The Oxford Oratory is a vibrant centre of Catholic life. Our church is open every day: join us for Mass, pop in for some quiet prayer, or come and discover more at one of our groups. Our historic church of St Aloysius has been a key feature in the lives of the city’s Catholics for 150 years, attracting people of all ages and from every walk of life. We use beauty to raise hearts and minds to God, faithful to the traditions of St Philip Neri and St John Henry Newman.

Wednesday 1 December 2021

One of the heads looking down onto our sanctuary is that of St Edmund Campion, who is celebrated today together with his fellow priest martyrs of the University of Oxford, St Ralph Sherwin and St Alexander Briant.

When he was finally caught and arrested, he was taken to London with the sign ‘Campion, the seditious Jesuit’ pinned to his hat. Here we see that the Jesuit fathers who built our church have omitted that particular adjective out of reverence to the saint.

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Wednesday 1 December 2021

Decking the halls

It may not have escaped your notice that Christmas decorations are out in force. In shops and schools, civic buildings and the high streets, trees and lights are bringing a cheery sparkle to these early nights. And it only the start of December.

In our house, growing up, there was always a certain excitement about the decorations being excavated from the loft yet again. Some were gaudy and brightly painted, others, made of glass, almost as thin as the tissue paper that wrapped them, had cherished stories of which grandparent had owned them, and still there were new purchases, adding to the hotchpotch collection. Advent has only begun, and trees perhaps shouldn’t really be appearing just yet — Christmas Eve is time enough — but the decorations should be a salient reminder to us rather than a cause of horror or stress.

The 17th century Venerable Fr Giambattista Prever of the Turin Oratory was noted for his outstanding growth in the virtues, for his gentle and charitable guidance of souls in the confessional and for his zeal in getting them into the box in the first place. But he was also notable for his creative ingenuity. “In the church too, which is the material, as souls are the spiritual temples of God, Father Prever exercised the zeal of his ingenious and ardent charity,” writes his biographer. He had an incredible desire to make the church beautiful, decorating it for feasts and celebrations with great care and, we are told, great taste. “Such was the perfection of his work and the beauty of the designs, that all were in astonishment, especially as a pair of scissors and a penknife were his sole instrument.” Sadly, no illustrations of his decorations are provided by the biographer.

For Fr Prever, the decorations he worked so hard to install were to attract the faithful to the feast, and were a gesture of devotion, making all beautiful to welcome the Lord who becomes present among us on the altar. They were expressions of that Oratorian conviction that beauty in art reflects the beauty that is in God and speaks deeply to our souls.

But the soul is the spiritual, where the church is the material temple of God. As we think about turning our mind to the decorations in our own home for the approaching feast of Christmas, as Advent has begun we ought to think about those spiritual temples of God which are our own, and how we might make them ready for the feast, to renew in them the welcome we have for our Lord by the beauty that is in them. For Fr Prever, and for us, Confession and a renewed zeal to avoid sin and practice the virtues must surely come first. The means are very simple — if Fr Prever managed so much with a pair of scissors and penknife, what might we allow God’s grace to do in us?


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Monday 29 November 2021

Our novena to Our Lady continues each evening, in preparation for the feast of her Immaculate Conception.

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Wednesday 24 November 2021

Making the effort

The second highest point on the Camino to Santiago brings you to the small village of O Cebreiro. The village is distinctive on what is already an interesting route for its thatched-roof round huts, which look like they may well have been inhabited continuously since the first people settled on top of the hill over two thousand years ago.

But there is more to the village than curious architecture, or even the stunning view of the surrounding countryside at sunrise and sunset. In the parish church, in a small niche to the side of the altar, is a very precious relic: a chalice, stuffed with pieces of linen, is displayed behind a glass screen. The chalice contains the remnants of a Eucharistic miracle that took place in the village in the fourteenth century.

The priest of the village at the time didn’t particularly appreciate his vocation. He was not convinced that the bread and wine at Mass truly become the Body and Blood of Christ, and couldn’t really be held up as a model of pastoral zeal. One day, during a particularly heavy snow storm, which would have made the steep track up to the village completely perilous, the priest rang the church bells before Mass, secretly hoping that no one would turn up and that he needn’t bother saying it.

