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. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says Yahweh Sabaoth" Zach 4:6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dio di Signore, nella Sua volontà è nostra pace!" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin 1759

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

2014 Virtual San Giuseppe Altar

Over the past few years it has been my blessed privledge to honor San Giuseppe by putting in a plug for the Virtual St. Joseph Altar that was started by Evann Duplantier in 1999. (This is the 16th year.) It was started in the tradition of the Sicilian St. Joseph Altars (aka tavola di San Giuseppe) in New Orleans. & while I am Calabrese, not Siciliano, I see no reason to let that stop me from spreading this great devotion to San Giuseppe. Especially since many of us from other parts of Italia or have their heritage there, have adopted it as well.
Now for those of you who are unfamiliar with the tradition that is celebrated in many parts of the USA as well as Italia, let me explain. We need to go back to the Middle Ages, when the island of Sicily was suffering from a very severe drought. It reached the point that there was almost nothing left to eat but fava beans. In short, a famine.
So the people of Sicily began praying to San Giuseppe, begging him to intercede with God for an end to the drought. (As I type this I can help but think that maybe there is a lesson for California here.) San Giuseppe came through & the drought ended. Crops were planted & the famine ended.
Naturally, the Sicilians were grateful to San Giuseppe & wanted to express their thanks in a visible way. So a table was set up with the fruits of the harvest on it. After they had done so, the food was distributed to the less fortunate.
From that simple table, the altar grew & developed into what it is today.
They can range from the simple

to the ornate,

but certain things remain the same.
The 1st is that the altar must be made with 3 levels. This is done to honor the Holy Trinity.
On the top level a image of San Giuseppe is placed. This can be a statue or a painting or an icon. It is surrounded by flowers & greenery. Votive candles can be placed there as well as on the other levels.
On the other levels a variety of food, with the exception of meat dishes because it is Lent, are placed on the other levels. These offerings include citrus fruit, breads, pastries, seafood, olives, grapes, fava beans, & figs. In addition you will find bread crumbs sprinkled about as a reminder of the sawdust in San Giuseppe's carpenter's shop.
Now the breads & many of the pastries are baked in special shapes. The breads can be shaped as lilies, sandals, ladder, saw, hammer, nail, beard, ladder, & the cane or staff of St. Joseph.  The pastries are made in the shapes of monstrances, chalices, crosses, doves, lambs, fish, bibles, hearts, wreaths & palms. 
The fava beans are there as a reminder that during the famine the people were down to eating fava beans which was normally used back then as a fodder for the cattle.
Additionally, there is a basket placed near or on the altar where visitors can leave their prayer requests, as well as the names of deceased family & friends. Sometime pictures of those who are deceased are placed on the altar as well.
All visitors receive a small goodie bag. It includes a blessed San Giuseppe medal, a holy card with San Giuseppe's image on it & of course, a fava bean. It can also include a small pastry or two.
On San Giuseppe's actual feast day, 19 March, many of the families who erect an altar in their home will invite friends& neighbors over for a meal that includes what was offered on the altar. Children are selected to play the Holy Family. They go from door to door in the neighborhood until they reach the house with the altar. The Holy family is allowed to eat 1st. After the meal any food that remains, along with any money donated is given to the poor, just like the 1st table.
So please visit the virtual altar which opened today for the year.
At the virtual altar, you can make a virtual offering as well as any prayer requests for deceased loved ones or for your needs or to express gratitude to San Giuseppe for prayers answered. You can do this any time between now & San Giuseppe's feast on 19 March 2014. When you do, don't forget to pick up your virtual goodie bag before you leave.




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