Seven days before the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March) which commemorates
Gabriel's visit to Mary announcing that she is to give birth to the Messiah,
we meet St. Joseph, her spouse.
St. Joseph was born in Bethlehem and worked as a carpenter (Matthew 13:55:
"Is not this the carpenter's son?"), an occupation he later passed on to
his Son (Mark 6:3: "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother
of James, and Joseph, and Jude, and Simon? are not also his sisters here
with us?"). He became betrothed to Mary, a consecrated Virgin, in order to
serve as her protector. Apocryphal writings indicate that Joseph was an older
man at the time, and was a widower with grown-up children, but there is no
way to know for certain.
When Mary came to be with child, his confusion and resolve to "put her away
privately" in order to spare her any public humiliation were done away with
when an angel of the Lord visited him in a dream and explained things to
But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared
to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto
thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost.
And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name JESUS. For
he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done that it might
be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Behold a virgin
shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name
Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. And Joseph rising up from
sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took unto him
After Jesus was
born, an angel again appeared to St. Joseph and told him to take the Holy
Family away in order to escape the wrath of Herod.
And after they were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep
to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into
Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that
Herod will seek the child to destroy him. Who arose, and took the child and
his mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and he was there until the death
of Herod: That it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet,
saying: Out of Egypt have I called my son.
After time in Egypt,
an angel came twice more to St. Joseph:
But when Herod was dead, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to
Joseph in Egypt, Saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and go
into the land of Israel. For they are dead that sought the life of the child.
Who arose, and took the child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
But hearing that Archelaus reigned in Judea in the room of Herod his father,
he was afraid to go thither: and being warned in sleep retired into the quarters
of Galilee. And coming he dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might
be fulfilled which was said by prophets: That he shall be called a Nazarene.
The next -- and
last -- time we hear of St. Joseph in Sacred Scripture is when Jesus was
"lost" in the Temple:
And when he was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according
to the custom of the feast, And having fulfilled the days, when they returned,
the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not. And thinking
that he was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought him among
their kinsfolks and acquaintance. And not finding him, they returned into
Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that, after three days, they
found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them,
and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his
wisdom and his answers. And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said
to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought
thee sorrowing. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you
not know, that I must be about my father's business? And they understood
not the word that he spoke unto them. And he went down with them, and came
to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words
in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and
us that he had the great honor to have died in the presence of Our Lady and
his Son, which fact makes him the patron of a holy death. Because during
his life he was given the great responsibility of caring for and protecting
the Virgin -- who is the Mother of all Israel -- and her Son, St. Joseph
is considered the patron and protector of the entire Church.
Customs of the Day
St. Joseph's Day
is a big Feast for Italians because in the Middle Ages, God, through St.
Joseph's intercessions, saved the Sicilians from a very serious drought.
So in his honor, the custom is for all to wear red, in the same way that
green is worn on St. Patrick's Day.
Today, after Mass (at least in parishes with large Italian populations),
a big altar ("la tavola di San Giuse" or "St. Joseph's Table") is laden with
food contributed by everyone (note that all these St. Joseph celebrations
might take place on the nearest, most convenient weekend). Different Italian
regions celebrate this day differently, but all involve special meatless
foods: minestrone, pasta with breadcrumbs (the breadcrumbs symbolize the
sawdust that would have covered St. Joseph's floor), seafood, Sfinge di San
Giuseppe, and, always, fava beans, which are considered "lucky" because during
the drought, the fava thrived while other crops failed (recipes below).
The table -- which is always blessed by a priest -- will be in three tiers,
symbolizing the Most Holy Trinity. The top tier will hold a statue of St.
Joseph surrounded by flowers and greenery. The other tiers might hold, in
addition to the food: flowers (especially lilies); candles; figurines and
symbolic breads and pastries shaped like a monstrance, chalices, fishes,
doves, baskets, St. Joseph's staff, lilies, the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts,
carpentry tools, etc.; 12 fishes symbolizing the 12 Apostles; wine symbolizing
the miracle at Cana; pineapple symbolizing hospitality; lemons for "luck";
bread and wine (symbolizing the Last Supper); and pictures of the dead. There
will also be a basket in which the faithful place prayer petitions.
