Seasons of Sisterhood is non-denominational in our Christian faith and we profess that all celebrations of goodness are worthy of our recognition. We celebrate the seasonally secular and religious holidays with joy. A Feast Day is observed as a Holy day by the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion. Christianity is the world’s largest religion, with upwards of 2 billion followers on every continent. It is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ who lived in the Holy Land 2,000 years ago. Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism are traditions, or expressions of the Christian faith. Other Christian traditions include Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Protestant Churches, which include Lutheran, Baptist, and Pentecostal Churches. There are 85 million members of national or regional Churches that call themselves Anglican (or Episcopal in some countries) which collectively are known as the Anglican Communion. Anglicans and Episcopalians the world over share aspects of their history, tradition and ways of worshipping.
Name Day – Saint Joseph
A name day is a tradition in some countries in Europe, Latin America, Catholic and Orthodox Christian countries in general. It consists of celebrating a day of the year that is associated with one’s given name. The celebration is similar to a birthday. We begin on March 19th with a personal favorite, my Godson’s name day, The Feast of Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph was the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the foster-father of Jesus Christ. Saint Joseph’s Day is the Patronal Feast day for Poland as well as for Canada, persons named Joseph, Josephine, etc., for schools and parishes bearing his name, and for carpenters. It is also Father’s Day in some Catholic countries, mainly Spain, Portugal and Italy. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Saint Joseph on the Sunday after Christmas.
In the United States Saint Joseph’s Day is celebrated in American communities with high proportions of Italians such as New York City, New Orleans and Chicago. Observance is often expressed through wearing the color red and partaking in a St. Joseph’s table or St. Joseph’s alter. A bit of folk lore also has March 19th as the date when the swallows are traditionally believed to return to Mission San Juan Capistrano after having flown south for the winter.
Saint Joseph’s Table
In many Italian-American communities, thanks are given to St. Joseph (“San Giuseppe” in Italian) for preventing a famine in Sicily during the Middle Ages. According to legend, there was a severe drought at the time, and the people prayed for their patron saint to bring them rain. They promised that if he answered their prayers, they would prepare a large feast to honor him. The rain did come, and the people of Sicily prepared a large banquet for their patron saint. Giving food to the needy is a St. Joseph’s Day custom. In some communities it is traditional to wear red clothing and eat a Neapolitan pastry known as a zeppola (created in 1840 by Don Pasquale Pinatauro in Napoli) on St. Joseph’s Day.
Saint Joseph’s Alter
Upon a typical St. Joseph’s Day altar, people place flowers, limes, candles, wine, fava beans, specially prepared cakes, breads, and cookies (as well as other meatless dishes. Foods are traditionally served containing bread crumbs to represent saw dust since St. Joseph was a carpenter. Because the feast occurs during Lent, traditionally no meat is allowed on the celebration table. The altar usually has three tiers, to represent the trinity.
Above are facts about the tradition and rituals associated with Saint Joseph’s Name Day and they are vital to understanding why, as I mentioned, it is a favorite of mine. Joseph was a carpenter, working with wood which is one of mankind’s oldest building materials. In 2013 the carpenters union in America began to use the term carpenter to encompass all facets of the trade for skilled builders. Throughout history men have used their skills to build and to reinforce. Carpentry can not be learned from a book or a manual. It is a skill learned on the job. It is likely that our Saint Joseph began as an apprentice and advanced to a journeyman level. I like to think that with patience and pride he mastered this craft. Wood is a powerful symbolic medium. Whether it is the tree of Buddhist enlightenment or the rough cross of Christianity wood has the capacity to strengthen our souls. My Godson, Joseph has much in common with his name sake. He is a dependable and loyal young man. Like the wood that a carpenter builds with he is sturdy yet pliable and steadfast yet transformable. Like Saint Joseph his family comes first above all else. He works tirelessly with his hands and creates solutions with his mind. Symbolically, Pope Pius IX declared Saint Joseph to be both the patron and the protector of the Catholic Church. My Godson has spent years in this very real capacity, not metaphorically speaking, as part of the facility management team of his own parish he keeps and cares for the sacred building itself. He is on site in the middle of the night when it snows to clear and make a safe passage for the parishioners and the school children and he is there whenever needed for celebrations and Holy days. On March 19th he will proudly celebrate his name day by making the alter of his church festive in a way that Saint Joseph would be proud to claim as his own creation.
I invite you to join the celebration on March 19 with a plate of spaghetti, drizzled with simple olive oil, add some salt and pepper and a handful of toasted breadcrumbs. Give a lively toss to these wholesome ingredients in homage and with a prayer to all the Josephs and all the builders who’ve touched our lives.