The most beautiful banquet table I ever saw was in a parish hall when I was ten years old. It must have been 40 feet long, with another table intersecting it at the mid-point. From end to end, up and down, placed upon it were the most delicious looking foods imaginable. There were all sorts of homemade bread in different shapes and sizes; fish, scallops, and clams; fried vegetables and tree-ripe fruits; oranges, nectarines, and peaches. There were cantaloupes and honeydews, figs and dates, olives and peppers. There was an abundance of prepared dishes of all kinds, except there was no meat. And the table was filled with desserts, pastries, and cookies.
I noticed that there was no room for table settings or a place to sit. But at the head of the table, most peculiarly, there was a large sculpture of a man holding a baby. I didn’t know it at that moment, but I was soon to find out that I was looking at a statue of St. Joseph. My family had attended the St. Joseph’s Table at our parish. The Solemnity of St. Joseph always falls during the season of Lent, which explains why the table was empty of meat.
My parents steered me away from the banquet table to a large group of undecorated tables and chairs. They explained that the banquet table wasn’t for me, us, or the many hundreds who attended that day. We were going to enjoy a simple meatless spaghetti dinner. All were welcome to come to the parish hall to partake in the spaghetti and give a free-will offering if one could afford it. My dad explained that the food on the beautiful banquet table is a gift to St. Joseph for the poor. At the end of the feast day, people would take the food to places where hungry people could enjoy the banquet.
It was just this past December, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that Pope Francis announced a year dedicated to St. Joseph, marking the 150th anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s declaration of St. Joseph as patron of the universal Church in 1870. I encourage us to take this opportunity that Pope Francis offers to pray through the intercession of St. Joseph and learn from his example.
May each of us in our parishes pay particular attention this year to the Feast of St. Joseph on March 19th, and the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker, on May 1st. Devotions to St. Joseph are traditionally prayed on the 19th of each month and every Wednesday. The prayer to Saint Joseph reprinted below may be prayed at the end of the rosary. And perhaps a St. Joseph’s Table, or other event can be considered to welcome the stranger, to feed the poor, and unite our parish families together in celebration of Saint Joseph and care for those most in need.
Let us pray through the intercession of St. Joseph, the patron of the universal Church, to bring us to deeper holiness, safety, and health in this new year.
Prayer to Saint Joseph
To you, O blessed Joseph,
do we come in our tribulation,
and having implored the help of your most
holy Spouse,we confidently invoke your
Through that charity which bound you
to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God
and through the paternal love with which you
embraced the Child Jesus, we humbly beg you
graciously to regard the inheritance which
Jesus Christ has purchased by his Blood, and
with your power and strength to aid us in our
O most watchful guardian of the Holy
Family, defend the chosen children of Jesus
Christ; O most loving father, ward off from us
every contagion of error and corrupting in
fluence; O our most mighty protector, be kind
to us and from heaven assist us in our
struggle with the power of darkness.
As once you rescued the Child Jesus from
deadly peril, so now protect God’s Holy
Church from the snares of the enemy and
from all adversity; shield, too, each one of us
by your constant protection, so that,
supported by your example and your aid,
we may be able to live piously, to die in
holiness, and to obtain eternal happiness in