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.

Saturday 2 December 2023

December Music

Sunday 3 December Solemn Mass 11:00
Advent I
Mass for four voices Byrd
Ad te levavi animam meam Palestrina
Vigilate Byrd

Thursday 7 December Solemn Vespers 18:30
The Immaculate Conception
Invitatory Padilla
Ave maris stella Carpentras
Magnificat octavi toni Vivanco
Alma Redemptoris Mater Guerrero
Fantasia in C Byrd

Friday 8 December Solemn Mass 18:00
The Immaculate Conception
Missa Ego flos campi Padilla
Ego flos campi Clemens
Ave Maria a8 Victoria
Ave Maris Stella De Grigny

Sunday 10 December Solemn Mass 11:00
Advent II
Missa Conditor Alme Siderum Animuccia
Deus tu convertens Palestrina
Alma redemptoris mater Fernandez

Sunday 17 December Solemn Mass 11:00
Advent III (‘Gaudete’)
Missa Sancti Joannis de Deo Haydn
Gaude et laetare Sweelinck
Vox clamantis Esquivel
Le monde dans l'attente du Sauveur Dupré

Sunday 24 December Solemn Mass 11:00
Advent IV
Mass IX ‘Cum jubilo’ Plainsong
Pulchra es Monteverdi
O mysterium ineffabile Lalloutte

Monday 25 December Solemn Mass at Midnight
Christmas Day — Midnight Mass
Missa Pro Victoria Victoria
O magnum mysterium Lauridsen
Verbum caro Sheppard
In dulci Iubilo BWV 729 Bach

Solemn Mass 11:00
Christmas Day — Mass during the day
Missa Sancti Nicolai Haydn
Christe Redemptor Omnium Martin
Hodie Christus natus est Schütz
Finale from Symphonie No. 2 Widor

Sunday 31 December Solemn Mass 11:00
The Holy Family
Missa O magnum mysterium Victoria
Quem vidistis pastores Lassus
O magnum mysterium Victoria
Toccata on ‘Vom himmel hoch’  Edmunson

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Thy Kingdom Come

At this time of year, the Church attempts to cheer us up in the face of the cold weather and long nights by reading the sections of the Gospel that speak of Christ’s second coming at the end of the world. We might struggle to find comfort in these words as we hear of the trials and tribulations that his followers will undergo in those last days. And yet from the earliest days, Christians have looked forward to Christ’s return with joyful hope.

While we do not know when Our Lord will come again — ‘Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.’ (Mt. 24:36) — it isn’t meant to be a complete surprise to us. We have been waiting for that day and hour for a very long time.

The end of the world isn’t the one off event that we often think it is. Since God became man and entered this world, the boundaries between heaven and earth have got a bit blurred. Bits of heaven keep poking through. We see that in the lives of the saints, when they do extraordinary things and work wonderful miracles. But we see it in our own lives too. Christ is already present in the Church, in the sacraments, in the lives of individual Christians. So the second coming — what we think of as the ‘real’ end of the world — is just about revealing to other people what we already know to be true.

The Christian life helps bring that day closer. Each day, we pray: ‘Thy kingdom come’. Not only that prayer, but every prayer, every encounter with Christ in the sacraments, every one of our good works drags this world one step closer to heaven.

We have nothing to fear when Christ comes again. Or at least we shouldn’t, because we live with him here and now. This will not be an encounter with a stranger. We should know what to expect. It will be a reunion, rather than an introduction. We should long for his second coming, if we are truly living with him now.

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.
Thursday 23 November 2023

Annual Sung Requiem Mass last Saturday with the Secular Oratory, for the deceased members of the Secular Oratory throughout the world (we don’t yet have any of our own) and for the deceased loved ones of our own members.


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Wednesday 22 November 2023


Envy is one of the seven capital sins. It is a root sin that produces a number of poisonous offshoots. What is envy? It is sadness at the sight of another’s goods, opportunities, talents or advantages. It is this discontent which makes us unhappy and dissatisfied with what we actually have ourselves. We can be envious over another person’s possessions such as his house, his car or his swimming pool. We can envy another’s reputation, position, opportunities and influence or accomplishments. Remember how in Peter Schaffer’s play Amadeus, the Court Composer Antonio Salieri becomes consumed with jealousy of the young upstart Mozart, envious of his far superior musical talent.

