I grew up in a very Catholic town with several very good Catholic friends, but even still, St. Joseph Day wasn’t something I was familiar with until a few years ago. And I may be Jewish, but I have to say, this is my favorite somebody-else’s-holiday of all time (and yes, I do carry lucky beans in my purse). There are 50+ to visit this year in the area. Some history of the practice is here.
I love it when we are in New Orleans for the holiday because they do it *right* — and last year, our timing was perfect. These are all pics from the St Joseph Church and Shrine in Gretna.
Before the public is allowed to view everything, the ‘holy family’ — children dressed up as Jesus, Joseph, Mary, and angels, are fed first. And it’s very sweet…they are really catered to. //embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
We were out looking for a grave shelter in the Talladega National Forest, and though I can locate it on the map, there are so many private roads roped off in the area, that we’re going to have to try to approach it next time from an entirely different way. One of the things that made the trip the most interesting was that Av found this structure behind a church:
With the height, steps going down into it, and stage structure in front, we came to have the idea that it was an outdoor baptismal, and when I asked some clergy friends and folklorist, they agreed. There’s another one in very south Alabama that I’m going to visit the next time we go to the beach, and we’ll see their similarities.
We love roadside attractions like this, so the last time we were in the area, we stopped off in Murphy, North Carolina to show the boys the world’s largest ten commandments at the Fields of the Wood Bible Park.
I know from my study of religious serpent handlers that this verse, labeled here under ‘Signs Following Believers’ is the one the practice (and that of faith healing and drinking poison) is based on: “…they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them…” from the Christian Bible at Mark 16:17,18 //embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Here, a small area at the top at which people left their own prayers. The prayers were on flat, unfolded pieces of paper so anyone could see. People were praying for protection from terrorism, for healing, and that friends would stop using drugs. I wondered if people left them so that others could come by and pray over them as well. //embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
— When Judge Roy Moore (now the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, although perhaps not for much longer due to ongoing litigation) had a monument of the Ten Commandments made and installed in the state judicial building in Montgomery, Av took pictures of it back in 2002 (that’s Roy Moore on the left in this image below) before it was permanently removed by a court order that Moore refused to comply with.
— There were a few rallies in support of the Ten Commandments monument, and we were coming back from Mobile when we found ourselves in Montgomery on this day in 2003 when we saw these people protesting.
Legend has it that Grant said Port Gibson was “too beautiful to burn” – so Port Gibson has this saying on signs around town and in their literature.
I think the most striking thing about Port Gibson (it happens to be the 3rd-oldest incorporated town in the US) is the First Presbyterian Church there.
That gold hand pointing up is made of metal – it was originally carved from wood. It’s exactly what it’s supposed to be – pointing toward heaven. If you have a super-zoom camera lens, you can see that there are little prickly things all over the top of the hand which keep birds from landing on it.
By 1859, the congregation numbered 160, and they decided to tear down their old sanctuary and build anew. But because of threats of war, the northern contractor only completed the walls up to the parapet. Elder H.N. Spencer took over the project, and lent the congregation $8,000 to complete it, a debt which he forgave in his will. He is also said to have given $500 in silver coins to be cast into the bell in the steeple, weighing 2,032 pounds. It was first rung on October 10, 1860. Mr. Spencer completed the building in December of 1860, the same month in which Dr. Butler died. His funeral is said to have been the first service held in the new sanctuary.
The Hand pointing to Heaven” is the unique feature of this Romanesque Revival style edifice. The first hand was carved from wood by Daniel Foley, a young local craftsman. The ravages of time, however, destroyed it; and around 1901, the present hand was commissioned and installed. It was taken down in 1989 to be repaired and replated. It was raised again in 1990 and placed atop a newly re-enforced steeple.
These are pics from William C. Rice’s cross garden in Prattville. (articles and features about the place can be found here and here)
Mr. Rice’s place has been featured in countless magazine articles, folk art books, etc. and I’ve wanted to see it for ages. Av and I love folk art. Religious folk art (even when it’s not our religion) is so great – I have a real respect for it.
Growing up in Cullman, I would go several times each year to Ave Maria Grotto just to marvel at Brother Zoettl’s incredible work. Av and I once went to Palestine Gardens (formerly called Palestinian Gardens) – a place in Lucedale, MS – to see the work of a Presbyterian minister who began to build representations of Israel out of concrete back in the 1950’s. Compared to the Grotto, PG is much more crudely constructed, but if you’re in that part of MS, it’s worth seeing once. BTW, we didn’t know to expect this when we visited, but our experience with the gentleman who lead us on a tour of the little park was that he did some hard-core ‘testifying’ (which to me is really okay, I am happy to hear how people got into their religion and how their life has changed).
Anyway, if you have the choice of Ave Maria Grotto or Palestine Gardens, definitely go to the Grotto as the work there – the details and such – is just amazing.
Here are pics of Mr. Rice’s cross garden. Mr. Rice died last year, but his family says they will keep things up the way they are now.