The Four Pillars of the Oratory: Prayer

The Oratorian life is often described as having four distinguishing characteristics, or “pillars”: PRAYER, CHARITY, HUMILITY, and JOY. Over the course of these next four articles, we will explore them each in turn.

We begin with prayer, which as noted last week is the origin of our name. That says something about how centrally important prayer is for our life. Before anything else, an Oratorian - and an Oratorian community - prays.

Praying together brings structure and stability to the common life of the Oratory. This was true from the beginning, when St. Philip instituted his daily gatherings, and it remains so today. Coming together morning and evening to pray grounds our life together and the work we do in God’s love. Our participation in various apostolic activities must be founded upon and informed by deep prayer.

Every Oratorian is to develop his life of personal prayer - the expression of his relationship with the Lord. This is something that came very naturally for St. Philip. He enjoyed a special an intimacy with the Lord that made him free in his prayer, and allowed him to teach others to approach prayer with confidence and trust.

To unite oneself to the Lord and to seek His will need not require many words. St. Philip preferred to use brief prayers that were easy to remember and to repeat, reducing them to their essentials. For example, the Hail Mary would be expressed as “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, pray to Jesus for me.” St. Philip recognized the power of the name of Jesus; the Holy Name can itself be a prayer. These simple prayers can be used throughout the day, whenever the need arises: to recall God’s presence, and to combat temptation and fear. When repeated, they can help us to quiet ourselves in preparation for deeper meditation and contemplation.

St. Philip’s approach is accessible to everyone, and embracing it allows us to be, like him, “active contemplatives”, always drawn to prayer, yet always willing to serve others.

Next week, we will turn our focus to the second of the four Oratorian pillars, with a reflection on charity.

Note: This article is part of our ongoing series on St. Philip Neri and the Oratory, in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Philip.
Please direct any questions or comments to Fr. Jeff.

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