Crowds gather to St. Joseph's Cathedral Sunday to honor feast day in saint's honor
BATON ROUGE - Parishioners gathered for morning mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral in downtown Baton Rouge Sunday and offered prayers on the feast day of St. Joseph.
An elaborate altar is made in the saint's honor and displayed for all to see.
"When a person would pray and ask for the intercessory prayer of St. Joseph for a certain need in their life," said Bishop Michael Duca, "if they receive that prayer, then they promise to make an altar in St. Joseph's honor."
St. Joseph is regarded by many as the Patron Saint of Sicily, and the food on the altar has its roots in the Italian community.
Since the feast of St. Joseph falls during Lent, the foods contain no meat.
"As a sign of their thankfulness, they provide a meal for the poor," Bishop Duca continued. "Anyone can come in have a meal, usually a meatless meal, typically Italian spaghetti and sauce, some vegetables, and sometimes, fish but it was served to anyone that would come by."
The tradition of altars commemorates the relief St. Joseph provided during a famine in Sicily through the fava plant. The tradition continued began in the 1800s when Sicilian immigrants settled in and around New Orleans.
"Many of the Italians came over here in the time of famine, and the fava plant can be used in all its forms," Bishop Duca explained. "You can use the tendrils as a vegetable, the leaves, the beans, the whole plant can be used as food, so it's one of the things that kept the people alive during famine."
The food from the altar will be donated to the people experiencing homelessness.
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