Religion in Poggioreale: Saint Joseph

THE FESTIVAL OF SAINT JOSEPH, Patron of the Universal Church

March 19

In Italian Saint Joseph is known as San Giuseppe.

March 19 of each year opens the heart of Poggiorealesi to very generous charity towards the poor: the Saint is invoked by all as “Father of Providence” for that day the families of Poggioreale built a richly adorned altar covered with new and luxurious drapes, and with an abundance of balico flowers and laurel branches. In the center of each altar there is a framed image of the Saint.

On that altar an abundance of well-prepared and delicious foods is found, a true gift of God, as is said, whose preparation is the result of the many who have dedicated days of hard and enthusiastic work, with a true spirit of faith. The evening of the town’s vigil, there is a swarm of people coming to visit the altars of San Giuseppe, and the devotional and joyful sentiment is found on everyone’s face, the litanies of the Madonna are sung at every altar, while the drummer plays outside.

Special bread loaves are made for this festival (cucciddrati) which are of varying size. A profusion of traditional family sweets is found, along with the town’s specialty are the so-called (icucciddrati) containing ground dried figs, in the shape of hearts, roosters, sticks, palms, and other forms; to make them, the smooth bottom layer of dough is cut with a very thin, sharp knife so that the beautiful contents of figs show through the floral designs, just like embroidery.

This altar is blessed by the priest. On the day of the festival, three poor people are invited to represent the Holy Family, who gather at lunch time and are treated with sincere devotion. The head of the family (oftentimes in bare feet) kisses their hands and serves them at the meal with true humility. The lunch is preceded by the benediction given with the three fingers of the right hand of the boy who plays the part of the Baby Jesus. Having completed their leisurely meal, the three poor people return to their own house with a bundle carried on their heads containing the round buccellato cake (cucciddratu) prepared for them, with the addition of many other sweets and fruit.

The week of San Giuseppe is a week of devotional charity!

San Giuseppi, an m’abbannunati ‘nta li bisogni e li me nicissitati: binidittu e ludatu sin lu nomu di Gesu, Giuseppi e Maria.

Giuseppi santu, ‘mmrazza purtastivu lu Spiritu Santu, Spusu e gnardianu di Maria, la grazia chi in dumannu cuncessa mi sia.

Immaculate Patriarch

Of Jesus, beloved caretaker

Chaste husband of Mary,

Protect my soul.

Saint Joseph, don’t abandon me,

In my needs and in my obligations:

May you be blessed and praised

(In) the name of Jesus, Joseph and Mary.

Saintly Joseph, in your arms you carried

The Holy Spirit, Spouse and Guardian of Mary,

Be grant me the grace I ask of you.

Saint Joseph was walking and the

reins he was pulling, he was pulling it (the reins)

for a long distance

for the love of the Madonna.

The Madonna gave birth

She had un Child, true God

Named a “Savior” for us sinners.

Dear Saint Joseph you are the father,

You are virginal like the (Holy) Mother

Mary the rose, and you the lily,

Give us help, comfort and counsel.159

As it darkens today (the) morning is already breaking

(St. Joseph), you must send us providence

(of) the soul and then of the body

Dear St. Joseph give us comfort.

V. May God save you, Saint Joseph

Full of purity

R. Help us in our needs and our obligations.

I have no fear with you by my side

during the final agony – of my death.


(Translation: Annette Chiappetta Rovello).


Traditional and Most Devoted Sight, a religious play, was performed on March 19 of each year in Poggioreale, and which has been transformed into verse by Dr. Nunzio Caronna, Archpriest of Poggioreale Palermo, in his: Letture Domenieali, 1925.


Background on Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church

(Source: Catholic Online Saints and Angels Directory)

Feast Day: March 19th & May 1st

Patron Saint of the Universal Church, unborn children, fathers, workers, travelers, immigrants, and a happy death

Death: year 18

Everything we know about the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus comes from Scripture and that has seemed too little for those who made up legends about him.

We know he was a carpenter, a working man, for the skeptical Nazarenes ask about Jesus, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13:55). He wasn’t rich for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified he offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb (Luke 2:24).

