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St. Joseph the Worker Feast Day: May 1

Good St. Joseph is one of the most beloved saints in the Catholic Church. Although he enjoys many designations (Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patron of the Universal Church, Head of the Holy Family), on May 1, we celebrate another of St. Joseph’s esteemed titles- St. Joseph, the Worker.

The Feast of St. Joseph the Worker was instituted by Pope Pius XII in 1955. St. Joseph is an example of one who modeled holiness in labor. Pope Pius XII emphasized this when he said, “The spirit flows to you and to all men from the heart of the God-man, Savior of the world, but certainly, no worker was ever more completely and profoundly penetrated by it than the foster father of Jesus, who lived with Him in closest intimacy and community of family life and work.”

Celebrating this saint on his May 1st feast day allows us to participate in the liturgical life of the Church and reverently honor the saint who is the special friend of all workers. No matter where you labor or what type of job you have, all workers have a great advocate in Joseph. In any need or concern, we can, as many holy people have urged, “Go to Joseph.”

St. Joseph is especially venerated in Italy. During the Middle Ages, Sicily was devastated by a drought, and St. Joseph was implored to end the resulting famine. When the people’s prayers were answered, a special feast was held to honor the saint, in thanksgiving for his intercession. This event became a yearly tradition. Huge public meals were organized by wealthy families, who always invited the poor, the homeless, and the sick.

This was the start of the St. Joseph’s Table. All over the world, St. Joseph’s Tables are presented in public places and private homes. The corporal works of mercy are always associated with the Table, especially feeding the poor, and each celebration of a St. Joseph’s Table has charitable component associated with it.

The Table, often blessed by a priest, has three levels. These three levels symbolize a stairway leading to heaven, the Holy Trinity, and the Holy Family. A statue of St. Joseph stands on the top level, surrounded by flowers and candles. The other tiers hold a variety of breads, fruit, religious statues and pictures, and Italian pastries. The traditional foods for this day are pasta, minestrone soup, and rich desserts.

Those who visit a St. Joseph’s Table are often presented with gifts. Breads, holy cards, and medals are often given in commemoration of this special event. Although each table has its own unique presentation, the focus of the Tables remains the same as it has throughout the centuries- to give thanks to this most beloved patron, and to reach out and help those in need.

Covid-19 has affected how St. Joseph Tables can be held this year. The video (below) was made last year, to provide families with a pandemic-friendly way to celebrate Good St. Joseph in their own homes, but the information is just as pertinent now. This may be the perfect year to begin what could be an annual tradition in your own domestic church!

Maureen lives in Farmington and considers herself a dual-citizen of St. Joseph Parish in Farmington and St. Rose of Lima in Jay.She has previously worked as Faith Formation Coordinator for these parishes.Currently, she is Co-Chair of the Liturgy and Devotions Commission and Coordinator of Eucharistic Adoration for both parishes, and lead sacristan at St. Joseph’s.She loves living the liturgical life and sharing the customs and traditions of the Catholic faith with others.

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