Mount Carmel Academy St. Joseph's Day Altar

Friday, March 19, 2021
Blessing: 8 a.m.
Public viewing: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Please enter on Milne Blvd. Masks and social distancing required.

Mount Carmel Academy is honoring St. Joseph with an altar on his feast day. This protector of our Blessed Mother and Jesus is the patron saint of workers and is very dear to the hearts of many.


The St. Joseph altar is a ritual offering originating with Sicilians during a time of drought and famine. They prayed to St. Joseph as crops failed and people went hungry. The only crop that would grow was the fava bean, usually used as animal fodder – but it kept people alive. The altar is offered in thanksgiving for his intercession and assistance. Even now the altar is done in gratitude for favors granted through his prayers, or in petition for a favor sought. Everything on the altar is blessed.

The foods and decorations symbolize our faith and love for this virtuous man – most chaste spouse of Mary and a father to Jesus. Some of the symbols are:

  • Palm branches as a sign of welcome
  • Statues of the Holy Family
  • Altar’s 3 tiers signify the Blessed Trinity
  • White lilies to signify the virtue, holiness, innocence and chastity of St. Joseph – his obedience to God and faithfulness to Mary, respect for her virginity and the celibacy they maintained throughout their marriage
  • Meatless – Lent and a sign of the rarity of meat in the diet of Sicilian peasants
  • Heart or dagger – Mater Dolorosa
  • Wine for the miracle at Cana
  • Fish – (ideally 12) to signify the 12 disciples and that Jesus calls us to be fishers of men
  • Bread crumbs (mudica) are the saw dust of the carpenter’s shop
  • Tools of the carpenter’s shop
  • Eggs in anticipation of Easter
  • Rosary as a call to prayer
  • Clock marking the hour of Jesus’ Crucifixion
  • Fig cookies and lemons mark the abundant orchards in Sicily
  • Staff - Jesus is the Good Shepherd
  • Fava Beans – Only crop to grow during the famine – what livestock fed on kept people alive
  • Decorative Breads - Crown of Thorns to mark Jesus’ suffering for our redemption,
  • Candles - Jesus is the Light of the World (people may light blessed candles for their personal intentions)



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