During a time of drought and famine, no rain fell on Medieval Sicily. Food crops for both people and livestock withered and died. The people prayed to St. Joseph for help.
When the clouds opened, pouring the desperately needed rain, there was rejoicing. 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 the less fortunate.
A parish St. Joseph’s Table is a three-tiered display representing the Holy Trinity. A statue of St. Joseph is placed on the top tier. A special smaller table is set for the Holy Family at the front of the display. The tables are filled with food, flowers, candles and “zepolla,” pasta. Giving food to the needy is an important part of the tradition.
Small at first, as time went by, the tables grew larger, more ornate, beautiful and bountiful. And the tradition continues. The decorated tables are blessed by the parish priest, and the parish and larger community is invited to see the table and share a meal.
Many symbols are found on a St. Joseph’s Table. Bread crumbs on spaghetti represent saw dust on a carpenter’s workshop floor. 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.
The wearing of red clothing is traditional, symbolizing 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 table’s breads, cookies and pastries are sold to raise funds for the parish or for charity. A traditional spaghetti or pasta Milanese (fish sauce) dinner is often served.
Today, St. Joseph is honored by Catholic communities worldwide. The saint is a secondary patron of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and his feast is honored in many parishes with a St. Joseph Table, pasta dinner and charity to the poor.
2014 St. Joseph Tables
St. Therese (North) Parish, March 8 and 9, 7207 N.W. 9 Highway, Kansas City. March 8, Table viewing in the Gathering Space, 2 – 6:15 p.m. March 9, Table sales begin 2 p.m. Pasta Milanese Dinner served 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Education and Parish Center, Free will offering.
St. Joseph the Worker Parish, March 15, 2200 N Blue Mills Road, (1½ miles north of Highway 24), Independence. Table will be blessed at noon. A spaghetti and salad dinner served noon – 4 p.m. and 6 – 7 pm. Items from the table will be available for sale during these times. Celebration of Mass will take place at 5 pm. All proceeds including a free will offering for the meals will be used to benefit the needy in our community.
Our Lady of the Presentation Parish, March 16, Auditorium, 130 NW Murray Road, Lee’s Summit. Table to be blessed at 11 a.m. Table viewing and sale of baked goods, Sicilian cookies and cannolis, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Pasta dinner served immediately following the table blessing until 3:00 p.m. Free-will offering for the dinner. Proceeds benefit the Presentation Parish Emergency Assistance Fund for Families in Need and the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist in Independence.
Coronation of Our Lady Parish, March 16, 13000 Bennington, Grandview. Table blessing follows 8:15 a.m., Mass. Viewing of the table is immediately after the blessing. Traditional St. Joseph’s Day dinner served Noon – 3:30 p.m., Pasta Milanese, salad, bread, wine, dessert and soft drinks. $4/adults and $2/children (12 and under). Booths will feature bread, cookies and cannolis. All proceeds benefit Coronation’s Food Pantry.
Holy Rosary Parish, March 18 and 19, Scalabrini Hall, 910 Pacific Avenue, Kansas City. March 18 – 12 Noon, Blessing of the table, sale of cookies and cannoli until 6 p.m. March 19 – 10 a.m., Mass followed by pasta Milanese lunch served 11 a.m. – 6:30p.m. Free will donation. Carry Out $5. All pastries, cookies and cannolis will be sold.
St. James Parish-Liberty, March 18 and 19, Church social hall, 306 S. Stewart Road. March 18, 4 p.m., table blessing, 4-7 p.m., table viewing. March 19, 11 am – 7 pm., traditional meal served. Homemade cannolis, breads, cookies, cakes and other items will be available for purchase. This event is open to the public; no charge for the meal but a freewill donation will be appreciated. All proceeds benefit the needy in the area.