St Thomas Aquinas notes that the progress of this vice has a beginning, a middle and an end. Initially, envy itself may lurk below the surface but it soon comes out in sarcasm, in bitter comments, in nasty criticisms. When we begin to be jealous of someone, we may start quietly undermining their reputation, through gossip or detraction.

For example, your neighbour is building a new swimming pool in his garden. You start to brood on this — your garden isn’t big enough for such a large status symbol — so you start to talk about it, a little disparagingly. ‘Isn’t it rather ostentatious?’ you remark. Or you casually question how your neighbour could possibly afford it ‘in these hard times’. And before we know it, our criticism turns from the pool, which we now hate (can’t the local council put a stop to it?) and becomes focussed on the neighbour himself. At first it was the swimming pool that disturbed our rest at night, now it is the man who owns it who keeps us awake. When we hear that he has been elected President of the Golf Club, we feel sick with envy, but when we hear that his son has been expelled from his school, we can barely suppress our glee. We no longer pretend to be objective or just. We are sad when our neighbour is successful and we rejoice when things go badly for him.

The awful fruit of this vice is hate. What began as a rather silly envy of someone else’s possessions, reputation or good fortune ends as a hatred. First we hate whatever it is they have and we don’t, even though it was clearly something we wanted because it was good in itself. Yet now we have grown to loathe it. But not quite as much as the person who has that thing or else, is that person we would like to be but which we are not: rich, clever, good-looking, talented, happily married, a parent blessed with wonderful, gifted and well-mannered children and so on.

Whatever it may be, when we permit envy to gain entrance, we soon lose any sense of perspective or reality. It is desperately sad, since envy and jealousy are so utterly corrosive, eating away at the soul, destroying our ability to love, without which we find ourselves far from God. Saint Augustine saw envy as the diabolical sin. ‘From envy,’ he says, ‘are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbour, and displeasure caused by prosperity.’ Furthermore, ‘He that is jealous is not in love’ and therefore not in God. St Cyprian can have the last word. ‘While envy leads us to hate our neighbour for their prosperity’ (or indeed, whatever) ‘love and patience drive it out.’ Let us pray for those virtues and to be free from envy and jealousy in everything.

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.
Wednesday 22 November 2023

On Saturday we enrolled three new members of the Secular Oratory.

The Secular Oratory consists of those men and women who find themselves drawn by the spirit of St Philip to devote themselves more fully to God. They commit themselves to a simple rule of life, and meet together once a month for Mass, spiritual conversation and pray together, in addition to attending our other regular Oratory groups that meet each month. They all volunteer their time and their talents to further St Philip’s work in the Oratory.

Learn more:


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Tuesday 21 November 2023

We sing Vespers from the Office of the Dead one evening a week during November.


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Monday 20 November 2023

Our Christmas presents have started their journey round the world today, on their way to children who would otherwise have nothing for Christmas with @samaritanspurseuk.


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Friday 17 November 2023

Tonight’s Oratory Young Adults meeting focused on ‘Death: the final frontier’.

‘Real solid inner joy of the heart is a gift from God, which derives from a good conscience, detachment from external things, and the contemplation of what is most profound. It comes through meditating on death, associating with devout men, nourishing ourselves regularly on the holy sacraments, taking great care over oneself and over others, practising generosity towards many, daily prayer to God, reverence for the holy Cross, the prayers of the saints and our devotion to them.

‘Now this is the purpose of our Oratory, of our way of life, of the companionship of our community…our meditations and frequent sermons about death, seen as something to be desired more than to dread; all is a preparation for death welcomed with a joyous heart. Let us go forth from our prison joyfully, when the Lord bids us.’

