The Oratory of St John Vianney is an international fraternity of Sacred Ministers and laymen, who have chosen to share their commitment to and love of Jesus Christ together following the particular spirituality of St John Vianney (known as the Curé d’Ars) and St Philip Neri (founder of the Congregation of Oratorians) in a bond of perfect charity i.e. without vows.
Are you a Sacred Minister, a priest or a deacon? Do you sometimes feel lonely in your ministry, in your vocation, in your life? Are you a layperson keen to support Sacred Ministers in their life and work?
The aims of the Oratory of St John Vianney are,
- to encourage, sustain and support in a true fraternal bond of charity its members in the Sacred Ministry, that they may be strengthened in their resolve to live and fulfil their vocation to serve Christ and His Church;
- to sanctify the life of the brethren in the Sacred Ministry, deepening their spiritual faith and belief, enabling and facilitating their service to the people of God, especially those committed to their pastoral care and sacramental ministry;
- to promote the Sacred Ministry as a worthy and fulfilling way of life, seeking and fostering vocations to the same, and to promote unity within the Church Catholic, that Christ may ever be available to His people through the Sacraments of The Church.
The Oratory of St John Vianney seeks to fulfill these aims by,
- promoting true fraternity amongst those whom God has called to the Sacred Ministry and to pray for each other’s vocations;
- promoting priestly spirituality amongst themselves and their colleagues and together to grow in the sanctification of their lives;
- promoting and practice ongoing formation in the Sacred Ministry by sharing experiences, knowledge and skills;
- promoting prayer and to foster vocations to the Sacred Ministry in their respective Churches and expressing both inwardly and outwardly true Christian fraternal charity with each other and all Christ’s Faithful.
There are two ways within the Oratory of St John Vianney in which a man may live out his Oratorian vocation; either by living “in the world” i.e. in his own home and locality (“in domibus propriis”) or in a communal house (“in communitas”). Oratorians are single, chaste and/or celibate whether laymen or Sacred Ministers.
The vocation of an Oratorian may be lived wherever he lives and serves. Oratorians live and work in their own homes and communities, or as regular Clergy in the service of their particular Church. The Oratorian vocation is not to ‘come out’ of their particular Church but rather to enhance their service and ministry within it for the greater glory of God and of the whole Church Catholic. Lay-brothers of the Oratory may live their vocation as married men, as fathers, or as chaste or celibate men in their ordinary homes and work places supporting the work of The Church in their locality.
A communal life may be lived as an Oratorian of St John Vianney and Oratories may be established wherever two or three brothers feel so called to live such a life. The first such communal house, the Oratory of Our Lady of Hope, was established at Cosgrove, Northamptonshire in January 2007.
“Confreres” are Sacred Ministers and lay people “Companions” sympathetic to the aims of the Oratory and who desire to be spiritually connected with the Oratory. Confreres are Sacred Ministers unable to be Oratorians due to existing consecrations to religious life or being married or in some other way unable to be an Oratorian but who wish to share in the fraternal aims and objects and spirituality of the Oratory. Companions are lay people willing to undertake the tasks of praying for vocations for the Sacred Ministry.
The vocation of the Oratorians of St John Vianney is twofold, namely to try to live the spiritual and pastoral zeal of St John Vianney and to do that within the context of the spirituality, and when possible, the communal and apostolic life St Philip Neri exampled by his brothers in the Congregation of the Oratory.
The Oratorians of St John Vianney seek to promote the Sacred Ministry (of deacons, priests and bishops) to the Church at large and to the world, as a fulfilling and worthy way of life through the joy and witness of our own lives. The Oratorians hope that through the simple witness of our own lives in our local communities and Churches, those whom God may be calling to the Sacred Ministry will feel inspired and encouraged to draw near.
A vocation to the Oratory of St John Vianney is a desire to sanctify one’s life through, together and with the brethren of the Oratory. The Oratorian vocation is a simple one; to sanctify one’s life in, through and with Christ; to serve Christ in, through and with His Church and to sanctify the life of others… in, through and with Christ!
Every Christian is called to holiness… An Oratorian on admission to the fraternity makes a promise to convert his inner life that he may ably sanctify the life of others he is called to serve. This follows the example of St John Vianney whose concentration on his own spiritual life and person brought others to recognise in him especially through his pastoral ministry the purpose and existence of God in their own lives.
