The “Gravitational Pull”

One of the fruits of Summorum Pontificum whereby His Holiness liberated the older form of Mass, will be the "gravitational pull" it will exert on the way the newer form, the Novus Ordo is celebrated.

Fully aware that the plural of anecdote is not data, this comes from a reader:

Dear Fr Z,
You, and other bloggers, frequently bring joyous news of new TLM Masses and reverent OF Masses from around the world. Upon a recent visit back to Toronto, however, I was left wondering if the effects of Summorum Pontificum are slowly trickling down to the average OF Sunday Mass.
I give the example of Blessed Trinity Parish in Toronto. The 10.30 Sunday Mass is generally standard OF fare, though they have an excellent choir, which once traveled to Rome to sing at a Mass by John Paul II. I noticed some interesting things creeping into this Mass that weren’t there a while ago:
The Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei are still sung in a verse-refrain fashion but the refrain has moved into Latin, and the Agnus Dei is completely in Latin. The congregation seems to participate in this without any problems. [Of course!  Latin Rite Catholics will adjust to Latin Rite liturgy!]
The church is blessed, not just with two priests, but a permanent deacon and a resident seminarian, which cuts down on the required numbers of EMHC. The deacon’s preaching in particular often reflects on the singular Truth of our Faith (cf. Dictatorship of Relativism).
There is a marked increase in devotion among the congregation with several receiving Communion kneeling and on the tongue. Many people also make their way to the tabernacle (still north of the altar) for prayer after Mass. Votive candles, often eliminated in Toronto due to insurance costs, have been reintroduced and explained as a particularly "Catholic" practice.
The priest/deacon cleaning the sacred vessels after Communion has taken to something I have only ever seen in the EF – they have adopted the hand position whereby the thumb and index finger are held over the chalice for the server to pour water over. Can keeping the thumb and index finger together after the Consecration be too far away?
Finally, the pastor, a monsignor, nearly made me weep for joy in the pews. Coming out to assist with Communion, he did not adopt the common alb and stole fashion so prevalent among priests who are not saying Mass. He came out in choir dress – long black cassock, purple fascia, and cotta – with stole and knelt at the steps of the altar until the presiding priest had received. Moreover, at the meet-and-greet after Mass he donned a long black cloak, the very image of a fully clerical cleric! Interestingly, the liturgical blue [ugh] came out on Jan. 1, but I don’t know if this is good or not.
I pray I’m not reading too much into these small signs but I thought your readers might enjoy some happy news from what is still the overwhelmingly normal way of celebrating Mass.

There are some strong currents at work.  I am sure many people will start seeing changes, especially as the "biological solution" strengthens the "gravitational pull".

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Brick by Brick, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Grovetucky Ann says:

    This is great. I love our vigil Masses during Lent and Advent because of the Latin and chant. Maybe more people will “experiment” with the traditional way? I hope so.

    I don’t know about that “blue” thing though!

  2. Maureen says:

    Maybe it’s just white with blue trim.

  3. Paul says:

    The Monsignor you speak of is Rev. Msgr. Ambrose E. Sheehy. He spent a lot of time working with Mother Theresa and is an absolutely phenomenal priest.

    The parish has done a complete 180 since he arrived a while back. (Blessed Trinity used to be my old parish before I moved north of the city) The parish was constructed in your typical 70\’s hippie style and was an absolute liturgical disaster up until his arrival.

    The road has been long and arduous in the parish, with the good Msgr going through a lot to make the changes he has. Daily mass attendance has quadrupled over the years and Sunday mass is celebrated very reverently.

    Take a look at some of the pictures from events recently celebrated in the parish:


  4. TJM says:

    Paul, it looks very promising indeed. You are all very fortunate to have a pastor who cares about sacred tradition and liturgy. By the way,
    it appears you may now have a traditional altar and celebrate Mass ad orientem? Tom

  5. Patrick says:

    This is very heartening, and very similar to our parish (and a number of others) here in NC. Father has not donned a cloak in the narthex after mass, but things are decidely more traditional and reverent. We use a great deal of Latin during the liturgy on Sundays, and each First Saturday Mass at 08:15 is entirely in Latin and Ad Orientam. Our little schola had a decent little repertoire of Latin chants and hymns for Christmas. And Easter awaits!!

