In 2020 the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles built an exhibition around the St. Joseph’s Table, its origins and religious and cultural history. Shown above is Marianna Gatto, the museum’s executive director and cofounder.
A parish-wide St. Joseph’s Table – a communal meal commemorating a feast of deliverance in the Middle Ages--will return to St. Andrew Church on Sunday, March 19.
The St. Joseph’s Table will be held in Mary Arundel Hall at 4 p.m. March 19. All are welcome. There is no charge to attend. An offering will be taken. The money and leftover food will be given to St. Patrick’s Haven, a shelter for men, or to the Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Network.
Everyone is welcome. Those attending need to make reservations by Sunday, March 5, so the hosts know how much food to prepare. For reservations phone Mary May of the St. Andrew Ladies Guild at (814) 459-8372 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The hosts are the Ladies Guild and St. Andrew Knights of Columbus Council 14437. Guests need not bring a dish. Main courses are being made by the Ladies Guild, side dishes by the Knights of Columbus.
This will be the first St. Joseph’s Table at our church since the pandemic and the first one parish-wide in years. The Ladies Guild has hosted them occasionally, some years as a guild event for members, relatives and friends. Chris Pawlowski, our co-choir director, suggested reviving St. Joseph’s Table as a parish get-together during a recent Forward In Faith committee meeting.
The origin of the feast goes back to Sicily in medieval times when a famine brought on by drought left peasants starving. They prayed to St. Joseph and, when rain returned, prepared a communal celebration of thanks. It is now celebrated on St. Joseph’s feast day, March 19, which is also Father’s Day in Italy. The custom spread to parts of Europe and to the United States.
The heart of it lies in veneration of Joseph, the table as a kind of altar of reverence and as a communal celebration, and the sharing of all gifts with the needy.
A traditional St. Joseph’s Table is a three-tiered altar covered with pasta and vegetable dishes, soups, fruit, Italian breads and desserts. The feast is meatless because it falls during Lent. Also, no cheese is eaten. That is custom in remembrance of the original famine when there was no cheese. In place of grated cheese, pasta is flavored with toasted breadcrumbs and by tradition is served with sardines and fennel sauce.
Fava beans, often roasted and lightly salted, are a staple at St. Joseph’s Tables that strive for authenticity. Fava beans, probably considered cattle feed at the time, are the one food that survived the drought and sustained the starving people.
Here is our St. Joseph’s Table altar at St. Andrew Church in 2015, awaiting the arrival of the food for the feast.