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
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 him:
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 his wife.
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
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 men.
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
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 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.
As to prayer, the Litany
of St. Joseph would be most appropriate today.
Recipes for the
4 TBSP olive oil
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
5 carrots, sliced
6 cups vegetable stock*
Large can diced tomatoes and its juice
Large can crushed tomatoes and its juice
Large jar Great Northern Beans or Cannellini Beans, undrained
2 small zucchinis, quartered and sliced
2 summer squash, quartered and sliced
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (or 1 can corn, undrained)
1 1/2 lb fresh spinach, torn (or 1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach)
2 TBSP chopped fresh oregano (or 2 tsp. dried) -- approx.
1 TBSP chopped fresh basil (or 1 tsp dried) -- approx.
2 TBSP chopped fresh thyme (or 2 tsp dried) -- approx.
1 TBSP fennel seeds, approx., to taste (this is key)
salt and pepper to taste
Small pasta, cooked separately just before serving -- optional
Shredded Provolone and grated Parmesan for topping
1 tablespoon olive oil
Over medium-low heat, in a large pot, heat olive oil and saute garlic
for 2 to 3 minutes (do not let brown!). Add onion and saute for 4 to 5
minutes. Add celery and carrots, saute for 1 to 2 minutes more. Add
stock and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
Reduce heat to low and add beans, corn), spinach,
zucchini, squash, oregano, basil, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Simmer
an hour. Ladle soup into bowls, and add cooked pasta (if desired).
Sprinkle cheeses on top. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with crusty
bread. Better the next day.
* Use more, or use V-8, tomato sauce, water, etc. for more liquid.
Pasta di San Giuse (pasta with breadcrumbs that
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
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
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
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.
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
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 here
for an MP3 of the Inkspots's version of this lovely song):
Swallows Come Back to Capistrano
Words and Music by Rene Leon, Copyright ©
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.
To read more about St. Joseph, see The Protoevangelium of
St. James, St. Joseph: his
Life, his Virtues,
his Privileges, his Power: a Month of March in his Honour (pdf)
and The Life And
Glories Of St. Joseph Husband Of Mary, Foster-Father Of Jesus, And
Patron Of The Universal Church (pdf) from this site's Catholic Library.
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.