By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. Joseph's Day: Doing It Right

Saturday is, of course, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and patron of the universal Church. I recall from growing up in New Orleans the Italian (Sicilian) custom of building large altars to St. Joseph, abundantly and profusely bedecked with pastries and bread to celebrate this solemnity. The altars were set up in homes and schools. It was fun and interesting to visit the various St. Joseph altars and taste the Italian pastries (disclaimer: I am not Italian). Here is more on how St. Joseph's Day is celebrated:

Many traditions and customs have developed around St. Joseph and his feast day. March 19th has been a traditional day to show hospitality in the Italian culture. On this day, all who come to the door are invited to dinner. The family table is extended full-length, moved against the wall (like the Church altar), and a statue of St. Joseph surrounded by flowers and candles is made the centerpiece. After the guests have enjoyed the bounteous feast (blessed by a priest prior to the meal), the guests leave so other guests may enter. What is left is given to the poor. On a variation of this theme, a table is set up in the town square, and all families bring food. After Mass, everyone comes and shares a meal, which consists of a variety of foods, including bread baked in the shape of scepters and beards.

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That "bright" way of celebrating the day contrasts with what I see and hear around the college campus, with which I am most familiar, concerning St. Patrick's Day. The focus is on preparing for an alcoholic binge (defined as "episodic excessive drinking" according to this link). Compared to the feast of St. Joseph, that of St. Patrick is relatively limited in significance. Still, he, like any saint, deserves much better than to be exploited as an excuse for some of our worst and most harmful tendencies. Yet, it seems that the horse is now out of the barn in the wider culture and beyond the scope of any restraining influence from Christians.

One priest overseas expressed a similar view in 2007:

A CATHOLIC priest has launched a scathing attack on how St Patrick's Day has become "Paddy's Week" - and is now "an excuse for mindless alcohol-fuelled revelry".
Writing in the current issue of The Word magazine, conservative theologian Fr Vincent Twomey also calls for the reclaiming of St Patrick's Day as a church festival.
While recognising the Irish have restored the fun to St Patrick's Day in recent decades, Fr Twomey regrets that the faith and religious element is often absent in the festivities.
"It is time to bring the piety and the fun together," he writes.
"It is time to reclaim St Patrick's Day as a Church festival, one that should have a special ecumenical perspective, since all Christians in Ireland trace the origins of their faith back to Patrick.
"It is also time to rediscover the man himself, his triumph over adversity thanks to his faith in Jesus Christ, and his deep spirituality, so needed today." After looking at the history of St Patrick's Day and the transformation of the country's parades over the past decade, Fr Twomey attributes this change to Ireland becoming an increasingly secular and vulgar country. "Paddy's Week is descending into an excuse for mindless alcohol-fuelled revelry. Must it be so?"

Source link here.