St Philip Neri's first association was of lay people—the clerical Congregation came later. They met in the Oratory every day, where one of the Brothers or Fathers would read from Scripture or a spiritual book. One of the Fathers delivered a discourse on what they had just heard, or St Philip would ask those present to discuss a given topic. The talks were always on prayer, the lives of saints, the virtues and Church history. A period of mental prayer followed, then litanies and ‘the Oratory Prayers’.
This pattern is still followed today in Oxford. Men’s Oratory and Women’s Oratory meet regularly, and follow a shortened pattern of talk, prayer and recreation. Meetings of the Brothers of the Oratory are temporarily suspended with a view to re-launching the group soon to include men and women.
Men’s Oratory is open to all men aged 18 and over, and meets on the third Thursday of the month at 8pm for most of the year.
Women's Oratory is open to all women aged 18 and over, and meets on the first and last Monday of each month at 4pm for most of the year.
Young Oratory, for those aged 11–16 meets on Tuesday at 5pm. Little Oratory, for those aged 8–11 meets on Wednesday at 5pm.
One of St Philip's other great innovations was the use of music to lead people into prayer. The Oratory launched the careers of several famous composers, including Animuccia and Palestrina. We have special Musical Oratories in Advent and Lent, to prepare for the feasts of Christmas and Easter.