How I miss belonging to a parish that celebrates St. Joseph's Day with a a St. Joseph's Altar!
When we lived in Vinton, LA, the Catholic Daughters, most of them grandmas, did a St. Joseph's Altar every year. I joined them soon after we moved there, and these ladies were so welcoming to me and my children. Nathaniel and Emma were probably 7 and 6 at the time, but the dear Catholic Daughters always found meaningful ways that they could help. The children loved it.
The Catholic Daughters also cooked a meatless spaghetti supper for the parish on St. Joseph's Day and delivered all the altar food to the poor the next day. It was quite an operation.
One year the Lake Charles paper wanted to do a story on our altar. They, naturally, wanted to run it on St. Joseph's Day, so another young mom and I volunteered to do all the traditional baking and set up a small altar for the photo shoot. Neither one of us had ever baked any of these items, and we both had small children, but we were willing.
For direction we had photocopies of hand-written directions and some really dark black-and-white photos. We gathered all our ingredients at my house and plunged in. It took us the whole day, but we managed it. I even made the traditional monstrance and fish out of bread dough and fig filling. We made St. Joseph's staff, two cornucopias and I can't remember what all out of bread dough. Then we set it all up at the church, decorated it with candles, flowers, and religious statues and pictures. It looked fabulous to us, though it was nothing compared to the real one, which was much larger and more elaborate.
One thing we didn't try to make was the lamb cakes. One elderly lady baked and donated two adorable lamb cakes to the altar each year. Everyone loved them and looked forward to seeing them on the altar. One year, there was some kind of disaster, and one of the lambs not only broke in the middle, it crumbled. I took on the challenge of repairing him. I ended up using a vanilla Twinkie to fill in the wound and slathering some canned frosting over the patch. Luckily, replenishing the shredded coconut "wool" covered it all over nicely.
Many years have passed since we participated in a St. Joseph's Altar, but it is one of the happiest of memories for me and my children. I don't know if it is still available, but if you can find one, I recommend St. Joseph Altars, a gorgeous book loaded with pictures and recipes. It was published by Pelican Publishing Company with photography and text by Kerri McCaffety.
St. Joseph pray for us!