¨My apologies, but I resolved to write here during Lent and then my schedule promptly exploded, thanks to spring break and flu and the aftermath of these things. But, still, this happened yesterday:
Melanie taught me to make stuffed shells last year, and Himself loved them, so now they’re traditional.. I have to make them every year.
(This is a self imposed must, not a husband imposed must, although he does love them.)
The whole effect might look impressive, but really it’s not very. Those are two shoe boxes stacked on my sidebar and covered with an old table cloth. The candles are pillaged from other little devotional areas in the house. The Holy Family statue my parents brought me from Germany, and usually is on the oratory. I keep meaning to buy a nice Saint Joseph, but never remember in time. The matched vases are actually hurricane lamp-esque candle holders that someone gave me as a gift.
Everything else always lives on the sidebar. The bowl of citrus and basket of onions, the jar of spoons and artificial sunflowers, the pitcher and miscellaneous bottles are all normally floating around there, underneath the piles of mail and not put away groceries and random toys and books. I bought the flowers, the wine, and (out of desperation) the cream puffs. I intended to make ricotta zeppole, but I didn’t have time after work. It doesn’t take much to fill up a home altar.
For the interested, I use this recipe and shaping instructions from Saveur for my Saint Joseph’s bread. The only modification to the recipe is that I add a tablespoon or so of honey to the egg wash at the end. I did a refrigerator rise this year, which wasn’t entirely successful, probably because there’s a whole stick of butter in the dough. I should have had David take it out when he got home from school. But the bread was still delicious.
I have a hard time explaining why I love the Saint Joseph altar so much. Jenny laughed at me and said I was a very good Italian (reader, I am not at all Italian). It’s just… right. Saint Joseph is so completely quiet that the elaborateness of the tradition is almost a response to that quietness. And Himself doesn’t like me fussing over him, but this kind of celebration is just about his speed. Tasty meal. Fancy bread. Bottle of wine. Dessert maybe. Hannibal Lector jokes. As a tradition, it just seamlessly inserted itself into our domestic life, even from the first year. While I don’t entirely understand the how and why, I’m also not going to ignore the significance of this.
These types of traditions aren’t the ends in themselves. They are the nails, supports, in the walls of the devotional life of the home. But… nails are crucial for hanging stuff up. I’ve learned that you can’t just jump into living the liturgical year with your family, it has to be more than just crafts and kid activities that fade from importance as children age. But it’s also not sustainable to fling myself into prayer and practice without the nails. I need the physical support, I need years and years of just enjoying the ordinary tasks of celebration before I can start hanging devotions on it.
I will muse on this a little more as we get closer to Easter but for now, I need to go to work.
Also, in honor of Öma, who is a Josephine and turned 100 the day before yesterday:
Yes, I appear to be running out of toner.