THE ORATORIAN VOCATION
The Oratorian vocation is that of the threefold ministry given to the Apostles: prayer in common, the administration of the sacraments, and the daily Word of God. The virtues especially cultivated by Oratorians are charity, submission of the individual’s will to the collective mind of the community, and loving to be unknown.
An Oratorian’s main apostolate is to be ‘at home’ to those who come to the Oratory house and Church for spiritual guidance. He may also be called on to do parish work. In imitation of St.Philip, priests of the Oratory are assiduous in visiting the sick, at home and in hospitals.
Oratorians live together in community, but unlike Religious they do not take vows. The bond which keeps all members of the community together, whatever their background, is charity. Just as a member of the community is bound by charity rather than by vows to obey his superior, the superior (the Provost) is obliged by the same bond of charity to govern with discretion, gentleness and prudence. Neither is there any vow of poverty; Oratorians may keep their possessions, and those who can afford it are expected to pay a contribution to the house.
An Oratorian is expected by the same bond of charity to observe most carefully the timetable and customs of his community. In addition to celebrating Mass, hearing confessions and administering the other sacraments , this means praying together, and taking the communal meal together in the refectory, followed by a brief period of recreation. Oratorians do not sing or recite the Divine Office together in choir, except for Vespers on Sundays and the major feastdays.
Although not tied to his house by vows and so always free to leave, an Oratorian chooses to join one house for life, and only in exceptional circumstances would he leave to join another Oratory. Thus there is a ‘stabilitas logii’ in the Oratorian way of life similar to that of Benedictines. Fathers of the Oratory may not accept ecclesiastical dignities. No Oratorian may become a bishop, unless commanded to do so by the Pope. No Oratorian should ever wish for or seek ecclesiastical preferment. He is to live his vocation within the community, humbly loving to be unknown. In 1590 St.Philip had to beg Pope Gregory XIV most insistently not to make him a Cardinal.