St. Patrick parishioners presented their first-ever St. Joseph Altar after the 10 a.m. Mass on Sunday, March 17.
Sponsored by parishioners Sara Jean and Anthony Brooklere, and supported by the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus Council 10567, this wonderful 200 year-old Sicilian tradition was celebrated in superb fashion in the church’s St. Joseph parish hall.
Why do the faithful celebrate St. Joseph's Altar? It is told that in the 18th Century there was an extended drought that led to a famine. The people prayed to their patron, St. Joseph. Finally, the rains came and the crops were abundant. In thanksgiving, the people built a three tiered Altar and filled it with food in honor of St. Joseph. After prayers of thanksgiving and a blessing, the food was distributed to the poor.
The tradition was brought to the U.S. by Sicilian immigrants who held the celebration in their homes. Today, the St. Joseph Altar is celebrated in parish churches.
Preparation for our Altar went on for weeks prior to the event. The Ladies conducted workdays to cook traditional Italian cookies and foods. The final preparations began on Friday before the actual event and continued all weekend right up until Sunday morning.
The celebration began with a prayer service led by St. Patrick Pastor Father Vernon Huguley. Father Huguley then blessed the altar, the food and the people in attendance. Attendees were served by the Ladies Auxiliary members as they sampled the various traditional non-meat dishes.
The altar was filled with symbolism including:
Whole Fish representing the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes
Lamb shaped cake - Jesus, the Lamb of God
Multiple breads including:
A Cross representing the crucifixion of Christ
A Fish which is the Christian symbol of Jesus
Hard Boiled Eggs symbolize the rebirth of Spring and the coming of Easter
Wine indicative of the Wedding Feast of Cana
Dry bread crumbs representing the saw dust from the carpenter’s work
Fave Beans representing the only crop that grew during the drought and thus it is call the Lucky Bean. It is said if you have a fave bean in your pocket, you will never go broke and if you have it in your pantry, you will never go hungry. The fave bean serves as a token of the Altar – a reminder of God’s provisions through the intercession of St. Joseph.
Palm Branches representing Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem
Holy cards were also available for attendees to take away as a reminder of their experience. Those who wanted to participate were provided slips of paper on which they wrote a prayer of thanksgiving to place on the Altar.
For full photo coverage of this celebration, click here.