Centuries ago, Sicily, the big island off the southern tip of Italy, suffered a drought and famine. No rain fell and the crops that fed both people and livestock withered and died. Sicilians turned in prayer to their patron saint, San Giuseppe, St. Joseph, for relief.
The drought continued. Wheat stalks dried up and cracked beneath farmers’ feet as they trudged through barren fields. Drifting dust and brown, shriveled vines were all that remained of what had been rows of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Still, the people prayed to St. Joseph for help.
Finally, the clouds opened, pouring desperately needed rain, and all of Sicily rejoiced. After the harvest, to show their gratitude, they prepared a table with special foods to honor St. Joseph and to share with the poor. After thanking and honoring the saint, they distributed the food to those in need.
That first St. Joseph Table set up in Sicily was small, but as time went by, the tables grew larger, more ornate, beautiful and bountiful. And the tradition continues today in parishes throughout Italy and America. After the tables are decorated, they are blessed by the parish priest, and the parish and larger community is invited to come see the table and share a meal.
A St. Joseph’s Table is usually a three-tiered display representing the Holy Trinity. A statue of St. Joseph is placed at the top tier. A special smaller table, set for the Holy Family, is placed at the front. The tables are filled with displays of food, flowers, candles and “zepolla”. Dispensing food to those in need is an important part of the tradition.
Many symbols can be found on a St. Joseph’s Table. Bread crumbs on pasta represent saw dust on the floor of St. Joseph the carpenter’s workshop. White lilies symbolize transformation and purity. Breads may be baked in the shapes of carpenter’s tools, canes or chalices. Wine recalls both the miracle at Cana and, with bread, the Last Supper. Pineapples on the table symbolize hospitality and 12 fish represent the 12 apostles.
Red clothing is traditional, worn to symbolize charity and strength.
Blessed fava beans are often given out at St. Joseph’s Tables. Once considered cattle feed, fava beans survived the Sicilian drought, sustained the people, and saved them from starvation. It is believed that if these beans are carried in a coin purse all year, one is never without resources. Blessed, dried beans are also kept in the pantry, so there will always be food in the home.
The breads, cookies and pastries decorating the tables are later sold to raise funds for the sponsoring parish or for charity. A traditional spaghetti or pasta Milanese (fish sauce) dinner is often hosted.
Sicilian immigrants introduced St. Joseph’s Tables to this country; today Catholics of many nationalities honor St. Joseph. He is a patron of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, honored in many parishes with a St. Joseph Table and pasta dinner.
Centuries after the first St. Joseph Table was prepared in gratitude for rain, the tradition continues, reminding us to share with people in need.
A list of St. Joseph’s Tables for 2013
Holy Cross Parish, 5106 St. John Avenue, Kansas City. St. Joseph Table viewing in the parish hall, Noon – 5 p.m., March 18, blessing of the table, 1 p.m. Serving a pasta dinner, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., March 19. Holy Cross Parish Hall is handicapped accessible.
St. Therese (North)Parish, 7207 N.W. 9 Highway, Kansas City. Please join this faith community as we celebrate our 26th year hosting the annual St. Joseph’s Table and Spaghetti Dinner. Table viewing, Gathering Space in the church, 2 – 6:15 p.m., March 9; Cookie sales follow all weekend Masses in the Wooldridge Center(lower level of the church); Pasta Milanese dinner, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., March 10, school cafeteria, Education and Parish Center, Free Will offering appreciated. Table sales 2 p.m., March 10, in the church.
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 8812 E. Gregory Blvd., Raytown, March 24; 9 a.m., Baked Goods go on sale;12:30 p.m., Blessing of the Table; 12:30 – 4 p.m., traditional pasta dinner served. All proceeds are used to assist the needy.
Saint Anthony Parish, 318 Benton Blvd., Kansas City; all are invited to visit our Saint Joseph Table. Viewing of the Table 2 – 7 p.m., March 18; Italian cookies, Cannoli and Sphingi for sale in Saint Joseph Hall, 3208 Lexington. Father Paul Turner will perform a concert of Italian chamber music with Alex Shum on violin and Ho Anthony Ahn on cello, Father Paul on harpsichord, 7 p.m., March 18, inside St. Anthony Church. Mass in honor of St. Joseph, celebrated in Italian, 8 a.m., March 19, followed by the blessing of the Table. Pasta Milanese dinner served 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in St. Joseph Hall.
St. Patrick Parish, 1357 NE 42nd Terrace, Kansas City (North); 6 p.m., March 18, Blessing of the Table, items for sale. Dinner served 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., March 19. Dinner includes Pasta Milanese, pasta with plain sauce, salad, frittata, and dessert. Free will donations appreciated. Items from the table will be available for sale all day March 19. For further information, please contact the parish office at (816) 453-5510.
Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish, 519 N. 10th Street, St. Joseph, annual St. Joseph Day Dinner and Table, March 19; 2:15 p.m., Blessing of the Table. Homemade spaghetti and meatball dinner includes salad and breadsticks, served 4- 7 p.m., in Cathedral’s auditorium. Free will donations appreciated. Dessert and goodies available for purchase from the Table. All proceeds benefit Cathedral’s Food Pantry.
Holy Rosary Parish, Scalabrini Hall, 912 Pacific Ave., Kansas City; 4 – 7 p.m., March 18, Blessing and Viewing of Table, Italian Cookies and pastries will be sold. 10 a.m., March 19, Mass, followed by procession. Pasta Milanese served 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., (freewill donation) Carryout $5. Italian cookies, pastries, cakes and food items on the table will be sold. All proceeds benefit various charities.
St. Mark’s Parish, 3736 S. Lee’s Summit Road, Independence; 39th Annual St. Joseph’s Table, 10:30 a.m., – 4 p.m., March 10, in the Parish Hall. Dine on spaghetti with Milanesa or plain sauce, bread, salad and a variety of Italian cookies. $7/adults; $3/children; eat in or carryout. Purchase an array of cookies and baked goods as well as participate in a raffle of numerous items. All proceeds will be given to the St. Vincent de Paul Society to support the needy in our community. For more information, St. Mark’s (816) 373-2600.
St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, 6415 NE Antioch Road, Gladstone; March 16 and 17, Following the 4:30 Saturday Mass March 16, the Table will be blessed. Table viewing and pasta dinner served 5:30 – 8 p.m.; also served Noon-4 p.m. March 17. Dinner includes Pasta Milanese or plain sauce, salad, bread, dessert and beverage. Free will offerings accepted. Cookies and cannoli available for purchase during dinner both days. Proceeds support St. Andrew’s Social Outreach Ministry to help meet the needs of the poor in the community. For more information, contact Geri Townsend (816) 695-0750.
St. Joseph the Worker Parish, 2200 N. Blue Mills Road (1½ miles north of Highway 24), Independence, will be sponsoring a St. Joseph’s Table, March 16. The table will be blessed at noon. A spaghetti and salad dinner will be served from 12 noon to 4 p.m. and again from 6 to 7 p.m. Items from the table available for sale during these times. Celebration of Mass will take place at 5 p.m. All proceeds including a free will offering for the meals will be used to benefit the needy in our community. Call Karen McCarter (816) 796-6877 for information.
St. Peter’s Parish, 12-3 p.m., March 10, St. Peter’s School cafeteria, also known as “The Garden Room,” 6400 Charlotte Street, Kansas City. Table blessing by Father Steve Cook following 11 a.m., Mass in the Church. Free-will donation Spaghetti luncheon. Italian cooking demonstrations by Jasper J. Mirable, guest chef from Jasper’s Restaurant, through the afternoon. Cannoli, traditional Italian breads, cookies, and pastries available for sale. All proceeds benefit the food pantry and contribute to the fund for a new school elevator, providing accessibility for all to attend the St. Joseph Table for many years to come. Any remaining food will be taken to Holy Family Catholic Worker House for their evening meal March 10.
Coronation of Our Lady Parish, March 17, 13000 Bennington, Grandview. Table Blessing follows 8:30 a.m., Mass, Viewing immediately after blessing. Traditional St. Joseph’s Day dinner served 11:30 a.m., – 4 p.m., includes Pasta Milanese, salad, bread, desserts, wine and soft drinks.$4/adults, $2/children 12 and under. Booths will feature breads, cookies and cannoli for purchase. All proceeds will be donated to Holy Family Catholic Worker House and Coronation’s Food Pantry. We have had an increase in families needing assistance from the Food Pantry. Donations are appreciated.
St. James Catholic Church, 309 S. Stewart Road, Liberty, will joyously be celebrating the Feast of Saint Joseph this year with a St. Joseph’s Table! The St. Joseph’s Table tradition will begin 2 p.m., March 18 with a blessing and viewing. The celebration continues March 19, beginning at 11 a.m., by partaking in the table’s bounty, including spaghetti.
St. Sabina Catholic Church, 700 Trevis Ave., Belton, annual St. Joseph Table March 16- 17. Table blessing takes place after 5 p.m. Mass, March 16. Spaghetti dinner served 11:30 a.m., – 4 p.m., March 17. Baked goods may be purchased after all Masses and March 17 afternoon. All proceeds donated to local food pantry to help those in need. o