A Parish That Loves Its Traditions
I hope that All Saints and parishes like it that have reverently maintained their traditions in the liturgy and in their community life will be able to pass them to future generations.
Parishioners of the Church of All Saints in Minneapolis poured out onto the large grassy lot adjoining their church after Mass on a Sunday in June to take part in a newer tradition: the parish’s annual garden party.
Dressed in their Sunday best — suits, dresses and hats — they mingled in the garden decorated as it might have been for a wedding reception with pots of white roses and snapdragons. Tables and chairs scattered around the yard were covered with shimmering fabric.
Pairs of young boys in dress shirts and vests approached the groups of chatting parishioners, one bearing a tray of small sandwiches or hors d’oeuvres and the other offering napkins.
Parishioners sipped champagne in plastic flutes or drank iced tea and lemonade. The many children played together or watched a trio of religious sisters in blue habits who played songs and hymns on violin.
Parishes build community in different ways. As a visitor I was drawn to All Saints’ elegant and joyful celebration which evoked an era when Sunday was a special day and people took more time to visit.
The garden party followed the parish’s Traditional Latin High Mass celebrated by one of the parish’s priests, who are members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP).
All Saints has been canonically designated in the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis as a “personal parish” for celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. Most parishes’ geographic boundaries designate who are constituted as parishioners.
I am not a member of All Saints, and my own parish does not offer the Traditional Latin Mass. I came to the parish to assist at the Mass and visit parishioner friends because I love the traditions — inside the 1916 church and outside in its yard.
I didn’t bring a missal to the Mass, and I don’t know much Latin, but I knew enough to recognize that each word and gesture carried centuries of precedent. Where the priest stood at a particular point in the liturgy, when bells were rung and each genuflection all had a specific meaning.
My own parish celebrates the vernacular liturgy with reverence but there isn’t quite the same sense that each tradition has been kept the same way for centuries.
Even without a missal or a thorough understanding of the Traditional Latin Mass, I was able to enter into the traditions of the Mass through all my senses including:
- the song and chant of a choir — a sound that I’ve missed during the pandemic;
- the gold banners bearing images of the Madonna and Child, Christ the King and the FSSP logo, which were carried by altar boys in the procession;
- the priest’s red fiddleback vestment bearing a life-size outline of a cross;
- the incense and the team of altar boys bearing “torches” consisting of candles in red glass holders.
In his homily the celebrant gave families practical ideals to strive for in their relationships. It was a clear message for parishioners of all ages on loving and forbearing with others, in all states in life.
Interestingly the first words in the definition of “tradition” in my 1983 Webster’s unabridged dictionary are “a surrender.” A subsequent definition states “the delivery of opinions, doctrines, practices, rites, and customs from generation to generation by oral communication.”
Not all traditions are good ones, but I hope that All Saints and parishes like it that have reverently maintained their traditions in the liturgy and in their community life will be able to surrender them to a future generation that will continue to value them the way their predecessors did.
As the relaxed afternoon stretched on at the garden party, the diminutive waiters returned with trays of scones covered in cream and jam — another tasty tradition of this Catholic community that lives their faith and enjoys life together.
May the party continue next year!