The cry "Viva la tavola di San Giuse!" begins the feasting and is heard
throughout the day. When the eating is done, the St. Joseph's altar is smashed,
and then three children dressed as the Holy Family will knock on three doors,
asking for shelter. They will be refused at the first two, and welcomed at
the third, in memory of the Holy Family's seeking of hospitality just before
Christ was born. This re-enactment is called "Tupa Tupa," meaning "Knock
The day ends with each participant taking home a bag that might be filled
with bread, fruit, pastries, cookies, a medal of St. Joseph, a Holy Card
and/or a blessed fava bean. Keep your "lucky bean," and let it remind you
to pray to St. Joseph. (The Litany of St. Joseph
would be most appropriate today! You can download the Litany, in Microsoft
Word .doc format, in English
and in Latin).
Recipes for the
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup celery, with leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can of tomatoes, with juice
1 large can white beans (Cannelli beans or Navy beans)
5 cups beef or vegetable stock
1/2 cup flat parsley, finely chopped
1 cup finely sliced, then roughly chopped Swiss Chard (or spinach or cabbage,
or some combination)
2 zucchini, unpeeled and cut into little cubes
1/2 cup small pasta (like ditalini)
For garnish: freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
Sauté the onion and celery in the oil til wilted, toss in garlic and
stir for a minute, then put in cut-up tomatoes and cook down for about 10
minutes to concentrate flavors. Stir in beef stock, reserved tomato juice,
and beans and bring to a boil. Add half the parsley, lower heat, and cook
for about 30 minutes.
Add Swiss chard (or spinach or cabbage), zucchini, and pasta and cook at
a gentle boil until pasta is tender.
When ready to serve, stir in the rest of the parsley. Season to taste and
grate in some black pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve with the parmesan
and a crusty bread.
Pasta di San Giuse (pasta with breadcrumbs that symbolize sawdust)
Note: This recipe came from my parish's website, and was said to be in
tribute of "Mamma Giglio." I don't know who Mamma Giglio is, but I don't
want to omit the dedication to an Italian Mamma!
2 TBSP olive oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 cups chopped fresh fennel
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 TBSP chopped fresh basil
4 cans of drained, skinless, boneless sardines
Heat oil in large pot, and saute in it the garlic and pepper flakes. Add
the fennel, tomatoes, paste, and basil. Cover and let simmer 30 minutes 'til
fennel is tender. Add the sardines and simmer a few more minutes.
1 TBSP olive oil
1 cup fine homemade breadcrumbs
Heat oil, and add crumbs and heat until golden brown. Pour sauce over the
pasta, then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.
Sfinge di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph's Cream Puffs)
1 cup water
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 TBSP sugar
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
1 cup sifted flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 TBSP Cognac or vanilla
2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 cup grated dark chocolate
2 TBSP finely chopped pistachios
Put water, butter, granulated sugar, lemon rind, and salt in a large saucepan.
Bring to a boil, and as soon as the butter has melted, remove from heat.
Add the flour all at once, stirring constantly and with vigor.
Return the pan to the heat, and stir constantly until the mixture forms a
ball and comes away from the sides of the pan. Cook just a little longer,
until you hear a slight crackling, frying sound. Remove the pan from the
heat, and cool slightly.
Add the eggs, one at a time. Be sure that each egg is thoroughly blended
into the mixture before you add the next. Stir until smooth and thoroughly
blended . Add the Cognac or vanilla. Cover the dough and let it stand for
15 to 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400º F.
Drop the dough by heaping tablespoonsful on a buttered cookie sheet or onto
parchment-lined sheet (better!), leaving 2 inches between the sfinge. Bake
for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.
Filling: Mix the ricotta, confectioners' sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate,
and pistachios. Just before serving (so they don't get soggy!), cut off the
tops of the sfinge and fill; place top back on after filling. Arrange on
platter, sprinkle with powdered sugar to make them pretty, and garnish platter
with lemon rind.
1 lb. dried fava beans
1 bunch green onions
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Cook dried fava beans in boiling water until tender, adding more water as
needed. Sauté seasonings in olive oil 'til tender, then add to beans.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in soup bowls.
