Every parish in the Diocese of Salt Lake City has a patron saint. Most celebrate those feast days with a Mass, but some plan something more extensive.
Coming up on Feb. 11 is the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. Salt Lake City’s Our Lady of Lourdes Parish has been celebrating the feast day for as long as pastor Fr. J.J. Schwall can remember. This year the Mass will be celebrated on Monday, Feb. 11 at 9 a.m. Four students from Our Lady of Lourdes School will be baptized at the Mass.
While it can be difficult to celebrate the feast on its actual day, the parish also holds an event as close to it as possible, Fr. Schwall said. This year the parish will celebrate with a potluck dinner followed by games on Saturday, Feb. 9.
“We do this every year because we love Our Lady,” he said. “I think it’s a wonderful celebration for people that are existing in the parish that are already connected.”
At Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Magna, Fr. Lourduraj Gally Gregory, pastor, will celebrate the feast day with an 8 a.m. Mass on Feb. 11. Notre Dame de Lourdes Parish in Price will not celebrate a special feast day Mass, but Fr. Rafael Murillo, administrator, said they will remember the occasion during the Feb. 10 Sunday Mass.
Other parishes in the diocese also regularly celebrate their patron saint’s feast day.
“Feast days are great – any reason to celebrate is a good reason,” said Fr. Christopher Gray, pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption in Park City. “The saints and the mysteries of Christ that we celebrate throughout the year, liturgically, tie us to the greater (both in size and importance) part of the Church, the eternal celebration of praise that is heaven. We dedicate churches and buildings and certain days of our life to these mysteries because it ties us to these things which are beyond us, tying our own narratives to that of Christ in his ministry, in his eternal kingdom, and the citizens of the kingdom, who are the saints. Simply, we celebrate our togetherness with the true Body of Christ who live with Christ forever in heaven.
“Celebration days allow an opportunity to present our best selves, our best talents,” he added. “Again, who needs an excuse to celebrate?”
Each August, his parish celebrates with a procession from the Old Town church to the White Pine Canyon church on the Sunday before the Solemnity of the Assumption, which is Aug. 15. That day is both the parish’s patronal feast day and the anniversary of the dedication of the new church. For the celebration, the dedication crosses in the church are lit with candles.
At the Cathedral of the Madeleine, in addition to celebrating a 6 p.m. Mass on July 22, the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, the parish has a party in the plaza.
Along with dinner, an opportunity drawing and games for the children, the parish gives each child a chocolate egg wrapped in red aluminum foil, because red is the color of St. Mary Magdalene. The egg represents the opening of the tomb and the resurrected Christ emerging, said Fr. Martin Diaz, rector of the cathedral.
The celebration is important “on a religious/spiritual basis because it highlights the saints and gives us an opportunity to talk about the saints and intercessory prayer and how the saints pray for us,” he said.
On a community level, “It’s a nice day for the parish to celebrate itself,” he said. “Every community needs a celebration; it’s a time for the parish to get together to enjoy food, games and fun.”
Fr. Diaz said there is what he calls an “apocryphal” story about why the Right Rev. Joseph Glass, second Bishop of Salt Lake, chose to have a community celebration for the parish on this feast day. According to the story, Bishop Glass chose it so close to July 24 so that as long as the cathedral’s neighbors in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were celebrating that day (in remembrance of the first settlers who came into the Salt Lake Valley) members of the parish would have something to celebrate close to it, Fr. Diaz said.
(See the list of Utah parishes’ patron saint feast days in the story "Patron Saints Around the Diocese".)