    About the liturgical blue. I have never seen it in a Latin Rite liturgy, maybe I have been lucky. I have seen Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests wear it on Marian feasts. Is this “blue” something that has crossed from East to West? I confess to not being up on all of the discussion about “blue”, so please bear with me, where does it stand on the “oh no!” meter of liturgical novelty measurement?


  6. In October, The Toronto Oratory a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form was celebrated in commemoration of Our Lady of Victory and the Battle of Lepanto.

    Msgr. Sheehy was in attendance in choir and was the guest Homilist!

    I did not know he was transferred to this wonderful edifice…this can only be good!!!

  7. Sorry, ignore my last line…he is of course still at Blessed Trinity…I mistakenly thought of another parish church.

  8. Paul says:


    The nice altar additions are actually made out of cardboard or a similar material and was painted by a very talented seminarian studying at St. Augustine’s (The local seminary in Toronto, which I might add has also done a 180 under the direction of rector Msgr. Robert Nusca. Diocese\’s from around the country are forgoing much closer options for their seminarians and sending them to St. Augustine’s)

    Unfortunately the altar additions were not permanent.

  9. Jayna says:

    Those are more than small signs, my friend. It would have to get mighty chilly before any of that happened in my parish. We have six permanent deacons and still use about 10 EMHC’s at every Sunday Mass. Much as I may envy the parish, however, I am glad this good news can come from somewhere.

  10. This is extremely good news. In my diocese, there is a wonderful priest who says the Sunday High Mass (NO) completely in Latin and ad orientem. I think that this is excellent news in a diocese that has several parishes in which the NO is very liberalized.

    I hope that we will see more effects of SP trickle in onthe OF. Who knows, it might actually get a lot more reverent in other parishes.

  11. chironomo says:

    These are great signs indeed, and not small signs either. Perhaps I’m an eternal optimist, but I think such things will be coming to a parish near you in the not-too-distant future (by that, I mean perhaps 4-8 years). I see a very strong “traditional” streak in the seminarians who will become priests in the next few years, and that is where change will spring from. Just compare where we are now with where we were only 5 years ago. It is astounding…

  12. Actually, in my opinion the signs of a shift in the parishes (and seminaries) well predate Summorum, but it certainly helped. Here at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlottesville VA the 7:30 am Sunday Mass has complete Gregorian Ordinary (including Credo) with Gregorian Offertory and Communion Verse every Sunday. Other chant and polyphony are usual as well. Has been for well over 2 years. And chant and classical music are increasing at the other Masses as well. All this more or less grass roots without the priests having to push for it.

  13. Harry says:

    My southeastern parish is a typical large suburban one in a smallish metropolitan area. It has a very “horizontal” church building, and a recent liturgical past that fitted the building pretty well, especially regarding music and religious education mired in the 1970’s. However, the following are new since SP, during which time we’ve had multiple pastors, each orthodox and supportive of reform but not traditionalist (for instance, none of them celebrating the TLM or showing any obvious inclination to do so):

    1. New music director, and now almost all hymns are traditional (selected from excellent new hymnals). A chant schola is being organized.
    2. The Sanctus and Agnus Dei now sung in Latin (previously never heard, in Lent or any other time). The Kyrie sometimes sung with a fairly elaborate chant.
    3. Pastor now occasionally chants isolated parts of the Mass in Latin, e.g., the Ecce Agnus Dei (to which a few isolated people may reply in kind—Domine non sum dignus …).
    4. Incense now used at principal Masses on all solemnities—including the Host and Chalice incensed at elevation (not previously seen here) with bells more prominent than previously (e.g., at the epiclesis as well as triple rings for the elevations).
    5. New religious education program with actual religion classes rather than diffuse crafts and poster-making sessions.
    6. Previously unseen communion patens now used, held by servers wearing cassocks and surplices (also not seen until recently).
    7. Burse and chalice veils now visible at all Masses, with great care evident in purification of vessels (only by priest or deacon).
    8. Tabernacle now moved to behind the altar, and has veils that are changed to match the liturgical color of the day.
    9. A good many people, especially at daily Mass, and most altar servers, receive on the tongue, and a few kneel, whereas previously practically no one did either.
    10. Not so much hand-holding during the Pater Noster (though it was previously universal). Still a fair amount of hand-shaking, but cut shorter by the Agnus Dei.
    11. All sermons, both daily and Sunday, whether by pastor or assistant or deacon, are solid and substantial. Deacon now wears dalmatic, not just alb and stole, and kneels during consecration instead of trying to act like a concelebrant.

