My grandmother grew up in a large Polish-Catholic community where it was tradition to celebrate your patron saint’s feast day like your own birthday. I was reminded of this as I learned about how our schools prepare for the Feast of St. Joseph.
St. Joseph is the patron saint of our elementary and middle school, which, according to my grandmother, makes his feast day our schools’ birthday, too.
And where else do you celebrate a birthday but around the family table?
The entire middle school and elementary school attended the 8 a.m. Mass on Tuesday, March 19, even though their regular school Mass day is Thursday at 9 a.m. That may not seem like such a big switch, but for the elementary students, it required them to arrive earlier than usual for this Mass started the same time as the first bell.
Birthday celebrations often require family members to jostle their schedules.
The sparseness of Lenten season was interrupted, as the church was decorated with white lilies, the flower of St. Joseph. They ran down the aisles and gathered by the tabernacle, filling the church with their beauty and scent.
Rachel Andersen’s third/fourth-grade served as the readers, ushers, and the people to take up the gifts. It is normal for a class to take on the Mass parts, but on this day it required the preparation of another reading. The middle school choir members had more music to lead, including the beautiful Gloria.
Fr. Chris invited fourth-grader Gavin Thomas to speak during the homily. Gavin was St. Joseph for the annual Fourth Grade Wax museum. He dressed as St. Joseph and gave his presentation. Fr. Chris gave Gavin a statue of a sleeping St. Joseph, sharing the tradition of tucking your written prayers under the statue.
Birthday celebrations often include extra touches and decorations and special recognition.
Our seventh-graders have been preparing for this feast day for weeks. Inspired by the tradition of St. Joseph’s table, where food is collected for those in need, middle school theology teacher Don Shafer coordinated a new seventh-grade Confirmation service project to collect 1000 pounds of food for the St. Joseph food pantry.
For three weeks students made appeals in classrooms for preschool through eighth grade, collecting nonperishable food, which they stored in the middle school chapel. Before Mass, they brought this food over the St. Joseph altar, where the elementary students added even more nonperishable good as is their custom for the offertory gifts. Their total as over 600 pounds.
Birthdays celebrations often include presents.
Mass ended, and everyone went in peace to learn and share and grow under the roof that our patron St. Joseph protects.
Happy Birthday to us.
By: Nicole L.V. Mullis