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Spirit of Acadiana: The tradition of the St. Joseph Altar

Posted at 7:34 PM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-19 20:34:31-04

The St. Joseph Altar is actually a Sicilian tradition from the Middle Ages, and if you get the past the elaborate, ornate and yes, delicious-looking display, there's a very deep, very spiritual meaning behind all of it.

The history behind this goes back to like the Middle Ages and Sicily, to where they were starving and they had nothing left but their faith,” explains Father Andrew Schumacher of St. John’s Cathedral in Lafayette. “These farmers said, ‘We're going to pray to St. Joseph, and ask him to provide for us’."

With that, it’s said, the rain came down, crops grew, fish were caught, and so as thanks, altars were established. That's why you see this today--- a thank you, an homage of sorts---for St. Joseph and for God.

“As Christians we should do something beautiful for God,” says sacristan Brady LeBlanc, who designed the St. Joseph Altar at the Cathedral. “That always inspires me that every we do should be for God's glory, and to the lift the minds, hearts and spirits of those who come to visit the altar.”

It took Brady LeBlanc and his team just over two days to create this beautiful altar--- the terrific, the inspiring signs; so many symbols, all honoring sacred origins and traditions. “Things that are familiar to Sicily and the Italian people,” he says. “Turtles, crabs, big fisher ports. Fish. You'll see all that on display on the altar.”

A St. Joseph altar-- a table--is about celebrating, life, and one another. But it's also about thanking St. Joseph… Joseph the earthly father of Jesus Christ; Joseph the provider of human beings throughout the ages.

“This is something we should continue to do, traditions that have continued through the middle ages, a thousand years since this has continued,” concludes Schumacher. “So, just the beauty of our Catholic roots here in south Louisiana, and to remember go to Joe, go to Joe, go to St. Joseph."

Simply put: A St. Joseph Altar is about honoring St. Joseph and his lessons; but it's also an example of a table being more than just a table.

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