    This list may not be complete, and certainly a lot of the more substantial “reform of the reform” remains to be accomplished. But it’s a brick-by-brick start which I feel is largely attributable to the “gravitational pull”. Especially since I hear of similar things happening in similar ways in other areas, and most young priests and seminarians I encounter are solidly on the right side of all these issues.

  14. matt says:

    I went early to St. Stephen’s in Cleveland for their new TLM. And I walked in during the consecration at the novus ordo mass. The priest was wearing nice roman vestments and praying the consecration in Latin. Gravitational pull indeed! Bravo!

  15. Meredith says:

    Grata nova!

    Related note: has anyone else noticed that the OCP hymnals seem to be including more Latin? Apparently following the lead of the Adoremus hymnal, they have been printing Gerard Manley Hopkins\’ peerless translation of \”Adoro Te devote,\” along with the Latin. I have not been paying close enough attention to say for sure, but I have this suspicion that OCP is trying to appeal a little more to the sort of parish that uses the Adoremus hymnal. Their cover art was also nicer this year.

  16. mysticalrose says:

    Ditto, what Harry said, only make it a large suburban northeast parish!

  17. Hanna says:

    I’ve see all that too here in Denver CO. And some people said the Motu wouldn’t make any difference at all!

  18. Garrett says:

    I sincerely hope this is representative of what may be happening! I am beginning to think the the Novus Ordo may have a much bigger pull on the Traditional Rites, at least in an official form. We’ve already seen the beginning of this.

  19. mrteachersir says:

    As the principal of a Catholic high school in central PA, I have pushed for a greater inclusion of chant, Latin song, and sung prayers by our small but phenomenal choir…principally because of the work of Father Z.

    In addition, Fr. Glenn McCreary of Muncy, PA regularly sings his OF Masses. This past Sunday, he beatifully sang the Gospel, and peoples comments were extremely positive.

  20. DWS says:

    The parish in Oxford, MS seems to have had some positive influence over the past 2 or 3 years. The last Mass I went to there, about 3 years ago, had okay music and was pretty much a run-of-the-mill, post-Vatican II Mass. But the one I went to a few weeks ago was vastly different.

    For one, their newly-dedicated parish church has the a beautifully-restored tabernacle prominently in the sanctuary as well as a gorgeous ornate tabernacle lamp that, from what I understand, hung in the orginal 1920s church bldg but, in the 70s was taken down and had been used as a planter (!!!!) on the church grounds. It has been fully restored and is hanging prominently in the sanctuary. The altar has a benedictine arrangment with six candles and an altar cross.

    The priest now has very fine vestments and there was a lot of positive changes, liurgically, from my last visit. For one, most of the ordinaries were chanted in Latin (the Gloria was chanted in English), hymns were relatively traditional, no hand-holding during the Our Father, and almost everyone even bowed during the Creed (!!! – I’ve NEVER seen this done, only read it in the missal). These are HUGE changes for this parish which, until quite recently, was just like any other stuck in the liturgical rut of the 1970s.

    Although I have not witnessed as many positive changes in any other parishes I’ve visited in our diocese (Jackson, MS) – and my husband and I travel quite frequently on weekends), I’ll point out that I was told this is the liturgical form for all three Masses on weekends. Being the only Catholic Church in the town which is home to the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), this can really have a positive impact on the future as those college students are exposed to liturgical beauty. From what I understand, the “student Mass” is celebrated ad orientum every Sunday! Thanks be to God for this brave priest!

  21. Trad-man says:

    This is good news, but I think we need to be careful not to miss the point. It’s good to see that so many people responding to these positive developments have good taste when it comes to liturgy, but it’s not about us. These developments are good because they are in line with what the Church has been instructing us to do.

