The DiGiovanni St. Joseph's Table: A Family Tradition
Every year our family joins in celebrating the tradition of St. Joseph's Day. We get together, wear the traditional, red colors, catch up on the lives of our families, and enjoy a feast of pasta with fish. It's nice to see everyone again, but we tend to forget the real reason we get together. That reason is to uphold a strong tradition that started many years ago.
In the Middle Ages, a region of western Sicily went through a severe drought. Many families were starving and dying of thirst. Things were desperate, and people didn't know where to turn. On March 19, a group of citizens got together. They decided to pray to St. Joseph, the patron saint of Italy, to intervene and help their situation. So, they began to pray. At the stroke of midnight, there was a heavy rain. In the days that followed, there appeared an abundance of vegetation; hundreds of fish were seen, swimming in the water. In honor of St. Joseph, therefore, these Sicilians held a feast of vegetables and fish. To this day, the people continue this tradition.
There is, however, yet another reason why we, the DiGiovanni's, celebrate this special day. We owe that reason to Sam DiGiovanni. In 1910, at the young age of 19, he and his sister Carmella moved from Palozzo Adriano (a province, in which is located Palermo, Sicily) to Jensen, Colorado. Sam supported himself by working in the mines; his sister got married.
One day, at work, a truck rolled on top of Sam DiGiovanni. He was pinned to the ground and convinced that his death was inevitable. Sam was desperate; he turned to St. Joseph, for help. Sam promised that if St. Joseph would save him, he would pay tribute to St. Joseph as long as he lived. It was a miracle that Sam survived, says the family; and, with a heart full of faith, Sam kept his promise.
Since he couldn't celebrate St. Joseph's Day with his family, Sam would send money to his parents and family back in Palozzo Adriano, to ensure that a festive table would be prepared there. Every year, he would send that money home; every year, his mother would use it to honor St. Joseph.
As the years continued, Sam moved to Chicago Heights. Eventually, he was joined by his mother and his brothers, Nick and Joe. His other sisters, Ana and Maria, stayed in our homeland. Since most of Sam's family was now in the United States, he kept his lifelong promise in this country. He no longer had to send money to Italy, because now he could celebrate with his own festive table. Sam watched as his famlily grew to an enormous size, as other family members took on the responsibility of preparing a table for all the DiGiovanni's.
Sam died in 1977, but with the years our family grows more and more. The tradition of St. Joseph's Day must always stay alive. Now, we have to rent out a hall to accommodate our family; our feasts get larger and larger. But we must never forget the reason we do this--and that is to celebrate.
We celebrate the graciousness of our St. Joseph. We celebrate the courage and the life that Sam sacrificed for all of us. We celebrate our family and our tradition. Let us never forget our family and the wonderful gifts that prayers can bring.
God bless you all, on the occasion of this wonderful celebration.
Your proud cousin,
Cheri Jo DiGiovanni