St. Joseph's table celebration in Front Royal

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Parishioners of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal were greeted with a heavenly scene after the vigil Mass March 19. As the weather outside grew frightful, Ruehl Hall filled with dozens of families for the parish's annual St. Joseph's day table event. The event centerpiece was a multitier altar adorned with flowers, statues, food and candles, objects symbolizing St. Joseph's life and devotion to the Holy Family.

The celebration was spearheaded five years ago by parishioners Michael Turner and Joyce Blankenship. During a home improvement project at Blankenship's house, the two discovered their devotion to the Carpenter Saint and love of the Italian St. Joseph's table tradition.

Blankenship and her right-hand-lady Kathy McGurk worked for hours getting the table ready.

"Our intention is to honor St. Joseph by increasing devotion to him to make his work and virtues known," said Blankenship. "You glorify God when you do these things, so you honor Joseph but you are glorifying God. (The saints) are our friends and we have to thank them for what they have done. Joseph we have to thank for all the services he rendered on to Mary and Jesus."

After guests enjoyed a potluck dinner, children from the religious education program sang hymns and shared some thoughts about the humble carpenter.

"He went through a lot letting Jesus get born without getting killed," said student Blake Folks.

Turner led everyone in a reflection of the sorrows and joys of St. Joseph, a tradition originating after two Franciscan priests were shipwrecked off the coast of Holland. As the story goes, the pair was rescued by St. Joseph who asked them to share the devotion.

Pointing to the second sorrow depicting St. Joseph faced with the poverty of Jesus' birth, Turner expressed how much the image helps him relate to the saint on a personal level.

"What I really love about it is looking through the eyes of the foster father," said Turner. "I recognize his face. As a man you have to solve the problem and imagine having to say to his wife, 'You have to have the baby here.'"

According to parishioner Chris Schaper, St. Joseph's humility and obedience through hardship makes him a good role model for young men who are fearful of the future.

The St. Joseph table's popularity shows the community's devotion to the humble saint. Many parishioners attribute the area's Catholic growth to his intercession, which seemed to blossom after Connie Spiewak and her friend buried a statue of St. Joseph in a field in 1975, asking God "to fill the valley with His people." Christendom College now stands on that field. With young families and dozens of children filling Ruehl Hall on Saturday, it would seem that their prayer was answered proving once again that if you need something built, "Go to Joseph."

Abuyers can be reached

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016