March 19. The feast of Saint Joseph, husband of Mary, father, well, of sorts, of Jesus. In my family we always said this was Dad’s feast day, for St. Joseph the Worker. Not that there wasn’t a Saint James, but there are a bunch of them and who knew which James Dad was named for. So Mom called it. March 19.
Raised in California we always knew this was the day the swallows returned to Mission San Juan Capistrano. A beautiful mission, the oldest in building in California still in use, since 1782, we never went on St. Joseph’s Day. It was full of tourists and gawkers. We went on an off day, not even a Sunday, to Mass in the coolness of the mission. All the missions were cold. You went in the middle of summer, you brought a jacket. The deep and wide walls created a stillness and a chill, and you welcomed it when it was ninety-five degrees outside.
It’s very fitting that Pope Francis chooses March 19 for his installation as St. Joseph was declared the patron saint and protector of the Universal Church by Pius IX. It’s also the day the swallows come to San Juan Capistrano. Swallows, a favorite bird of St. Francis of Assisi. It is considered the ‘miracle’ as they return each year at the same time, to nest, to spend the summer growing as a flock and then to leave on the October 23.
March 19. A feast day.