Thursday, March 27, 2008

St. Joseph's Altar

We have a wonderful St. Joseph's Altar at our school. Before I started teaching here I did not know the origin of this lovely custom. It is a tradition rich in historical context, symbolism and beauty.

The St. Joseph alter 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. They distributed the food to the less fortunate. Here at our school we donate our food from the altar in the same way.

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 and fruit.

Cakes and cookies, baked in symbolic Christian shapes, are prepared for the alter. Symbols of St. Joseph - such as, staffs, sandals, ladders, saws, hammers, nails and lilies - are also often displayed.

The symbolism of many of the items on the altar is rich and beautiful.

represent the sawdust of St. Joseph, the Carpenter.
Twelve whole fishes represent the apostles
Wine is symbolic of the Miracle at Cana.

note: St. Joseph's Feast Day is on March 28th this year. The traditional date is March 19 (which also the day that my Dad died).


Lisa said...

OH, Love, Love, Love this, Peggy! What a gorgeous statue and wonderful tradition!

Bia said...

We celebrated the Feast Day of St. Joseph this year with the following feast:

1st course: pasta with homemade sauce sprinkled with parmiggiano-reggiano and a pinch of breadcrust (symbolizing sawdust)

2nd course: tomato/cucumber salad; caponata with crostini; garlic cheese spread topped with apricot jam, served on crostini; deviled eggs; mozzarella cheese; emmental cheese; assorted breads

dessert: cream puffs; biscotti; espresso

dinner favors: individual bags with prayer card of St. Joseph, colorful biscotti; a fava bean for good luck

table decoration: statue of the Holy Family, crusty bread running along the length of the table.

Even though my mother is from northern Italy, we still like to celebrate this feast day.

I love how you did the altar! Bella, bella, bella! (I'm going to remember next year to include a carpenter's tools as part of the decor . . . great idea!)

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