Private Home’s St. Joseph Altar To be a Table for Family This Year
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
March 4, 2021
Rosie Scalise Sheridan created her first in-home St. Joseph altar after a health battle.
“In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Sheridan says. “My prayers were to St. Joseph to get me through. I promised to build him an altar. My first altar in 2003 was in honor of all the breast cancer survivors and all lost to breast cancer.”
Her own cancer never came back, she says, adding, “I’m a very lucky person. I need to thank St. Joseph, that’s all there is to it.”
But then, she says, “Who doesn’t have something to be thankful for?”
As with so many things since last March, Sheridan’s every-other-year altar this year will be modified.
Normally, she starts shopping for things like paper products the summer before, but this year she only recently started brainstorming with her family members, who are her team. That team said “Yes!” and they all started making plans for her “Year of St. Joseph” altar. 
Actually they are creating a St. Joseph tavula (table), a much smaller version of Sheridan’s usual room-sized, horseshoe-shaped altar overflowing with goodies including cookies and breads and fancy spera, pastry shaped into various symbols of “springtime and new life” and filled with fig paste. 
In a normal year, Sheridan teaches a spera-making class. There is a lot of symbolism in the designs of this traditional St. Joseph altar staple. Some are shaped into a monstrance, others picture the Sacred Heart of Jesus, while peacocks symbolize immortality, and flower pots shapes to show new life.  
The tavula — or table — will fit in her front picture window where it will be viewed by guests from their cars as they receive their takeout bag of Pasta Con Sarde meal(s), a Sicilian pasta dish with sardines. Everything about a St. Joseph altar is vegetarian, she says. 
This year, the tavula “will be nothing big and grandiose, because it won’t fit in the window,” she says, “Whatever will fit is what will be there: breads, pastas — but not dish after dish of cookies.”
In normal times, she adds, “a tavula is a little table and pasta for your family.”
However, her family is used to cooking pasta to serve hundreds, so, she says, “all day long, from noon until 4 p.m., there will be pasta.” The event will be scaled down from two weeks of “heavy-duty” preparation to three days. 
And actually, she says, “the most important part of a St. Joseph altar is the nine-day novena.” (see page 10). She and her family will finish the novena that Friday morning, March 19.
Dinner preparations on St. Joseph feast day will start at 6:30 a.m. when her nephew and his cooking crew begin to prepare the pasta, and others arrange the house for the assembly line of foods to bag.
All afternoon, the Sheridan house will be a flurry of activity. A crew of 5-6 people will be outside to direct traffic and create an orderly line. Cars will enter the circular driveway and tell the team how many dinners they need. There will be people making up the dinners, others taking them to the front door, and still others will take the dinners to the cars.
Each take-out bag will include “pasta, cookies and a slice of St. Joseph bread,” Sheridan says, along with a fava bean and modica – browned seasoned bread crumbs  that represent the sawdust in St. Joseph’s workshop. It is sprinkled atop the pasta just before eating.
Although most years bring an average of 300 people for dinner, Sheridan anticipates more this year. She says that she is “really, really encouraging people in this particular year to think ahead about a homebound neighbor or sick relative and get a dinner for them.”
“My mission is to help others with this tradition,” she says, remembering back when certain parts of Rockford had a home altar in every block, open for visitors to come and view.
“My family loves to be crazy-busy,” she says. “They love putting this together to honor St. Joseph. They are sending flyers out to everybody they know. We think we’ll have 500-plus people, and we’ll be very excited.
“We will love it! Viva San Giuseppe!” 
St. Joseph altar resources
Here are several ways to bring the Feast of St. Joseph into your home.
 “The Tradition of the Saint Joseph’s Day Table” —
This article from the National Catholic Register explains a lot of the symbols used on a St. Joseph table.
 “13 Ways to Take Part in St. Joseph Day Altars” —
The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans tells of ways both fun and faith-based to celebrate the day.
 “St. Joseph Altar {Getting Started}” —
Catholic Inspired offers several steps to creating a St. Joseph altar and even has a link to a blessing for the altar.
Novenas to St. Joseph
There are a number of versions of novenas to St. Joseph. Here are a few: (This is the source for the paper image of St. Joseph and the novena that ran in The Junior Observer on Feb. 26. 
— Sharon Boehlefeld, features editor
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