Much to the priest’s disappointment, a farmer who lived out in the countryside had decided he would not be deterred by a little weather, and made the difficult journey up to the village. The priest began the Mass, furious that he was having to say Mass for this one person. He thought the whole exercise pointless, but Our Lord showed him otherwise. As he spoke the words of consecration over the bread, ‘This is my body,’ he noticed he was no longer holding bread, but a piece of real flesh, with blood dripping onto the linen corporal underneath. The chalice now on display contains the remains of this miracle — a piece of flesh, wrapped in the blood-stained altar linens.

The bishops of England and Wales have decided that it is not yet time to restore the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days. But the farmer of O Cebreiro shows us that if we really believe that Christ himself is present on the altar of every Mass, nothing — snow, steep hills or even pandemics — should stop us from making the effort to be there.

We may not be required in this country to attend Mass on Sundays for the moment. But that gives us an opportunity — an opportunity to show that we attend Mass not because we have to, but because we want to. We make the effort not because someone with authority tells us to, but because we won’t allow anything to stop us from encountering the one we are called to love with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength.

I hope that our faith never grows so weak that Christ feels the need to intervene with a Eucharistic miracle here in Oxford. I hope too that all those who make the effort to attend Mass in our church feel welcome. And you might be reassured to hear that pilgrims to O Cebreiro have been welcomed rather more warmly in recent years by the parish priest, who stands at the entrance to the village congratulating all those who make it up the hill.


These reflections are sent out each Wednesday to all those on our mailing list. Click here to sign up to our mailing list, and receive our Sunday E-newsletter and these reflections straight to your inbox.

Friday 19 November 2021

More pictures of our Mass with Cardinal Pell are now available to view on our new website, launched earlier today.

www.oxfordoratory.org.uk

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Friday 19 November 2021

Visit of Cardinal Pell





















Photos by Hannah Chegwyn

Wednesday 17 November 2021

‘Forgive and you will be forgiven’

‘Be compassionate as your heavenly father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.’ (Luke 6:36f) This is no parable. Our Lord is very clear here. ‘Forgive and you will be forgiven.’ We must often have reflected that the only petition in the Our Father with a condition attached is the one relating to forgiveness. It is also the only one on which Christ offers any comment later, when he says: ‘For if you do not forgive others their sins, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you.’ It is quite a sobering thought, since we find forgiving some injuries, even quite small ones, difficult. We hug them to ourselves and the resentment and anger, instead of abating, can grow, fester and turn to bitterness. True, the white heat of our initial rage may subside in to a red hot anger, but then it can morph into an ice-cold hatred, which can masquerade as indifference. That is rather an extreme case. Quite often, we do ‘get over it’, though the issue has not been addressed and the anger doesn’t quite go away.

Perhaps the fear of not being forgiven our own sins is not enough. Luke can help us here. ‘Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap; because the standard you use will be the standard used for you.’ Here the same teaching is presented to us in a more positive form, as the benefits of forgiveness are outlined. We are being told to be generous, and generosity is the very key-word of our religion. Generosity with God and with others and…with ourselves. There are occasions when we need to forgive ourselves. So many of us don’t and continue to beat ourselves up for our ‘past sins and transgressions’ which can ‘cause us to falter’ on our way to God. Instead, we need to keep going, acting without fear, by which I mean, without a craven fear, since we should have a healthy filial Fear of the Lord — which is, after all, one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit! St Philip would pray : ‘Give me the grace dear Lord, to serve you not out of fear, but from love.’ Otherwise we are merely slaves, doing what is required, ticking boxes, hoping to get the job done without receiving a beating.

