On the Oratory and Analogues

As may be gathered from a previous post, I am currently in the process of discerning for the priesthood, a process that is taking up most of my thought.

Amongst my shortlist of congregations and orders, the Oratory of St. Philip Neri stand out most strongly. I encountered the Oratorian Fathers for the first time when I visited London this past August, on the advice of a good Irish friend of mine whom I asked about churches in London with a good liturgical tradition. He unreservedly recommended the Brompton Oratory, and counseled me to attend both the EF and NO High Masses on Sunday mornings.

After going to a Friday Mass in Westminster Cathedral, my expectations were fairly high, but when I went to the Solemn Latin NO Mass in the Oratory, I was completely overwhelmed by its magnificence. I have heard Masses across the world, and this was doubtless one of the most spectacular I ever have witnessed. It put the High Masses at my EF parish in Dublin to shame. My friend also advised to attend the coffee reception with the fathers that usually follows Solemn Mass, but I found to my disappointment that they were suspended for the month of August, and I was too timid to approach them out of the blue to chat with them.

I spent a month and a half in London and I refused to go elsewhere for Sunday Mass - I absolutely fell in love with the Oratory. Solemn Vespers were equally incredible and showed me that the NO, when done correctly, can be truly glorious.

Curiously, it was only after returning to university in New England that I felt a renewed calling to the priesthood. The first place that sprung to mind to inquire into was the Brompton Oratory. I began corresponding with the Provost, Fr. Julian Large, who graciously advised me on reading to do concerning the Oratory.

The more I read, the more I found that the Oratory’s charism appealed to me. Its devotion to the liturgy, to sacred music, to urban minsitry, and to history coalesce perfectly with my own interests. The history of the Brompton Oratory, which was a home for converts from High Church Anglicanism, is most compelling, especially in a mission land such as England.

But to be considered for the candidacy, I need to go visit them personally. That is a fair bit away from me, not to mention expensive, and I am wondering whether that is a sign that I should drop the idea and join another Oratory in the United States or something of the sort. The problem is that I see myself ministering in Western Europe to stem the rise of secularism and Islam that is crushing the Church, rather than in the relatively prosperous churches of the United States or Latin America.

The Vienna Oratory also strongly called my attention, as it has a similar focus to the London Oratory (each Oratory is different due to its autonomous governance), but the very kind praepositus, P. Felix Selden, informed me that they recently reached capacity with the acceptance of two new candidates.

Also, I have received no response to my recent e-mails to the Brompton Oratory, which is beginning to worry me.

Are these factors a sign that I am not called to become an Oratorian? Is ministering to the flock in a secular, non-Catholic country a worthy path to follow? Would I be better off searching for a house or order on the Continent?

Also, are there any other congregations or even orders that have a similar focus to the English Oratories, with their unique mixture of the EF and solemn NO and their commitment to stable community life? I don’t necessarily see myself as an itinerant preacher or as a monk, so the Oratory offers the ideal halfway point between the two…

I wish I could give you a firm answer regarding the Oratory, but only they can do that. Might I recommend prayers to Bl. John Henry Newman that the will of God be done on this matter?

As for what might be in your immediate area, it’s sadly slim pickings. There are rather few “Oxford-Movement Catholics,” for lack of a better term, in the U.S., and surprisingly very academic New England isn’t any better than the rest of the country in this regard. A Bay Stater myself, I do very much wish that there was a Boston Oratory.

Be assured of a place in my prayers.

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