Up Front and Personal

Trifecta of Feasts Coming on March Calendar

by Rita Piro

If there was ever a trifecta of Catholic feast days it would be that of St. Patrick, St. Joseph and the Annunciation. Celebrated on March 17, 19 and 25 respectively, these feast days fall during Lent, the most somber period of the liturgical calendar.

The arrival of both Patrick and Joseph signals a welcome respite among the 40 days of penitence and fasting. Many Irish Catholics growing up in our diocese will remember St. Patrick’s Day as a 24-hour pass from their Lenten promises, indulging for a short time in recently “given up” treats and activities.

As adults, St. Patrick’s Day gives everyone, Irish or not, the opportunity to don some green and gold and offer a toast, dance a reel or join in a chorus of Irish melodies, all while taking pride in the fact that we live in the city that hosts the world’s largest annual parade in honor of the great missionary of Ireland.

Just two days after Patrick, we celebrate Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church and the earthly father of Jesus, who is loved and honored by all Christian cultures, but perhaps just a little bit more so by those of Italian heritage. From Bay Ridge to Bay Shore, lines form early this day at Italian bakeries, patrons eager to buy a few sfinci and zeppole, the traditional St. Joseph’s Day pastries. In many areas of the U.S., most notably in the south, families, churches and other faith organizations erect St. Joseph Altars. Three-tiered in design to honor the Trinity, each level offers a new dimension in gastronomic delights. Tucked among the goodies are prayer intentions, crosses and candles, as well as photographs of deceased loved ones and statues of favorite saints.

After such hearty celebration in honor of Patrick and Joseph, we step back and center ourselves on Mary at the Annunciation. The solemnity recalls the Angel Gabriel revealing to Mary the great, if not just a little surprising, news that she will bear the Son of God. Though justifiably frightened and confused, Mary did not hesitate. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38) Commemorated in the daily recitation of The Angelus, it was Mary’s unquestioning “Yes” which set in motion the extraordinary events that changed humanity forever.

And that’s exactly what makes this triad of feasts so special. During Lent, when we are working extra hard to deepen our relationship with God and God’s people, Patrick, Joseph and Mary provide us with the perfect example of how to do so with their “Yes” to God.

A slave, a carpenter and a poor Jewish girl all living on the fringe of society, Patrick, Joseph and Mary were obedient, selfless, humble and sincere. God spoke to each of them when they were at their most vulnerable. Nonetheless, though confused and scared, wondering how God could have ever chosen them, none hesitated in saying “Yes” to God.

Whether you raise a pint, enjoy a pastry or pray the Angelus in honor of these three great memorials, remember to give your “Yes” to God.