God’s mercy is inexhaustible, but it is sometimes the case that we erect barriers which prevent us from being able to receive it. And our being unforgiving is chief among these. If we say we cannot forgive such-and-such a person, God can deal with that. There is here a suggestion of a willingness to forgive, but for the present we are not yet ready to do so. The wound still smarts too much. So we pray about it, asking of the Lord the grace to reach the moment when we can offer forgiveness and genuinely so. On those occasions when the hurt is too great and the offence has been deliberate and its effects devastating, we need longer. We may have to take many steps back in order run forward. We may have to want to want to forgive. Or even to want to want to want to do so. But if we say we will not forgive and wilfully persist in our unforgivingness, do we not exclude ourselves from heaven, which is God’s space? ‘Be merciful, as your Father is merciful.’ Think of the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son and you have there the image of God which Jesus wants us to know and to love, with whom ‘there is mercy and plentiful redemption.’ Furthermore, he tells us that we are to love this God and our neighbour with all our strength. Forgiving someone who has injured us or those we love may indeed require all the strength of mind, heart and soul we can muster, but try we must, knowing that our eternal salvation may well depend on it.


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Saturday 13 November 2021

Last night we welcomed Cardinal Pell to our church as part of his visit to Oxford. The Cardinal celebrated a Mass of the Sacred Heart for us, and preached about the role of redemptive suffering in the life of Christians. Watch the full Mass here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8ZqgFv2Dhs

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Thursday 11 November 2021

Absolutions at the catafalque after the Fathers & Brothers Requiem last Friday.

“After Mass, the clergy preceded by the Cross range themselves round the catafalque, which is placed in the nave of the church, to represent the dead, at the very spot where their bodies once rested before the altar of God. The cantors intone the ninth Responsory of Matins; it is followed by the Prayers said at the conclusion of the Office, during the singing of which, the Priest honours the dead with holy water and incense, as on each one’s funeral-day.” (From ‘The Liturgical Year’ by Dom Prosper Guéranger)

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Wednesday 10 November 2021

Reflecting on Death

November is a month when the Church asks us to pray for the faithful departed, and in doing so to reflect upon death. We may not relish contemplating our mortality, but doing so is an essential element of a well-lived life, a Christian life, realising that our life on earth will decide how we spend eternity. St Benedict in his Rule tells his monks, “Remember to keep death before your eyes daily”. Cardinal Basil Hume, when abbot of Ampleforth, was asked once by a prospective parent what the school could offer his son, and replied that the school did not prepare boys for life, but for death. St Therese of Lisieux expressed the same sentiment in a different way: “The world is a beautiful bridge, but do not build your home on it”.

Catholic tradition and culture has always kept death before our eyes, but the secular world — despite the ghouls and ghosts and skeletons of Halloween — has worked hard to bury death deeply in the vaults of history. Society cannot deal with death, ignoring it, hiding it in hospitals and hospices, seeing it as an enemy that must be fought at almost any cost. And the reason is fear. We fear what we cannot see — what we do not understand. It is the fear of the unknown, of what is hiding under the bed. When we are faced with fear, the natural tendency is to push it away: we pretend that death will not happen or can be cheated.

There is a danger, however, in this cover-up. We forget one of the most profound truths of life: that it is finite. The death of a loved one will always be a terrible experience, and no amount of preparation will make the pain go away more quickly. But if we have lived a life of silence about death, if we have not thought about it, confronted it — even made friends with it — we are ill-equipped to deal with grief, to know what to do, or how to console others. We keenly sense that we are alone inside an experience that the world will not recognise; yet it is going to be experienced by everybody.

We can talk about death because we believe in the Lord who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live. Anyone who lives and believes in me, will never die”. The Kingdom of God is not a place of fear, because it has been opened for us by a God who descended into the worst fears of human reality for our sake. He shared human pain and human fear. As we contemplate the fearful unknown of human death, he embraced it for us, that we might live in eternal life with him.

Cardinal Hume was able to face the news of his own terminal illness with the assurance of faith, despite his fears:

As we approach the last bit of the journey there are days when we fear that we face an unknown, unpredictable, uncertain future. That is a common experience. But do not worry; because the time comes when we no longer carry heavy bags and all those possessions. We shall travel through the cold, grey light of a bleak… morning into God’s spring and summer. Death is the only way which leads us to the vision of God.

