Celebrating St. Joseph
Every new year, I like to check the calendar for upcoming dates for the Liturgical Year. I start turning the monthly pages to see when is Ash Wednesday, whether Easter is early or late, etc. One thing I look for in particular is to see what part of Lent do the solemnities of St. Joseph and the Annunciation fall. Will one be on a Friday? Does one or both fall during Holy Week Will they be transferred?
This year, the Solemnity of St. Joseph barely made it for Lent. It did not need to be transferred, but it’s the last day before Holy Week begins. The Solemnity of the Annunciation, because it falls in Holy Week AND Good Friday, is transferred to the first day outside of the Easter Octave, April 4.
Despite all the green and craziness we see during this week in the name of St. Patrick, St. Joseph’s feast is one of the highest feasts of the Church year. There are only 17 individual solemnities throughout the year, mostly of Our Lord and Our Lady, so when a saint has a special solemnity, it should make us sit up and take notice. The Church views solemnities “counted among the most important days, whose celebration begins with First Vespers (Evening Prayer I) on the preceding day” (General Norms of the Liturgical Calendar).
I always have hopeful plans to do something big to honor St. Joseph, such as a St. Joseph Altar, but the week of his feast is always one of my busiest of Lent. Instead, I find small ways to honor the foster-father of Jesus and the spouse of Mary
Elevating This Saint of Virtue and Man of No Words
One important thing is to discuss St. Joseph with the family. And do so frequently. Such a quiet, virtuous man can be easily overlooked. Husbands and sons especially need to be reminded of the example of a virtuous father and what it truly means to be a “manly man.”
But I learned long ago to remember to ask questions. Even if it seems as if young sons know about St. Joseph, be a little inquisitive as to knowing the details. Years ago, when I asked my five-year-old son to tell me about St. Joseph, all the “correct” answers came.
“He took care of Jesus. Like a father to him.”
“What was his work?” I asked.
“Oh, he was a carpenter,” came the reply.
“And what is a carpenter?” I pried a little more.
“A person who makes carpets.”
Really, I thought seeing pictures of St. Joseph planing or hammering or sawing wood, surrounded by sawdust was enough illustration, but apparently not. So I do recommend asking questions.
One very visible display of St. Joseph is the tradition of the St. Joseph’s Altar or St. Joseph’s Table. These are particularly popular in south Louisiana (this news site lists 6 of the most popular sites). But not everyone can live in Louisiana, so my friend Evann has a wonderful site Virtual St. Joseph Altar that helps spread the devotion of St. Joseph with the virtual feel of attending a St. Joseph Altar. She even has a 3D altar to print, cut and paste as a craft for home, and several coloring pages.
On my fortieth birthday my family and friends surprised me with a party themed around a St. Joseph’s Altar. It was just lovely.
My sister used her lovely large statue of St. Joseph. There were flowers and a St. Joseph Candle from the Hispanic section of the grocery store. I included Easter pysanky eggs in the decoration, as part of the St. Joseph Altar as it is giving a glimpse of the upcoming Easter celebration. Since March 20 is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week, it really feels like Easter is almost here!
We decided to come up with simple foods for a family St. Joseph altar. Another sister decided to make the St. Joseph tower or altar of cream puffs for me, because the St. Joseph Sfinge or Cream Puffs seems to be the most synonymous as his feast day treat. Other foods were just our favorite appetizers and treats. It wasn’t the perfect Sicilian or Italian St. Joseph Altar, but it was an expression of love and honor to our St. Joseph.
Last year I found a few beautiful statues of St. Joseph to use for our family celebration of St. Joseph’s Solemnity. My husband is treating me for a celebratory birthday dinner, so not much food will be in our display tomorrow, but St. Joseph will have a visible place of honor.
A Saint for Today
It has been only in the last 100 years that St. Joseph has had more honor within the Liturgy. St. Pope John XXIII added him to the Roman Canon in 1962, and in 2013 Pope Francis added his name to the other Eucharistic Prayers. And perhaps it has taken this long because he is the saint the modern culture needs. St. Joseph was quiet and contemplative, obedient, loving and thoughtful, but all in a silent manner. Our culture of putting all our thoughts and words and selfies for the world to see need an example of how we can become of saint even with a hidden and quiet vocation. St. Joseph is the saint for our times.
Let us put him in a place of honor tomorrow—attend Mass, have a treat to celebrate, make a visual display. But most of all, Ite ad Joseph! Let us go to St. Joseph for our needs. St. Joseph, pray for us!
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