The Immutable Characteristics of the Oratory, Part 2: Charity, the Only Bond
We noted last week that there are two essential characteristics of Oratorian life: 1) common life without vows, founded on the bond of fraternal charity, and 2) the autonomy of each Oratorian house. Having addressed how Oratorians live in community without taking vows, we now turn to the means for this form of life to flourish: fraternal charity.
"The Congregation follows the primitive Christian
community in that its characteristic power consists not in the multitude of its members, but rather in mutual
knowledge - whereby there may be regard for the well-known faces - and in the true bond of love, by which those who are of the same family may be bound together through the practice of daily customs.”
Constitutions of the Confederation of the Oratory, n. 11
As St. Philip did, Oratorians look to the early Church for inspiration. The ideal of the post-Pentecost community united in the bond of charity, worshipping together, supporting each other, and evangelizing, is expressed in the famous passage in the Acts of the Apostles (2:42-47). Having experienced his own “Pentecost”, St. Philip shows his spiritual sons that it is still possible to live this way.
Oratorian communities, with a few notable exceptions, tend to be small. This is necessary in order to know each other well, to develop and maintain relationships as brothers. It is impossible to do this with very many people at once, so the ideal size of an Oratory is probably about 7-8 members, no more than a dozen.
Since Oratorian houses are autonomous and do not transfer members (the topic of next week’s article), it becomes possible for the members to forge a real family life by living, praying, eating, and working together over the years. Strengthened in brotherly love, bolstered by mutual support and encouragement, Oratorians then venture forth, striving after holiness and working with apostolic zeal.
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.