the festivity. Others accompanying this “Holy Family” are twelve men or boys, representing the Apostles and other children, attired as angels. The village priest blesses the food, then the “Holy Family” is served first by the host and hostess.

All are free to come and go as they wish. The guests may eat what they choose and as much as pleases them. The festival lasts most of the day and well into the night. When all have been fed, they go on their way with thankful hearts and take the blessing of the host and hostess with them.

The effect of the table design is dignified, solemn, yet festive, grand and inspiring. Much symbolism is contained in its shape and decoration. The “steps” represent the ascent from earth to heaven. On the topmost step is a statue of St. Joseph or a picture of the Holy Family. White linen tablecloths cover the table. Vigil lights of green, brown and deep yellow, representing St. Joseph’s attire, are profusely placed. Palms placed nearby and around the room, as well as lily plants and white carnations give the table softness and the scents together with incense used in the opening of the ceremony are suggestive of the fragrance of heaven and the sweetness of salvation.

The food dishes represent the harvest, the created beauties of the world. Breads are baked in shapes of a staff, a carpenter’s implement, a hand, the cross and animals close to the Infant Child at birth. These shapes represent St. Joseph and the life of Christ. Minestras, very thick soups, are made of lentils, favas and other types of beans, together with escarole, broccoli or cauliflower. Other vegetables, celery, fennel stalks, boiled and stuffed artichokes are also served.

No cheese is eaten on St. Joseph’s day. The spaghetti is not sprinkled with grated Incanestrato, but in its place a traditional mixture of tasted dry bread crumbs with fresh sardines and fennel sauce is used. A dish of “sweet macaroni” with honey sauce is also served.

Then, the special dessert without which no St. Joseph’s Day buffet could ever be called by that name. It is St. Joseph’s Sfinge: a large round cream puff filled with ricotta (Italian cottage cheese) and topped with red cherries and glazed orange slices. Many dessert cookies are embellished with almonds. The almond tree is characteristic among the flora of the Mediterranean and a profoundly sacred symbol to those of Jewish, Moslem and Christian faiths alike.

All are free to come and go as they wish. The guests may eat what they choose and as much as pleases them. The festival lasts most of the day and well into the night. When all have been fed, they go on their way with thankful hearts and take the blessing of the host and hostess with them.

It is also customary for the village officials to arrange a public buffet in St. Joseph’s honor. The banquet table invariably stands in the piazza–public square–opposite the doors of the cathedral. The table is usually built around two sides of the piazza in the form of a right angle. These village tables in the public squares may not be as elaborately decorated as those in the homes, but they sage beneath the weight of choice foods and wines contributed by the wealthy villagers. All come to this public table at some time during the day to pay homage to the great saint.

 

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