Green. It’s everywhere! The “Luck O’ the Irish” is coming to a town near you! St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal – especially in many big cities that boast huge St. Patrick’s Day Parades – Chicago even dyes its river green! I always find it somewhat heartening that a Catholic Saint actually gets his own day here in America. I know, I know, green beer and Leprechauns have very little, actually nothing, to do with St. Patrick – but hey – just acknowledging the “Saint” part is a start…right? I mean America isn’t exactly what you would call a “Catholic” country, and yet, here is this day that is actually a Feast Day on the Roman Calendar, dedicated to a Catholic Saint. I like to think that God smiles a little bit when He sees the festivities and parties. Maybe He uses it as an excuse to shower down just a little extra Grace on this land of ours. God is a loving Father – He never forces Himself on us, but He will take any invitation He can get to shower down His Love and touch a heart with His Grace. Now I know that many of our secularized St. Patrick’s Day Traditions have absolutely nothing to do with Heavenly realities, but St. Patrick’s Day is a pretty big deal in the Catholic Church too. After all, that is how the more secularized version of the holiday started. St. Patrick was a great missionary and He led many souls to God’s Truth. I smile whenever I see a Shamrock decoration – the symbol he used to teach the pagan Irish about the Trinity. How many people decorate with Shamrocks and in doing so are unwittingly decorating with a symbol of the Triune God? As a Feast in the Church, with the sanction of the local Bishop, Catholics are freed from the obligations of Lenten observances and are encouraged to party it up Catholic-Style, perhaps with a special Mass, followed by some Corned Beef and Green Beer – even on Friday!
But this post is not about St. Patrick. It’s about St. Joseph. St. Joseph? Why him? Well, because 2 days after St. Patrick’s Day there is another great Feast in the Church. St. Joseph’s. Actually this isn’t just a Feast Day, it’s a Solemnity – a BIG Feast Day. In simple terms – “bigger” than St. Patrick’s Day. What is ironically fitting is that even though these two Saints have Feasts just days apart from each other, one is so popular that it has its own color code, and the other is very often overlooked. Why ironically fitting? Because St. Joseph, the most humble of men, remains humble even as his Solemnity is often overshadowed by St. Patrick’s Day. Now let me take a moment to say that I am not implying that there is some sort of Heavenly row brewing. I doubt that in the Presence of Almighty God St. Patrick and St. Joseph are duking it out over who is more popular. I am pointing out that even the situation of his Feast Day tells us something about St. Joseph, the foster Father of Jesus, and one of the most misunderstood of the Catholic Saints:
Imagine being told by an angel that you were to be the father of God’s Son, yet have nothing to do with His conception, that your future wife was completely sinless, and that oh, yeah, after you marry her, you are to protect and honor her virginity. What is a poor, hard-working, faithful man to do? Humble himself and trust in His God. St. Joseph did this his whole life. He was the defender, protector, and provider for his family, the teacher and father of Jesus, and the faithful husband of Mary. It was from Joseph that Jesus learned about being a man and about work. It was Joseph who introduced Jesus to the scriptures and who took him to the synagogue. It was Joseph who taught Christ how to work and how to play. In His complete humanity, Jesus needed the love and instruction, guidance and discipline of an earthly father. That man was Joseph. What an awesome task! What an incredible man! Yet, Joseph barely gets mentioned twice in the Bible, and whenever we see a statue of the man, he is demurely holding a Lily. Poor St. Joseph! Now, I know, I know, lilies are symbols for virginity and purity, but come on! The man was a carpenter for crying out loud! He knew how to work and get dirty! His hands were callused and his fingernails probably all chipped – with dirt underneath them. He had splinters in his skin and sawdust in his hair. He was a real man! Yet he was also incredibly humble.
This is why we look to St. Joseph as a great Saint – not just because he was the Foster Father of Jesus, but because he was man enough to be the Foster Father of Jesus, and pure and chaste enough to be the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He was faithful and humble enough to be the Head of the Holy Family.
This week as we anticipate the frivolity of St. Patrick’s Day, let us not forget the very special Solemnity of St. Joseph, a mere two days later. **Oh, and by the way, I bet you didn’t know that St. Josephs Day has its own color – just like St. Patrick’s Day! Read below to find out what it is!!
For some ideas on how to celebrate St. Joseph’s Solemnity, check out these links:
How to Celebrate St. Joseph’s Solemnity:
Abstain from eating meat. Although avoiding meat isn’t forbidden by the church, many Catholic families still observe this tradition. Fava beans, pasta, fish and stuffed artichokes replace meat at dinner tables on St. Joseph’s Day. Many families consider giving food to the homeless and needy on this holiday.
Wear red. Italians and Sicilians break out the red clothing on St. Joseph’s Day, just like the Irish do on St. Patrick’s Day.
Erect an altar to St. Joseph. A tradition started in Italy and Sicily, many families offer flowers, cakes, cookies and limes to St. Joseph. Catholics place a pastry called Zeppole on altars in some Italian and Italian-American communities. Formal St. Joseph altars, such as those placed in churches, contain three tiers to signify the Trinity.
Attend a St. Joseph’s Day parade. In the United States, the Italian residents of New Orleans conduct St. Joseph’s parades and build altars to the Saint, publicly and privately. Chicago, Boston and New York City also sponsor official St. Joseph’s Day parades and celebrations.
Go to church. Celebrate St. Joseph’s Day by attending mass and saying the Novena to St. Joseph. Known as the Patron Saint of workers, parishioners may also honor St. Joseph’s memory on May 1st, or May Day.