St. Anthony’s Parish,2 – 7 p.m., March 18, Viewing of the Table, St. Joseph’s Hall, 3208 Lexington, Kansas City. Italian cookies, cannolis and more available for purchase. 7 p.m., Italian chamber music concert, Father Paul Turner on harpsichord, Alex Shum on violin and Ho Anthony Ahn on cello, St. Anthony’s Church, 318 Benton Blvd. March 19, 8 a.m. Mass in Italian, followed by blessing of the table. Pasta Milanese dinner served 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., St. Joseph Hall. Free will donations welcomed.
St. Patrick Parish, 1357 NE 42nd Terrace, Kansas City. 6 p.m., March 18, Blessing of the table & items for sale. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., March 19, Dinner served. Dinner includes Pasta Milanese, plain pasta, salad, frittata, & dessert. Free will donations appreciated. Items from the table are for sale all day March 19. For further information, please contact the parish office (816)453-5510.
Guardian Angels Parish, March 18 and 19, cafeteria, 4232 Mercier, Kansas City. March 18, table to be blessed following 5:30 p.m., Mass, viewing 6 – 8 p.m. March 19, Spaghetti dinner served 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. Handmade cannoli, Italian breads and cookies will also be sold. Free will donations accepted.
Holy Cross Parish, March 19, Parish Hall (handicapped accessible), 5106 St. John Avenue, Kansas City. 8:30 a.m., Mass, followed by table blessing. Table viewing until 11 a.m., Pasta Milanese or plain pasta served 11 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., carryout available. Italian cookies and cannolis available for purchase.
Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish,March 19, 519North 10th Street, St. Joseph. Blessing 2:15 p.m., Traditional spaghetti & meatballs dinner, with salad, breadsticks and drinks served 4 – 7 p.m., Auditorium. Carryout available. Free will offering. Baked goods, cake, cookies, jellies and pies for sale. All proceeds benefit Cathedral Food Pantry.
St. James Parish, St. Joseph, 8:30-5:30, March 19, Casper Erk Room, St. James Church, (enter through parish office building) 5815 Pryor Street. Table blessing, 8:30 a.m., viewing and sales until 5:30 p.m. Homemade cannoli, many baked and specialty items. Proceeds benefit St. Vincent DePaul Food Pantry.
St. Charles Borromeo Parish, March 19, 900 NE Shady Lane Drive, Kansas City. 8 a.m., Table Viewing, 10 a.m., Table Blessing, Spaghetti dinner served 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., free-will donation. All proceeds to benefit the poor.
St. Thomas More Parish, March 19, More Hall, 11822 Holmes Road, Kansas City. 8:15 a.m. Mass and blessing of the table, at which time the items on the table can be purchased. The traditional Spaghetti Milanese dinner served 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Free will donation for the meal. All proceeds will be donated to those in need.
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, March 23, corner of Blue Ridge and Gregory Blvds., Raytown. Early Sales will begin at 9 a.m. Father Angelo will bless the table at 11:15. Pasta with traditional Milanese or Marinara sauce served 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., Free will offering. All types of Italian cookies and a wide variety of baked goods will be for sale. We will also have raffles and a silent auction. All proceeds go to charity.
Little Sisters of the Poor, March 9, Jeanne Jugan home, 8745 James A. Reed Road, Kansas City. March 8, Table viewing, 6 – 8 p.m. March 9, Table blessing 11:30 a.m., dinner served immediately following until 3 p.m., salmon appetizer, salad, pasta milanesa, fritata, homemade rolls and Italian cookies. In keeping with tradition, there is no charge for the dinner but we ask for a generous donation to the Sisters for the poor. 3 p.m., table items may be purchased, Italian cookies and confections also for sale.
St. Joseph Parish, March 9, McDevitt Hall, 11311 Johnson Dr., Shawnee, Kan.8:30 a.m., Table blessing; viewing until 2 p.m. A pasta dinner served 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., freewill donations accepted. Table items: home-baked breads, cookies, pies and cakes, candies, fruit, wine, floral arrangements, and religious articles may be purchased. Proceeds will benefit the needy in the parish community.