The Oratorian by living a simple Rule of Life in common with his brethren after the idea of St Philip Neri, voluntarily and in charity, learns to strengthen and discipline his inner life such that he is able to reflect the example of these Saintly Patrons, the fruits of which it is hoped will be seen in the success of his own ministry and service of The Church.
The Oratory of St John Vianney is a congregation of priests living an apostolic life i.e. under a common Rule of Life, but without vows. Each Oratorian wholly commits himself to living with his brothers a “family” life from which the Oratorians grow in an atmosphere of fraternal fellowship, support, encouragement and strength to live a priestly life wholly consecrated to God and the service of the Church. After the exemplary vocation of St John Vianney to the priesthood and people of God and following the model of apostolic fellowship taught by St Phillip Neri in the spirit of the Gospel.
Oratorians may express their vocation wherever they are physically located e.g. within a parish or other ministry or in a communal house of the fraternity.
True brothers in the Lord…
Conversion of life is fundamental to the expression of the Oratorian vocation. Seeking to serve God requires conversion of life, it requires a change in our desires, in our ambitions, in our wants and of our needs. It is the purpose of the discipleship of Christ, the sanctification of our lives. An Oratorian should not come to the Oratory because he is a saintly person or if he thinks that those in the Oratory are saints. An Oratorian comes to the Oratory to serve the Church through it, to do good to others, to sanctify himself and, above all, to glorify God with his life.
The most essential component for a successful attempt to live the life of an Oratorian is the expression of brotherly affection, one brother to another. In this the daily struggle of living the vocation is sustained. The desire not to serve only oneself, or only one’s own motives and desires but rather assist the others to live out the expression of their “soul’s desire” is what keeps the Oratory functional. This affection may be shown most perfectly in charity, a concern for each other brought out from a real desire to live as brothers together.
The brothers of the Oratory too must support each other not just spiritually and materially but emotionally; accepting in charity the weaknesses of the human condition. The “way of the cross”, of discipleship is not easy; each is called individually to “take up his cross” and the frailty of the human condition, feelings of doubt or anxiety, of sadness as well as joy, are to be shared and borne by, with and for each other just as they were borne by God in Christ Jesus. No burden is to be considered too much to share, whatever weighs heavy on one brother must be borne by the others too; this is charity, this is hope, this is brotherly love. As a child would go to it’s mother, so must the brothers go to each other for comfort, consolation, advice or assistance of any kind. No brother is to be turned away by another who requires this support. Only in this way will the house become a home, a place of refuge and strength, a place of learning and of sharing. Assisting each other in this way builds up not only the unity of the common life, but of the individual, such selflessness and such humility in weakness is the true spirit of the Christian life.
Wherever brothers live, whether communally or alone or with their family, each is regarded equally as a full member of the Oratory as a whole; as a member of the family. Brothers may call on each other, may expect to receive hospitality, sharing of possessions or material wealth between each other just as one would expect of any ordinary family; each giving and sharing according to their means and each able to ask or request assistance from a brother without shame or embarrassment. To be an Oratorian of St John Vianney means to live as closely as possible a life following the example of the saintly Curé who himself lived according to the Gospel values of hospitality, sharing and self-sacrifice.
Oratorians living a communal life
Some members of the Oratory are able to share a communal living of our vocation and the following describes something of the particular way that life is shared. However, whether living in a communal house or externally “in the world” the Oratorian vocation is understood in much the same way; true familial Christian fraternity. Brothers living externally to a religious house may at any time visit and share in the communal life of an Oratory.
It would be a mistake to suggest that because the Oratorians do not take “religious” vows that their commitment is easier than that compared to a religious “under vows”. Quite the contrary, it is not every secular priest who can live in community and it is not every religious who can live “in the world”? By their particular vocation the Oratorian is challenged to deal with the option of free expression and individuality and the necessity of submission and obedience in living with his brothers.