(from the dialogue by Cardinal Augustine
‘Philip, or On Christian Joy’)


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Wednesday 15 November 2023

The Communion of Saints

The Church often speaks of the totality of God’s People, as the Communion of Saints. The word “saint” simply means “holy” — a saint is a holy person. But holiness doesn’t refer to a moral state. It doesn’t mean “good” or “virtuous”. A saint is not someone who behaved better than other people. Holy, saintly, means belonging to God. A saint is someone who belongs to God. So when St Paul refers to the Saints in his Letters, he means you and me, those of us who belong to God because he has claimed us for his own. The Communion of Saints is, therefore, what we otherwise call the Church (a word which, incidentally, comes from the Greek meaning “belonging to the Lord”).

As we remember from our Catechism, the Church, this great Communion of Saints, is formed of three parts. The first is those who can properly be called “saints”: that is, those who have died and are now enjoying the vision of God, and reigning with Christ in glory. Those countless men and women throughout the ages whom God was able to mould and shape and form by his grace into the image of his Son. Those millions of known and unknown people celebrated at the beginning of this month on the feast of All Saints. We do not pray for them — rather we ask them to pray for us and for all God’s people. We feebly struggle; they in glory shine.

The second part of the Church is made up of those who are alive today, the People of God which is still very much on its way to ultimate union with him. That’s all of us who are working out our salvation in fear and trembling, who are stumbling and falling and getting up again and moving forward — hopefully — with God’s grace. We call this part of the Church the Church Militant, because we are still fighting — fighting against ourselves, fighting against everything that keeps us from God, fighting the good fight, and running the race. We are saints too, because we belong to the Lord, and we fight as the saints who nobly fought of old.

The third group is that which the Church remembers especially during November, the Holy Souls. They are those who have died but are not quite ready to meet God face to face. Most of us would probably acknowledge that we are far from perfect. Our hearts are divided, we seek after things which can only give us temporary happiness, we become attached to all sorts of rubbish, we have to live with the consequences of our actions. Nothing which is imperfect can enter heaven, so if through prayer and penance in this life, we haven’t yet been purified of all that debris of sin and selfishness, then we still need to go through some purifying process before entering the eternal presence of God. What that process is like it is not for us to speculate, but we call it Purgatory.

It is our Christian faith that just as we can pray for each other here on earth, and just as we can ask the saints in heaven to pray for us, so too we can pray for those who are undergoing this purification after death. Those souls still have parts of themselves which they tried to hide from God, areas in their lives and in their hearts which were dead, which were far from where they ought to be, far from where God is, where God’s love was taken for granted. God’s grace will penetrate all those parts, it will purify and restore and bring back to life. And our prayers express our Christian faith and hope that after that process it is God’s will that our loved ones will indeed be with him in paradise. They are the “Holy Souls” because they too belong to God.

There is a great tendency today to speak about someone who has died as if they have gone immediately to heaven, a sort of instant canonisation. It is true that Christ has conquered death, and opened the gates of heaven to all who believe in him. We have a God who is a loving Father and who has created all his children to live with him forever. We can have faith and trust in the mercy of God. But we must never presume on that mercy. And we cannot deny the weakness and pride and self-centredness that is a part of the humanity we all share. The great danger of instant canonisations is that we might in all the celebrating of life forget to offer up our prayers and our good works and our love on behalf of the dead.

And so, although it is a “good and religious thing to pray for the dead” every day and at every Mass, it is especially appropriate this month set aside by the Church, when the whole Church Militant, the saints on earth, join their prayers with those of the Saints in heaven for the Holy Souls. Naturally, we will remember especially family members and good friends but we should also think of those who may not have anyone to remember them and pray for them. When our time comes to leave this world, it is on the prayers of those people that you and I will depend.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

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.
Monday 6 November 2023

Blessed Salvio Huix

Imprisoned during the religious persecution of the Spanish Civil War, Blessed Salvio Huix was forced to dig his own grave in a cemetery in Lleida on 5 August 1936. He was martyred there in hatred of the faith alongside twenty other prisoners. In the moments that preceded his death, he was offered his life by the militants in exchange for renouncing Christ. He instead requested that he die last so that he could provide encouragement and strength to the others as they went on to meet their end.

