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. The Brothers of the Oratory and Women's Oratory meet regularly, and follow a shortened pattern of talk and prayer, followed by recreation.
Brothers of the Oratory is open to all men aged 18 and over, and meets on Tuesday evenings 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 8pm for most of the year.
Throughout the year, we have Wednesday Night Oratory—open to all and following the standard Oratory pattern. The talks are usually on a theme that runs for a series. They are advertised in the newsletter when they occur.
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.