Join the Oratory

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Are you called to be an Oratorian?

More than 400 years ago, St Philip Neri sought to reform the Church, and in particular priestly life. Inspired by the example of the early Church in the Book of Acts of the Apostles, Philip founded the Oratory, a congregation of priests and laymen who come together without the vows, oaths or promises common to religious orders – a community whose bond is charity; where heart speaks to heart.

Since our Oratory is still in the early stages of formation, and not yet established in our domus or home, we are somewhat limited in accepting new members. However, we do hope each year to accept at least one student to join Br Shawn Murphy in formation. We are looking for passionate and committed young men, on fire for Christ and His Church, who will join us in building the Oratorian Community in Brisbane into something strong and holy, following the life of St. Philip in the particular place and circumstances of Brisbane. There is a lot of hard work to do, and we welcome enquiries and the possibility of discerning with young men the call to the Oratory.

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The Oratory is…

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A House of Prayer
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The Oratory is modelled in many ways, as was St Philip’s desire, on the life of the early Church. Numerous times in the Acts of the Apostles, especially in chapter two, St Luke explains how the Apostolic Church was characterised by a strong life of communal prayer: “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1); “[Those who welcomed Peter’s message] were baptised, and that day about three thousand were added to their number… They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers” (Acts 2:41-42); “Day by day, as they [those who believed] spent much time in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people” (Acts 2:47).

Prayer is the centre-point of Oratory life. This prayer takes on many forms and expressions with, naturally, special emphasis placed on the celebration of the Church’s liturgy. The “source and summit” (Vatican II) of the Church’s liturgical life is the Mass, and thus it is also the source and summit of the Oratorian’s life. Oratories are renowned around the world for their dedication to the fostering of beauty in the Mass. This is usually expressed through the style of the Oratory church, the execution of solemn liturgies, and the establishment of choirs. These endeavours are intended to train the Oratorian to consecrate his whole life to God as an act of worship.

In addition to offering Mass, like all priests, Oratorians pray the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office) daily, though not in common as is the custom in many religious orders. In this way they seek to abide with the Lord (Jn 15:4) throughout their day and to fulfil the command of the Apostle: “Pray without ceasing… In all things give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:17-18). The Oratorian community gathers each evening for Evening Oratory, which consists of silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, ending with a litany.

Prayer was so central to St Philip’s life, that he encouraged his brothers to go beyond these forms of prayer. “It is an old custom with the servants of God always to have some little prayers ready, and to be darting them up to heaven frequently during the day, lifting their minds to God from out of the filth of this world” (St Philip Neri, Maxims and Sayings). Constant communion with the heart of God, this is the primary goal of the Oratorian. Cor ad cor loquitur.

Apostolic

The second impression of the Apostolic Church St Philip derived from the Acts of the Apostles was its missionary nature. The term ‘apostle’ is derived from the Latin apostolus and the Greek απόστολος, both of which mean ‘the sent one’. The Apostolic Church understood herself as being sent by Christ to bring all people to God: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Hoy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Mat 28:19).

The Oratorian’s second occupation after prayer is the apostolate, also known today as mission or evangelisation. Whereas diocesan priests or members of other religious communities usually follow a standard apostolic pattern and project, the Oratorian may, after consultation with his superiors, and in obedience and humility, discern his own apostolic focus which fits within the interests and direction of the community. For some Fathers this will involve the running of the Oratory parish, but for others it may include academic pursuits, chaplaincy work etc. Now deceased Oratorian, Louis Bouyer, relates in The Roman Socrates that this style gave St Philip an incredible freedom and success in his apostolate:

[T]here he was, like another Socrates, with apparently nothing else to do but wander about the Roman streets joining in every kind of group quite freely …

This unusual apostolate, depending for its effect on personal influence alone, on simple friendship in which a soul’s whole life may be transformed, is typical of the Oratorian method, in so far as the Oratorian has any method …

There is no doubt that it was dangerous to go out against the new paganism with no other arms save love, and just as dangerous to expose his apparently vulnerable simplicity to its disturbing influence, yet his outrageous method made him the victorious apostle of neo-pagan Rome.

Fr Louis Bouyer

A Communal Life
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While remaining secular priests and not bound by vows, living one’s priesthood and exercising one’s apostolate is done within the community life of the Oratory. This is the enduring legacy of St Philip who clearly understood the great benefit of fraternal support both for growth in holiness and effectiveness in the mission. The Oratorians live together bound only by charity. They pray together. They share meals together and they enjoy each other’s company in friendship and brotherhood.

The world today, and particularly Australia, desperately needs the initiative and witness of men such as St Philip Neri to bring it back to God.

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If you would like to learn more about the vocation to Oratory life, please contact the Moderator, Father Adrian Sharp, on 0427 109 054 or at sharpa@bne.catholic.net.au