He had earlier in his ministry as a bishop reflected that

Death is a formidable foe until we learn to make it a friend.
Death is to be feared if we do not learn to welcome it.
Death is the ultimate absurdity if we do not see it as fulfilment.
Death haunts us when viewed as a journey into nothingness
rather than a pilgrimage to a place where true happiness is to be found.

The human mind cannot understand death.
We face it with fear and uncertainty, revulsion even;
or we turn away from the thought for it is too hard to bear.
But faith gives answers when reason fails.
The strong instinct to live points to immortality.
Faith admits us into death’s secrets.

Death is not the end of the road, but a gateway to a better place.
It is in this place that our noblest aspirations will be realised.
It is here that we will understand how our experiences of goodness,
love beauty and joy are realities which exist perfectly in God.
It is in heaven that we shall rest in him and
our hearts will be restless until they rest in God.

It is said that when the Cardinal informed his successor as abbot of Ampleforth that he was dying, the response was: “Congratulations! That’s brilliant news. I wish I was coming with you.”


These reflections are sent out each Wednesday to all those on our mailing list. Click here to sign up to our mailing list, and receive our Sunday E-newsletter and these reflections straight to your inbox.

Tuesday 9 November 2021

Solemn Mass for All Souls

Photos by Hannah Chegwyn

Saturday 6 November 2021

Today is the feast of Blessed Salvio Huix, the Oratory’s first martyr to be beatified. We blessed his image in church, which has recently been redecorated.

Almighty eternal God, thou hast allowed pictures and statues of thy Saints to be painted and carved, so that as often as we look upon them with our bodily eyes, we may recall with our more inward eyes their deeds and their sanctity and learn to imitate them. In thy goodness, therefore, bless and sanctify this picture fashioned to honour and to recall thy blessed Martyr and Bishop Salvio to our minds; and grant to all who honour and invoke the aid of the glorious Martyr Bishop with this picture before their eyes, that they may obtain grace from thee in this life and everlasting glory in the next, by the merits of that same Saint and his power with thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

O Lord, who raised up the bishop Blessed Salvio to be a shepherd after thine own heart, to feed thy people with knowledge and understanding, to lay down his life for his sheep and to become the first of the sons of St Philip to shed his blood for Christ; grant us by his example to preach the faith in a world that knows thee not, and by his intercession strengthen the faith of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted today for their faith in thy Son, who lives and reigns with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Friday 5 November 2021

November Music

Tuesday 2 November Solemn Mass 18:00
All Souls
Officium Defunctorum a6 Victoria
Versa est in luctum Victoria

Friday 5 November Solemn Mass 18:00
Solemn Requiem for deceased
Fathers and Brothers of the Oratory

Officium Defunctorum a4 Anerio

Sunday 7 November Solemn Mass 11:00
32nd Sunday of the Year
Missa Doulce Mémoire Lassus
Cantate domino Croce
Ave verum Peñalosa

Friday 12 November Solemn Mass 18:00
Solemn Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart (Visit of Cardinal Pell)
Ecce sacerdos Elgar
Missa Papae Marcelli Palestrina
In spiritu humilitatis Croce
Adoramus te Monteverdi

Sunday 14 November Solemn Mass 11:00
Solemn Requiem for the Fallen
Officium Defunctorum a4  Morales

Sunday 21 November Solemn Mass 11:00
Christ the King
Missa brevis in C (220) Mozart
Dominator domine Lassus
Laudate dominum Mozart

Sunday 28 November Solemn Mass 11:00
Advent I
Missa Prudentes Virgines Lobo
Canite tuba Guerrero
Advent prose Plainchant

Friday 5 November 2021

Tony Cockshut RIP

Of your charity please pray for the repose of the soul of Tony Cockshut, who died on 5 November 2021, aged 94, fortified by the rites of Holy Church.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
 and let perpetual light shine upon him.

Wednesday 3 November 2021

The church militant on earth united with the church triumphant in heaven on the feast of All Saints.

