Anything for St. Joseph ... Who Does Everything for Us!
Pope Pius IX proclaimed Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church in 1870. In this Year of St. Joseph, with all the needs of our families, of the Church, and of the world, let us “go to Joseph”. He preserved the Holy Family from every danger, and will do the same for those who have recourse to him today.
Saint Thomas Aquinas also encouraged recourse to the Pillar of Families:
“Some Saints are privileged to extend to us their patronage with particular efficacy in certain needs, but not in others; but our holy patron St. Joseph has the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, in every undertaking.”"
St. Joseph is invoked under many titles; to name just a few: Light of Patriarchs, Patron of the Dying, Protector of the Universal Church. But did you know that he is also venerated and invoked as the Terror of Demons? God Himself chose St. Joseph to defend the Son and his mother. They were the targets of great demonic and human assaults, especially those of Herod. Because of his immeasurable holiness, next to Our Lady, he is the greatest saint in defending against Satan, and exorcists regularly invoke him.
Father Donald Calloway, who recently published the bestselling book, Consecration to St Joseph: The Wonders of Spiritual Fatherhood, said, "With families under attack, marriages falling apart, people turning away from God, and so much anxiety and fear, we really need St. Joseph's protection." And because he was the head of the Holy Family on earth, when St. Joseph makes a petition to Jesus, it is a paternal petition and Jesus unfailingly grants his requests.
Saint Joseph’s Day, March 19 is, in Italy, also Father’s Day—which isn’t at all surprising as St. Joseph was, of course, the foster father of Jesus. This feast and festival—which always falls in the midst of Lent—is especially commemorated and celebrated in Italy in general and Sicily in particular.
The tradition of the “St. Joseph Table” of food (“la tavala di San Giuseppe”) began many years ago in Sicily. A prolonged drought led to loss of crops all over the island. Famine was imminent. The Sicilians were never tempted to despair. They collectively made a vow, promising Saint Joseph special honors should he deliver them from starvation. The prayers of the Sicilians were quickly answered. Saint Joseph heard their pleas from Heaven and sent rain in abundance. A bountiful harvest resulted, sparing the people from misery. In thanksgiving, the people of Sicily began constructing altars with
Saint Joseph having the place of prominence. Breads, cakes, pasta, fish, and all manner of foods would be displayed on the altar. The poor were to eat and have their fill first, and any leftovers would be donated. Traditional etiquette is that no one can be turned away from this table.
It is a shared celebration with the entire community and, since it is a living tradition, it has many variations. But certain traditions are constant: no meat (because we’re in Lent) and sesame-coated breads in symbolic shapes.
According to tradition, during that Sicilian drought, the only crop that still grew was the fava bean. So fava beans are given to each person who visits the St. Joseph altar. Saint Joseph ensures that whoever takes a fava bean, though down to his last penny, will never be completely destitute in the year that follows.
The altar is arranged on three levels, representing the Holy Trinity. In the center of the top level is Saint Joseph holding the Child Jesus. The altar is decorated with bread baked in various shapes. Hammers, ladders, and carpenter’s squares symbolizing the tools Saint Joseph used while on Earth are common sights. Bread in the shape of his staff and shoes can be seen as well as in the shapes of chalices, monstrances, and other Christian symbols. You may also see on the altars bottles of wine, local seafood, vegetables and other foods. An array of flowers, candles, pictures of other saints, and images of deceased loved ones also decorate the altar. The Saint Joseph altar can be simple or spectacular, but it is always a labor of love.
Many faithful write their petition on a card and leave them in a basket at the foot of the St. Joseph statue at the St. Joseph altars. In places where St. Joseph is honored with these “thank you” altars, world-weary souls – kneeling down, burdened with illness, financial woes, family problems and all manner of worries - rise comforted and consoled.