The Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center is hosting its 2nd Annual St. Joseph’s Altar Sunday, March 20, from 1-5 p.m. at the center located at 17560 George O’Neal Road in Baton Rouge.
Like last year, the altar will feature traditional Sicilian fare. Because this is a Lenten celebration, there is no meat on the altar. The altar is sponsored in conjunction with The Sister Dulce Foundation, Inc.
St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus and the patron saint of Italy, is honored annually on or near his feast day, March 19. The altar tradition stems from the Middle Ages when a merciless drought killed Sicily’s vegetation and dried the streams and wells. Desperate for help, the people prayed to St. Joseph for intercession. In answer to their prayer, they promised to honor him perpetually on his feast day, and every generation to come would do the same. At midnight on the day their prayers were offered it rained and St. Joseph has been remembered with beautiful food alters ever since. The altar tradition came to Louisiana with the many Sicilian immigrants who arrived during the last decades of the 1800s.
Like traditional St. Joseph’s altars, the Cypress Springs altar will consist of breads made in various religious shapes including the staff and sandals of St. Joseph as well as his various carpenter tools. There will be crosses made of bread representing Christ’s passion and death. “Mollicu,” or St. Joseph’s sawdust, is made from Italian bread that is toasted with sugar to sprinkle atop spaghetti. A large red fish, symbolic of Christ, is placed on the altar. Various fruits, vegetables, cuccidatta (fig cookies), fig cakes, pignolata, pastries and religious-shaped cakes decorate the altar as well as statues and pictures of St. Joseph, Blessed Mother and Jesus.
All altar foods and supplies as well as the time and money spent building the altar is donated as sacrifice. Keeping with tradition, special individuals have been asked to represent the Holy family at Cypress Springs’ altar table, a very special honor.
Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center is a place for God's people who are suffering from a debilitating or terminal illness to find sanctity in a nurturing environment. Regardless of religion or circumstance, individuals and their families find a place of serenity that provides comfort and support. Those who want spiritual counsel or to develop a deeper personal relationship with the Lord can find solace and guidance at Cypress Springs as well.
For more information about Cypress Springs or the St. Joseph’s Altar, visit www.cypressspringsprayercenter.org or contact the center at 225-752-8480.