The Oratory and the Sacred Liturgy

Since its foundation in sixteenth century Rome, the Congregation of the Oratory has been renowned for the beauty of its churches and the dignity of its liturgy. When St. Philip acquired the Roman church of Santa Maria in Vallicella, he insisted that the designs for its rebuilding should be drawn up without regard to financial restrictions. He declared: “I have made a bargain with the Madonna not to die until the church is roofed in.”

St. Philip’s own liturgical preference was to celebrate a quiet Low Mass at a side altar, usually after hearing confessions for several hours each morning. He had a particular personal devotion to the Holy Spirit, and always included the collect of the Holy Spirit (Deus cui omne cor patet) whenever the rubrics permitted.

He himself often attended choir office with the Dominicans, but the divine office in common has never been a part of Oratorian community life, except for sung vespers on Sundays and major feasts.

For St. Philip, Holy Mass and the other liturgical functions were always first and foremost worship, prayer, sacrifice, recollection, devotion, and adoration. He eschewed everything which would have aligned divine worship with secular values and culture. He believed that we go to Mass to be purified from all wordliness and so raised up to heaven.

He used his informal afternoon gatherings (what came to be called simply Oratory or The Exercises of the Oratory) for homilies, catechesis, expounding the scriptures, lives of the saints, Church history, and vernacular devotions.

Here at the Birmingham Oratory, since the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, we gladly celebrate both forms of the Roman Rite, with equal pastoral commitment to both, in strict conformity with the norms of the universal Church, and in harmony with the needs of our parish, a parish which we run at the request of the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

On Sundays High Mass and Vespers are celebrated here in the old rite. The great majority of our public scheduled Masses are in the Ordinary Form, ad orientem, and in English.

Those who seek to join an exclusively old rite community are advised to explore the various institutes and groups that already exist in the universal Church for that purpose.