St Joseph’s Day: another Lent break

Zeppole on sale in Naples

Today Tuesday 19 March is St Joseph’s Day.

If you live in Italy you will find St Joseph buns, called seppole, on sale. They look like the Shrove Tuesday semlor buns enjoyed in Sweden although this time the cream is ricotta.

Joseph has two feast days. Today as spouse of Mary mother of Jesus and 1 May as St Joseph the Worker.

In some countries today is a holiday and in many more Father’s Day. In Krakow the trams are decorated with flags.

Is it St Patrick’s Day?

The statue outside St Patrick’s Waterloo in London includes one of the snakes allegedly driven from Ireland by St Patrick

Is it St Patrick’s Day on Sunday 17 March?

He does not appear in the calendar this year because 17 March is the Second Sunday of Lent.

But this is not as difficult as the rare year when 17 March falls in Holy Week.

It can be St Patrick’s Day on Sunday where the local dedication is St Patrick. So the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin is keeping St Patrick’s Day with the President Michael D. Higgins present. The city’s festival is a five day event.

In London there will be celebrations at St Patrick’s Soho Square on Sunday and Monday with blessing of shamrock at all Masses.

Borough Market next to Southwark Cathedral is opening all day on Sunday to feature Irish food.




This Friday 15 March is Family Fast Day when CAFOD suggests that we forgo our main meal and donate the normal cost to the poor via the charity.

CAFOD, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, works alongside Christian Aid to build a world without hunger and war by putting faith into action.

Below is soup recipe from CAFOD to help us through the day.

Ash Wednesday: NEW START

Lent Prose Attende Domine dates from the 10th century

‘The Christians go mad but thanks to ashes that the Church puts on their heads they come to their senses and are cured of their madness,’ commented the Turkish ambassador to Rome in the 1690s.

Carnival ended last night and today, Ash Wednesday, we can receive ashes in church at the start of the Forty Days of Lent.

It marks our commitment to keeping Lent.

John Paul II said that going without things in Lent does not only consist of giving away what we do not need.

‘Going without things is to free oneself from the slavery of a civilisation that is always urging people on to greater comfort and consumption, without a thought for the preservation of our environment which is the common heritage of humanity.’


Borough Market pancake race last year

It’s Shrove Tuesday this Tuesday 5 March but there will be no Parliamentary pancake race. Fear of Brexit demonstrations  outside the Palace of Westminster is being given as the reason.

However Winchester Cathedral is inaugurating an annual pancake race at noon. There are 20 teams with clergy and city councillors taking part. The relays in the Close are expected to last until at least 1.30pm.

Ripon Cathedral will ring its bell at 11am for the start of the pancake race along Kirkgate. Bishop of Ripon Dr Helen-Ann Hartley is one of the participants. The 21 Royal Engineers is cooking the pancakes.

Southwark Cathedral sub dean Michael Rawson is starting the race in Borough Market at 12.30pm.

Across the Thames at the same time there will be races outside Guildhall organised by the livery companies. The Poulters provide the eggs, the Fruiterers the lemons and the Cutlers the cutlery. The Cooks cook.

Abroad it’s carnival or Semlor cream buns (Sweden) but in England we enjoy pancakes before Lent starts on Wednesday.

The Holy Family leaves Bethlehem

Jesus in the Temple meeting Simeon (From a panel in St Stephen’s Church Bournemouth featured on a Christmas card.)

Today is Candlemas and forty days since the birth of Jesus.

We now remember Holy Family leaving Bethlehem and taking Jesus into the Temple in Jerusalem to give thanks for his birth.

He would return on the first Palm Sunday 33 years later and today’s readings link us to Holy Week.

This is Candlemas because by tradition today many candles are lit at Mass and there can be a blessing of new candles including sometimes the big Easter candle to be lit in April.

Some Anglican churches are keeping Candlemas, or the Presentation of the Lord, on Sunday tomorrow. A few, like St Stephen’s in Bournemouth, are oberving it on both days.

At Ripon Cathedral, which always has the most candles, the Sung Eucharist is at 7.30pm tonight (Saturday).


Ripon Cathedral


Three Kings biscuits by 

This Saturday night 5 January the figures of the Three Kings will be seen arriving in towns and villages all over Spain. The street processions are big family occasions.

Another feature of today is enjoying cutting the Twelfth Night cake.

In Spain it is a cake ring called Rosca de Reyes symbolising a king’s crown. Inside is baby figurine. The French have their Gâteau des Rois.o or Gallette des Rois with a small feve (or charm) inside.

England had a similar custom well into the 19th century. The English Twelfth Cake contained a bean. The person finding the bean in their slice of cake was proclaimed king for the evening. The custom died out when the Twelfth Night cake began to be served on the 25 December and became our Christmas cake.

But a Twelfth Cake was enjoyed, although a little early, on Thursday by the 42nd Street cast at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. Another is being cut this evening by the Vic-Wells Association at The Old Vic in Waterloo.

Also tonight, at St James’s Church Spanish Place, Marylebone W1, the Order of Malta is organising the blessing of Epiphany water and chalk at 7pm. You can take the chalk home to write a welcoming C+M+B over the front door for the Three Kings: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.

Sunday is The Epiphany when we celebrate in church the arrival of the Wise Men who will now be found as part of the crib scene.

Twelfth Night cake in #FollowTheStar book

Boxing Day is St STephen’s Day

A £2 Isle of Man coin features Hunting the Wren tradition

The Isle of Man has issued a £2 coin depicting the Boxing Day custom of hunting the wren.

This is no longer a cruel tradition involving killing a bird but an opportunity for community dancing, dressing up and ‘penny for the wren’ charity collections.

The revived custom is also observed in Dublin’s Sandymount Green where the day is known only as St Stephen’s Day.

Stephen the Deacon was the first person to die for the faith brought to us by the birth of Jesus so this second day of Christmas is an opportunity to think about the implications of Christmas.

This morning there are services in many churches but especially in those dedicated to St Stephen in Blackpool, Bournemouth, London’s Gloucester Road and Vienna.

Ripon Cathedral follows its St Stephen’s Day Eucharist with a walk to Fountains Abbey, first undertaken in 1132, attracting around 2,000 people.

St Stephen is the patron of deacons, altar servers, CAFOD and the House of Commons

Leigh Hatts