Despite his humble work and means, Joseph came from a royal lineage. Luke and Matthew disagree some about the details of Joseph’s genealogy but they both mark his descent from David, the greatest king of Israel (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38). Indeed the angel who first tells 160

Joseph about Jesus greets him as “son of David,” a royal title used also for Jesus.

We know Joseph was a compassionate, caring man. When he discovered Mary was pregnant after they had been betrothed, he knew the child was not his but was as yet unaware that she was carrying the Son of God. He knew women accused of adultery could be stoned to death, so he resolved to send her away quietly to not expose her to shame or cruelty. However, when an angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins,” he did as the angel told him and took Mary as his wife. (Matthew 1:19-25).

When the angel came again to tell him that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything he owned, all his family and friends, and fled to a strange country with his young wife and the baby. He waited in Egypt without question until the angel told him it was safe to go back (Matthew 2:13-23).

We know Joseph loved Jesus. His one concern was for the safety of this child entrusted to him. Not only did he leave his home to protect Jesus, but upon his return settled in the obscure town of Nazareth out of fear for his life. When Jesus stayed in the Temple we are told Joseph (along with Mary) searched with great anxiety for three days for him (Luke 2:48). We also know that Joseph treated Jesus as his own son for over and over the people of Nazareth say of Jesus, “Is this not the son of Joseph?” (Luke 4:22)

We know Joseph respected God. He followed God’s commands in handling the situation with Mary and going to Jerusalem to have Jesus circumcised and Mary purified after Jesus’ birth. We are told that he took his family to Jerusalem every year for Passover, something that could not have been easy for a working man.

Since Joseph does not appear in Jesus’ public life, at his death, or resurrection, many historians believe Joseph probably had died before Jesus entered public ministry.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Apocryphal Date for Joseph’s birth is 90 BC in Bethlehem and the Apocryphal Date of his death is July 20, AD 18 in Nazareth.

Joseph is the patron saint of the dying because, assuming he died before Jesus’ public life, he died with Jesus and Mary close to him, the way we all would like to leave this earth.

Joseph is also patron saint of the Universal Church, families, fathers, expectant mothers (pregnant women), travelers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers, and working people in general.

We celebrate two feast days for Joseph: March 19 for Joseph the Husband of Mary and May 1 for Joseph the Worker. March 19 has been the most commonly celebrated feast day for Joseph, and it wasn’t until 1955 that Pope Pius XII established the Feast of “St. Joseph the Worker” to be celebrated on May 1. This is also May Day (International Workers’ Day) and believed to reflect Joseph’s status as the patron of workers.

Many places and churches all over the world are named after St. Joseph, including the Spanish form, San Jose, which is the most commonly named place in the world. Joseph is considered by many to also be the patron saint of the New World; of the countries China, Canada, Korea, Mexico, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Peru, Vietnam; of the regions Carinthia, Styria, Tyrol, Sicily; and of several main cities and dioceses.

In art, Joseph is typically portrayed as an older man, with grey hair and a beard, often balding, sometimes appearing frail and a marginal figure next to Mary and Jesus, if not entirely in the background. Some statues of Joseph show his staff topped with flowers. St. Joseph is shown with the attributes of a carpenter’s square or tools, the infant Jesus, his lily blossomed staff, two turtle doves, or a spikenard.

There is much we still wish we could know about Joseph — exactly where and when he was born, how he spent his days, exactly when and how he died. But Scripture has left us with the most important knowledge: who he was — “a righteous man” (Matthew 1:18).

In His Footsteps: Joseph was foster father to Jesus. There are many children separated from families and parents who need foster parents. Please consider contacting your local Catholic Charities or Division of Family Services about becoming a foster parent.

Prayer: Saint Joseph, patron of the universal Church, watch over the Church as carefully as you watched over Jesus, help protect it and guide it as you did with your adopted son. Amen

[This webpage is excerpted from the book: “The History of Poggioreale, Sicily – From 1640 to 1956.” Originally written in Italian by: Canonico Dottore Francesco Aloisio in 1956. Adapted and translated by: Dr. Jeremiah P. Spence, Ph.D. of Austin, Texas. 5th Edition. International Order of Genealogists Publishing. Ireland. 2019. ISBN: 9781072403371. The book can be purchased online at: ]