St. Joseph Pray for Us      Dzien Swietego Jozefa (St. Joseph's Day)

Feast Day * Iconography of St. Joseph * Hymns to St. Joseph
The Story of St. Joseph's Day in Polonia: A Polish-American Hybrid
St. Joseph Prayer for a Happy Death * St. Joseph's Day Proverb
The Litany of St. Joseph * Blessing of the St. Joseph's Table

St. Joseph Links

Feast Day: March 19 / 19. Marca

In Poland, it is customary to celebrate "Imienien" or Namesday, the feast day of one's patron saint. To allow the many Josephs to celebrate their namesday, the Church would grant a dispensation from the rigors of Lent on March 19.  Because St. Joseph's Day is a Lenten solemnity, the tradition has been to serve meatless foods so that the meal becomes a "festive fast." St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church, patron of families, patron of workers, patron of social justice, patron of the dying, patron of pastry makers, and patron of fathers, is a very important and beloved saint.

Iconography of St. Joseph

Images of St. Joseph most often depict him with the child Jesus in his arms, with the Holy Family, at a work table, with carpenter's tools, or with a lily.

St. Joseph's Day in Chicago Polonia: A Polish-American Hybrid

While Poles most certainly honor and revere St. Joseph, in American Polonia these values have flourished in interesting and hybrid ways. Especially in the earlier waves of immigration (1890s - 1930s), Polish and Italian immigrants were faced with an American Catholic church hierarchy controlled largely by Irish clergy, most often unsympathetic to the newcomers whom they often regarded as inferior, primitive, overly demonstrative, and superstitious. In the face of this disdain for Southern and Eastern European Catholicism, Poles responded by forming their own Polish language parishes (i.e. St. Stanislaus Kostka in Chicago) while Italians responded by preserving their religious traditions in the form of "Feasts" (Festa) run by patronage societies from their home villages and cities. This tension found curious expression in Chicago, America's largest Catholic Archdiocese.

Run by a largely Irish political and church elite, the city visibly celebrated the Feast of St. Patrick on March 17. In Chicago, this included a prominent parade and turning the Chicago River green. In multi-ethnic parochial schools this found expression in "the wearing of the green" visually marking those of Irish heritage. As is often the case in diasporic immigrant culture, the importance of St. Joseph's Day escalated and found new significance in a new context. In immigrant Polish and Italian communities, this provided an alternative form of cultural identification and expression of loyalty.
Just two short days later on March 19, Polish and Italian Americans dressed in red, celebrating their patron and publicly showing their ethnic identity. (Both national flags include this color as opposed to the Irish green). Especially in those of school age, this created a curious linking of the two ethnic groups, who identified against the traditions of the Irish. (The author is indebted to Mrs. D'Matteo who created a St. Joseph's Day table in her childhood parish for half a century.) Thousands of parochial school children in Chicago donned red as a sign of their pride and resistance.

Along with this new festive significance came a blending of ethnic traditions. The ancient Sicilian custom of tavole di San Giuseppe [St. Joseph's tables: an elaborate feast complete with home altar to St. Joseph and emphasis on feeding the poor] was celebrated in Italian parishes and homes, multi-ethnic parishes with Italians and Poles, and eventually throughout the city of Chicago's Catholic community. In keeping with the Italian tavole tradition, the meal is meatless because it is a feast that takes place during Lent, a time of fasting and almsgiving.

The traditional Italian Giuseppe cake (zeppole) (often called s'fingi on the East Coast) is found in Italian bakeries and restaurants throughout Chicago on that day, but is consumed by many Poles as well! The St. Joseph's table most often includes a statue of the saint with flowers, holy cards of St. Joseph, a bowl for free-will donations to be given to the needy, and sometimes a special St. Joseph's bread formed in the shape of the staff of St. Joseph. The bread is blessed ceremoniously before the feasting begins.

Having formed our identity in the cauldron of Chicago and Milwaukee's parochial schools, our Polish-American family celebrates St. Joseph's Day with a St. Joseph's Table in our home, which is decorated with red and white for the saint and for Poland. Holy cards and St. Joseph candles adorn the dining areas. Our American Polskosc (Polishness) requires zeppole from Il Giardino Bakery on Harlem Avenue in Chicago alongside the pierogi (Polish dumplings) and makowiec (poppy seed cake). We continue to serve a meatless meal for the celebration and each year our son selects a charitable cause for which he collects donations during the feast.

* David's recipe for St. Joseph's pasta (Perciatelli con la Sarde)
* Visit our Home Altar to St. Joseph & say a Novena Prayer
* See Chicago Bakeries and Zeppole

Hymn to St. Joseph

The Poles have many hymns in honor of St. Joseph.

* Listen to / Sheet music for: Duszo moja (Ku czci sw. Jozefa)
       (My Soul [In Honor of St. Joseph])
* Listen to / Sheet music for: O Jozefie Ukochany
* Listen to / Sheet music for: Szczesliwy, Kto Sobie Patrona

Prayer for a Happy Death (to St. Joseph)

O Glorious St. Joseph, behold I choose thee today for my special 
patron in life and at the hour of my death. Preserve and increase 
in me the spirit of prayer and fervor in the service of God. Remove far from me every kind of sin; obtain for me that my death may not come upon me unawares, but that I may have time to confess my sins sacramentally and to bewail them with a most perfect understanding and a most sincere and perfect contrition, in order that I may breathe forth my soul to the hands of Jesus and Mary. Amen.

St. Joseph's Day Proverb

Swiety Jozef kiwnie broda, idzie zima nadol z woda.

St. Joseph shakes his beard, and see: Winter's disappeared!

* Dla Dzieci / For Kids: St. Joseph to Print & Color

The Litany of St. Joseph

Poles are very fond of prayer via Litany (Litanie). Litanies are often chanted, a form of prayer made to be repeated: one phrase coming over and over again so that the person(s) praying is(are) caught up in the prayer itself. The Litany of the Saints is chanted on Easter Vigil, the Litany of St. Joseph, especially on his Feast Day.

* Full bi-lingual (Eng/Pol) Text of the Litany of Saint Joseph

The Prayer of Blessing for the St. Joseph's Table

   All-provident God,
   the good things that grace this table
   remind us of your many good gifts.
   Bless this food,
   and may the prayers of St. Joseph
   who provided bread for your Son and food for the poor,
   sustain us and all our brothers and sisters
   on your journey toward your heavenly kingdom.
   We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

External St. Joseph Links

* A Virtual St. Joseph's Altar
* The Italian Feast of St. Joseph (with more links)
* Ann Maria Chupa's photos & article on New Orleans St. Joseph's Altars

* New York Feast website (with pastry shop listings!)