A most fascinating
and beautiful thing that happens today is the return of the cliff swallows
(Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) to the Mission of San Juan Capistrano in San Juan
Capistrano, California. The mission -- one of the oldest buildings in California,
and a part of a string of 21 missions that line California's coast -- was
founded on 1 November 1776, the Feast of All Saints, by the Franciscan priest,
Bl. Junipero Serra, in honor of St. John
Capistrano. It was begun the year before, with members of a friendly Indian
tribe helping to build, but when word came that the Mission of San Diego
was attacked by an unfriendly Indian tribe, the bells were buried and everyone
took shelter until building could continue.
When the mission was finally completed, a small town grew up around it, and
this is where the legend of the swallows -- "las golondrinas" -- begins.
It is said that one of the priests noticed a storekeeper in town angrily
sweeping down the swallows’ nests and chasing away the "dirty birds."
The priest, being a Franciscan, of course invited the poor little birds to
the Mission where there was "room for all." The birds, sensing the spirit
of St. Francis around the place, followed and have remained loyal to the
Mission ever since. No matter the origins of the story, the fact is that
each year on 23 October, the swallows fly south for 7,500 miles to Goya,
Argentina. There they winter until the end of February when they make their
way home, arriving back at the Mission of Capistrano on St. Joseph's Day,
where they are greeted with the ringing of church bells and great festivities.
Click hear to listen to the chatter
of these lovely birds. A love song was written with this return of the
swallows as its focal point; it was recorded by the Ink Spots, Glenn
Miller, Pat Boone, and Elvis Presley (click
for an MP3 of the Inkspots's version of this lovely song):
When the Swallows
Come Back to Capistrano
Words and Music by Rene Leon, Copyright © 1940/1969
When the swallows come back to Capistrano
That's the day you promised to come back to me.
When you whispered farewell in Capistrano
'Twas the day the swallows flew out to the sea.
All the mission bells will ring
The chapel choir will sing
The happiness you'll bring
Will live in my memory.
When the swallows come back to Capistrano
That's the day I pray that you'll come back to me.
While the altar candles burn
My heart is burning too
If you should not return
I'll still be waiting for you.
When the swallows come back to Capistrano
That's the day I pray that you'll come back to me,
That's the day I pray that you'll come back to me.
St. Joseph is
symbolized by carpenters' tools and the lily, and is usually represented
in art holding the Baby Jesus. He is the patron of the Church, the dying,
a holy death (because it is believed he died in the company of Our Lord and
Lady), happy family life, married people, carpenters, workers, and the fight
against Communism. Other devotions and customs related to St. Joseph throughout
the year include:
Sermon 2, On
By St. Bernardine of Siena
This is the general
rule that applies to all individual graces given to a rational creature.
Whenever divine grace selects someone to receive a particular grace, or some
especially favoured position, all the gifts for his state are given to that
person, and. enrich him abundantly.
This is especially true of that holy man Joseph, the supposed father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, and true husband of the queen of the world and of the
angels. He was chosen by the eternal Father to be the faithful foster-parent
and guardian of the most precious treasures of God, his Son and his spouse.
This was the task which he so faithfully carried out. For this, the Lord
said to him, "Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord."
A comparison can be made between Joseph and the whole Church of Christ. Joseph
was the specially chosen man through whom and under whom Christ entered the
world fittingly and in an appropriate way. So, if the whole Church is in
the debt of the Virgin Mary, since, through her, it was able to receive the
Christ, surely after her, it also owes to Joseph special thanks and veneration.
For he it is who marks the closing of the old testament. In him the dignity
of the prophets and patriarchs achieves its promised fulfilment. Moreover;
he alone possessed in the flesh what God in his goodness promised to them
over and again.
It is beyond doubt that Christ did not deny to Joseph in heaven that intimacy,
respect, and high honour which he showed to him as to a father during his
own human life, but rather completed and perfected it. Justifiably the words
of the Lord should be applied to him, "Enter into the joy of your Lord."
Although it is the joy of eternal happiness that comes into the heart of
man, the Lord prefers to say to him "enter into joy". The mystical implication
is that this joy is not just inside man, but surrounds him everywhere and
absorbs him, as if he were plunged in an infinite abyss.
Therefore be mindful of us, blessed Joseph, and intercede for us with Him
Whom men thought to be your Son. Win for us the favour of the most Blessed
Virgin your spouse, the mother of Him Who lives and reigns with the Holy
Spirit through ages unending. Amen.