Unlike a religious institute, the “house” containing the Oratory is a “domestic” home, where the brothers are able to live in community together. An Oratorian vocation is of commitment to God and each other, a voluntary bond to be “brothers”. When an Oratorian makes his commitment, he gives as well of himself, all he has; talents, spirituality and material possessions; this is not a facsimile of Christian discipleship, it IS. In the house, everything is shared, nothing is “owned” but given to the use of the whole community to build up and contribute to the “family”.
“Community” within the Oratory means “common” and “unity” i.e. there is one purpose which all seek and serve together, God. In practice this means living together but “community” means much more than just that, it requires submission, surrendering of one’s own will, needs and wants to that of the brotherhood. Whilst retaining their individuality the brothers learn to love each other, to live with each other, to work together and this requires “give and take”, understanding and forgiveness. It also requires obedience – obedience to the will of God for our lives and of service to the Church, submission of the self to the common purpose of the brotherhood and as importantly, the priesthood.
Our way of life…
Maintenance of the daily routine is crucial to the functioning of the Oratory not just as an institution, i.e. an organisation that requires certain tasks to be done, but also as a home for spiritual growth. Each brother must strive to encourage the other in fulfilling the obligations of their clerical state, primarily in praying the “Prayer of the Church” from which the prayer life of the brother will surely develop and strengthen his resolve to his vocation, and then in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. After those obligations comes in importance the fulfilment of those tasks required for the upkeep of the house, of the home.
“Ora et Labora”, prayer and work are what will keep the family together – through prayer the Oratorian in his communing with God maintains his devotion and service to Him, providing for his spiritual existence; in work, in sharing in the tasks required to keep and maintain the home, the Oratorian is communing with his brothers, providing for each other the material requirements of their physical existence. These two tasks are not separate, for each of the brothers is obliged to perform the same duty – for each other, encouraging each other to provide for the Oratory spiritually and physically.
The Oratory must be a “house of prayer”, therefore the brothers must see their first duty – for the fulfilment of their personal vocation, the fulfilment of their individual promises made upon entering the clerical state and the sanctification of their individual lives – to pray, praise and worship God. Through brotherly affection, through charity to ensure that their brothers receive the same opportunities for grace and spiritual fulfilment, the brothers must encourage each other to maintain the spiritual life and the Prayer of the Church. In sharing and encouraging each other to fulfil this task, they will find for themselves spiritual enrichment which will benefit each other.
In like manner, their second duty must be to sustain and assist each other in fulfilling the tasks required to provide materially for the house whatever is needed to sustain the first duty. In this way the house becomes a home both for the soul and for the physical body. The same maxim “many hands make light work” can be applied to both these tasks, for when the burden is shared the individual burden of duty is lessened, tasks become a shared effort and a sense of well-being, that the benefits of a “job well done” may be experienced by all; this too enriches and inspires and motivates the individual and the family. Therefore “prayer and work” keeps the family, the brotherhood together.
The Oratory chapel is the heart of the house, of the home; it must be kept sacred and set apart and yet visited at the beginning, through and end of the day; it is the focus of the lives of the brothers, where they are centred individually and as a family. In it the Oratorians are formed as disciples, as servants of God, are aided in the sanctification of their lives and spiritually sustained to become true and faithful children of God. The Blessed Sacrament is to be continuously reserved, that the Spirit of God, and the physical presence of the Son through dwelling in this room, makes the home the house of the Lord God. It is to be reserved entirely for the worship of God, no other activity other than that which sustains, provides or enables the worship of Almighty God is to take place in the Oratory chapel.
Mass is said or heard daily – either privately or communally as the Church’s custom and the circumstances of the brothers will allow. The Blessed Sacrament is to be received by each brother daily even if prevented through reasonable circumstances from offering or assisting at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass himself. This daily Communion with Jesus, with the Saviour, with the physical manifestation of the Triune Godhead should be desired such that an Oratorian if away from home, if prevented from communing with his brothers in the Oratory may spiritually commune with them through the Sacrament, the manifest corporeal and spiritual Body of Christ. Remembering that in the Mass and in the fruits of the Mass, and most especially the Blessed Sacrament, a Christian is never alone, is surrounded by and is in the company of the Church Militant, Expectant and Triumphant. The whole presence of the whole Body of Christ, spiritual, temporal and physical means that through the Mass and reception of the Blessed Sacrament the Oratorian is with his brothers.
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