Feast Day for St Joseph - 19 March
St Joseph is Patron of the Universal Church
Little is known about the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. Everything we know comes from Scripture and that information is also limited. He was a carpenter from Nazareth who, by tradition, died when Jesus was still young.
Joseph, has appointed two feasts in his honour, March 19 and May 1 (the Worker). Pope Pius IX made him Patron of the Universal Church while Pope Pius XII instituted the Feast of St. Joseph, the worker, and ordered it to be celebrated throughout the world on 1 May. St. Joseph is the patron saint for many topics including: carpenters dying people, fathers and the Universal Church
And why our priests wear what vestments they do
Up until the 12th century there were no universal rules about what colour vestments should be worn on which liturgical days - only a general rule, still followed in some Eastern churches, that joyful feasts need brighter colours and more penitential or sombre days need darker ones. The use of matching colours for altar frontals, tabernacle veils, etc, came later still.
These days there are four principal liturgical colours, and two occasional ones.
WHITE symbolises joy, light, life, purity and so is used during the Christmas and Easter seasons, on feasts of Christ, Mary and saints who were not martyrs (martyrs get red vestments), and at baptisms and weddings. These days, white is also often used for funerals rather than black or violet, the reason being that white is also the colour associated with resurrection: our relatives and friends have gone on to rise to a new life with Christ.
RED is associated with fire and blood, and so is used at Pentecost and other Masses of the Holy Spirit, Confirmation, on Good Friday and other feasts linked with Christ's Passion, and for martyrs as already noted.
GREEN is a symbol of hope and growth and is used in Ordinary Time (sometimes known as "the Green Sundays").
VIOLET symbolises penance and sadness, and is used in Advent, Lent and at funerals if white is not used. There is actually no such liturgical colour as purple (the colour of royalty rather than penance) - violet is the correct name, even if the actual colour is sometimes deeper than the word violet would imply.
The two occasional colours are black - associated with mourning, sometimes still used for Masses of the Dead but rarely met with now - and rose, a paler shade of violet traditionally marking the midpoints of Advent (3rd Sunday) and Lent (4th Sunday), but you can always use violet instead if you don't have rose vestments.
These colours all make use of Western symbolism. In the East, white is the colour of mourning, so they have no problem using it at funerals for paschal symbolism. But for them, black is the colour of festivity, so wearing white for festivals seems as odd to them as using black for festivals would seem to us!
African and South American countries have often used rainbow-coloured vestments or stoles. These bright garments make use of ethnic cultural values and symbolise festivity. In these traditions, more sombre colours (or single colours) are also often used on non-festive occasions.
Some people have suggested in the past that feasts of Our Lady should use the colour blue. It has never been a liturgical colour in the Roman Church (exceptionally, it was allowed in the 19th century in Spain and Spanish mission territories but only on the feast of the Immaculate Conception; this permission has now lapsed).
Associating blue with Mary is actually fairly recent: the oldest Eastern icons usually depict the Mother of God with a dark red or maroon mantle - rather like depictions of Christ in the Stations of the Cross or in holy pictures wearing his "purple robe of scorn" which is often dark red or maroon too. In both cases, the artist is actually representing the "royal" colour purple and so (in the case of Mary) perhaps with overtones of "Queen of Heaven" as well as Mother of God. Others have suggested that Advent should be blue, but this may be because the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the Gospels of the Annunciation and Visitation all occur within it. However, as late as the 12th century Advent was still regarded as a festal season ("We wait in joyful hope"), the Gloria was used on Sundays (we still have an Alleluia during Advent), and the liturgical colour was white. Advent only acquired violet vestments when people started to think of it as a time of penitence rather than a time of eager anticipation awaiting Christmas.
Gold or yellow are not liturgical colours, though in the past there was so much gold thread and cloth-of-gold used in vestments. Once again, the festal colour is white.
These colours help to tell us roughly whereabouts we might be in the Church's liturgical year, and what the mood or theme of the celebration is likely to be, using colours which link us back in tradition to those who have "gone before us, marked with the sign of faith".
With thanks to Paul Inwood, Portsmouth People