I Stole a Lemon

By Sarah McDonald

I have a confession to make: in March of 2009, I stole a lemon off of a St. Joseph’s altar. There was a beautiful bowl of large, fresh yellow lemons just sitting there at the corner of the table, and I took one.

Why, might you ask, would I steal something from this beautiful altar, let alone one solitary lemon?

Well, at the time, I was dating my now husband. His Italian grandmother told me that if I stole a lemon from the St. Joseph Altar and prayed to St. Joseph that night, I would be married or engaged by the next St. Joseph’s day.

Thanks be to God, it worked! My husband proposed two weeks later, and we were married eight months later.

The tradition and legend about a young, unmarried woman stealing a lemon and being married by the next year is just one of many surrounding the St. Joseph altars – I mean, how many of you carry around a St. Joseph fava bean in your wallet or throw St. Joseph bread into your backyard as a hurricane looms in the Gulf of Mexico?

Some might think these are fairy tales and superstitions that have no place in the church, but I have a different take. These traditions are born out of prayers answered. These stories and practices are the history of centuries of petitions answered through the intercession of St. Joseph.

When you think about it that way – it can take your breath away!

I am so grateful that we live in New Orleans where St. Joseph altars are the norm. It is another reason to love living here where the culture is so influenced by our Catholicism.

This March 19, I will take my children to see our parish St. Joseph altar and maybe one or two more. I want them to grow up with the same appreciation for these labors of love that my husband and I each grew up with and grow in devotion to St. Joseph, patron of the family, patron of the worker and patron of the universal church.

St. Joseph, pray for us!

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