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Wednesday 3 November 2021

Solemn Mass for All Saints

Photos by Hannah Chegwyn

Wednesday 3 November 2021

All Soul’s Night

There is a play by the Irish playwright Joseph Tomelty, All Soul’s Night, which tells a remarkable and haunting story. Set in 1949, in the fictitious village of Assagh on the shores of a County Down lough, it tells the story of a family trying to get by, beset by strife and tragedy, who on All Soul’s night are visited by the holy souls of their relatives asking for prayers, but coming too with an awful warning. The soul of a young fisherman killed tragically at sea visits the home of his mother and chastises her for neglecting to pray for him while he was at sea and even since he has died. The quote from the play that adorns the playwright’s tomb stone conjures up the grim sentiment of the play all too well, “Pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins; pray for the living that they may be loosed from their greed.” What Tomelty conjures up is that feeling that artists and poets have always tried to at this time of year, that somehow the veil is thinner. It reminds us of our own mortality and that we had better pray.

But, of course, the veil is always exactly this thin. Each year on St Philip’s day we sing the hymn that recounts his death. Cardinal Baronius asks our Holy Father, “Will you leave without giving us your blessing?” and as the saint raised his hand in blessing, he breathed his last. Fr Faber’s hymn has it like this:

One half from earth, one half from heaven,
Was that mysterious blessing given;
Just as his life had been
One half in heaven, one half on earth
Of earthly toil and heavenly mirth,
A wondrous woven scene!

But perhaps this should be the case that for each of us, for every Christian, that our life must be marked by the character of heaven, must be shaped by the priorities of that greater city than of this one. At the heart of all this is an overriding theme, that of the spiritual closeness to the departed, of the economy of spiritual goods between the children of God. We trade freely in the goods of that place where we hope to spend our eternity; in charity we pray for those who have died, and for those still alive that we may yet enjoy the vision of God together in heaven.

The veil is always very thin, and our loved ones who have gone before us to another shore are still very close to us. We pray for the dead that they might be loosed from their sins, and we must pray for one another that we might lose those sometimes greedy attachments to the things that cannot get us to heaven. With God’s help, may our lives continue ever more to be a “wondrous woven scene”, shot through with the gilded light of heaven, threads which will, at the last, lead us home.


These reflections are sent out each Wednesday to all those on our mailing list. Click here to sign up to our mailing list, and receive our Sunday E-newsletter and these reflections straight to your inbox.

Tuesday 2 November 2021

“Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” (2 Maccabees 12:45)

All priests can say three Masses on All Souls, to give the faithful departed as much help as possible.

All the faithful can assist the Holy Souls not just through prayer, but also through special indulgences granted by the Church in November. Every November, there are opportunities to obtain plenary indulgences for the Holy Souls in purgatory by: (1) visiting a church on 2 November and praying the Our Father and Creed; (2) visiting a cemetery and praying for the faithful departed on any of the days between 1 and 8 November (it is possible to obtain an indulgence each day this is done). As with all plenary indulgences, it is also necessary to go to confession, receive Holy Communion, pray for the Pope’s intentions and be detached from all sin.

Like last year, because of the pandemic, there is some flexibility about when these indulgences can be obtained: (1) any one day in November can be chosen to visit a church and pray the Our Father and Creed; (2) any eight days (which need not be next to each other) may be chosen to visit a cemetery and pray for the faithful departed. It is also possible for this to be a ‘mental’ visit to a cemetery.

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Tuesday 2 November 2021

“The Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed, when Holy Mother Church, after due observance of the celebration of all her children who are joyous in heaven, turns herself to intercede with God for the souls of all who have gone before us with the sign of faith, and sleep in the hope of resurrection. She prays also for all those from the beginning of the world, whose faith only the Lord has known that they may be purged from the contagion of sin, and enter the company of the heavenly citizens, to win the joyful vision of eternal bliss.” (From the Roman Martyrology for 2 November) #oxfordoratory

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Sunday 31 October 2021

The lamps are lit before the saints and their relics are placed on the altar as we ask for their intercession. #oxfordoratory

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