    The Second Vatican Council document on the Sacred Liturgy was clear about it: Latin was to have been preserved in the liturgy, Gregorian Chant was to have pride of place, etc. THAT is the reason that these developments are positive…not that it suites our taste. It’s that they’re doing what the Holy Church says to do with the Liturgy…late, but better late than never.

    And as nice as it is to hear about this, the sad fact is that the “overwhelmingly normal way of celebrating Mass” is still way out there somewhere.

    What should happen is that parishes such as Blessed Trinity should be “showcased,” presented to the rest of the diocese as an example of how things are meant to be for the Ordinary Form. Hopefully our more courageous bishops will do this. Or maybe some of them already are. I haven’t been paying much attention, I’ll admit, as I’ve been quite content with the Extraordinary Form.

  22. MPod says:

    “What should happen is that parishes such as Blessed Trinity should be ‘showcased,’ presented to the rest of the diocese as an example of how things are meant to be for the Ordinary Form. Hopefully our more courageous bishops will do this.”

    An excellent point, but I would add my hope that such courageous bishops will start with their own cathedral churches. The cathedral is supposed to demonstrate the model of divine worship for the entire diocese, being the “Mother Church” thereof. How many of us can say our cathedrals accomplish this assigned and crucial role?

  23. Peter M says:

    “This is extremely good news. In my diocese, there is a wonderful priest who says the Sunday High Mass (NO) completely in Latin and ad orientem. I think that this is excellent news in a diocese that has several parishes in which the NO is very liberalized.”

    Isn’t this a major (and structural) problem with the NO, namely that it can be celebrated in very different ways without there being any abuse at all involved? While it is now stated that the Roman Rite has two forms, one of those forms has in itself an infinite number of sub-forms. How do you repair a structure that is meant not to have any?

  24. DCS says:

    matt, is that Cleveland, Ohio? It would be nice if there were 2 weekly EF Masses again.

  25. Mairead says:

    I think that sounds wonderful. We have 2 priests in our Parish both of whom are against having Latin at Mass. They say the people wouldn’t like it or understand it. Such a pity.

  26. TJM says:

    Mairead, when they say “the people” they mean themselves. This sounds like an excuse for not wanting to make the effort. Moreover, if the priest is only doing the Ordinary in Latin, he and the congregation would have to be brain dead not to be able to “understand” the Latin. After all, a translation is opposite. Tom

  27. Torontonensis says:

    A number of my friends have been posted to Blessed Trinity as seminarian interns, so I’m pretty sure that the parish doesn’t have any blue vestments. It does have a white vestment, with a blue pattern woven into the fabric, and blue orphreys, which is used for feasts of our Lady.

  28. dcs says:

    I am sure many people will start seeing changes, especially as the “biological solution” strengthens the “gravitational pull”.

    “Biological solution”? Is that where traditionally-minded Catholics out-breed their more liberal-minded coreligionists? ;-)

  29. Frank H. says:

    Sadly, the “biological solution” will probably ensure that many of us never see the full fruits of BXVI’s “Marshall Plan”.

  30. Jayna says:

    Harry: I have hope yet for my parish after reading your comment. The before picture you’ve sketched is an exact description of my parish (apart from the smallish metro area; I’m near Atlanta). I’ve had some luck in getting Latin worked into certain Masses – the liturgist, who is a friend of mine, decided to add the Latin verse of Adeste Fideles at Midnight Mass as a Christmas present for me. It may have been just for me, but everyone of the considerable number of other people there that night were exposed to it as well. It’s a small step, but in my parish, saying a single word in Latin at Mass is unheard of (quite literally).

  31. geoff jones says:

    I’m an acolyte and the priest always gets us to clean the vessels, and if i’ve been an EMHC then i’ll pour water into the chalice over my fingers–just like the FSSP priests do.

  32. Dan P. says:

    Dear DWS:
    Can I contact you about some more specifics at St. John in Oxford, MS? We live in Starkville (you know, that Cow School south of you). I’m very much interested in the developments you mentioned, esp the ad orientem mass. We, too, are willing to travel to countryside for mass, but haven’t had much reason for hope within the diocese.

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