There never was a real possibility for Bl. Salvio to renounce his faith. Since his youth, while in his home Oratory, the Vic Oratory, he asked Our Lord for the strength to overcome anything in quite a prophetic and exemplar way: “I ask you for the virtue that is necessary for me to fight against difficulties and to shed my blood, if necessary, to uphold and defend the honour of your Sacred Gospel.” During his life he remained close to the Sacraments, and much like Our Holy Father St Philip, in true Oratorian spirit, used to spend hours in the confessional.

Bl. Salvio was not only granted the virtue needed to shed his own blood in honour of Our Lord, but also the strength that led him to choose to witness the murder of his companions. He blessed each one as they were being killed, fully aware that he would soon also be dead. As he was blessing each soon-to-be martyr, he was shot in the hand by a militant. With the strength that he so much prayed for to God, he continued to bless his companions with his other hand instead. 

Once all twenty were killed, he was shot in the head, making twenty-one the number of people killed there. He was not the only Oratorian to be martyred during the Spanish Civil War. While we remember all those martyred, today we specifically remember Bl. Salvio’s exemplary death alongside his exemplary life as someone who loved the Sacraments, Christ, and the Church. His trust in the Lord provided comfort to that group of twenty martyred there, and like the Good Shepherd, Bl. Salvio guided his flock until the end. “With the help of divine Grace, we want to remain faithful to Christ until martyrdom.”

Bl. Salvio was aware he would be killed there. Despite this knowledge, he was able to persevere until the end with his trust in the Lord unchanged. He is a shining example of not just a true priest, devoted to his flock until the very end, but also of a true Christian, willing to completely renounce his own self in reverence to God. May we be as brave as Bl. Salvio in the face of adversity. May we be as confident in the Lord as Bl. Salvio was in the time of our death. Blessed Salvio Huix, pray for us.

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 3 November 2023

November Music

Wednesday 1 November Solemn Mass 18:00
All Saints
Missa O quam gloriosum Victoria
Justorum animae Byrd
Beati mundo corde Byrd
Placare Christe servulis Dupré

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

Friday 3 November Solemn Mass 18:00
Solemn Requiem for deceased
Fathers and Brothers of the Oratory
Officium Defunctorum a4 Anerio
Beati mortui Mendelssohn

Sunday 5 November Solemn Mass 11:00
31st Sunday of the Year
Missa Ecce nunc benedicite  Lassus
Vox in rama de Wert
Salve Regina a5
Fantasia [A final] Byrd

Sunday 12 November Solemn Mass 11:15
Solemn Requiem for the Fallen
Officium Defunctorum a6 Cardoso
Versa est in luctum Lobo
Solemn Prelude for the Fallen Elgar

Sunday 19 November Solemn Mass 11:00
33rd Sunday of the Year
Missa Tertia, Octavi toni Croce
De profundis Palestrina
Ave verum Dering
Toccata in D minor BWV 538i Bach

Sunday 26 November Solemn Mass 11:00
Christ the King
Missa Festiva Peeters
Attollite portas Byrd
Ego sum panis Peeters
Acclamations Langlais

Wednesday 1 November 2023

Friends in heaven

One of our Fathers tells a lovely story about a friend of his who lived in Munich. Whenever her landlady had some kind of problem she would say “I must go and speak to Father Rupert about this”. Who was this priest who was able to solve all her landlady’s problems and was the immediate port of call amidst the daily ups and downs of her life? It turned out that the said priest had been dead for some fifty years and what the landlady was doing was going to pray at the tomb of Blessed Rupert Mayer in the Burgersaalkirche. That is a wonderful illustration of what our friendship should be with the saints: they are our familiar friends to whom we take the concerns of our lives and they are the examples we seek to imitate — those burning furnaces of divine love from which we can keep the spark of charity aflame in our own heart by approaching, through them, that wonderful light in which they dwell.

We will all have our favourite saints, those friends whose lives, or names, or patronages, or examples, seem to stretch out to us like the invitation of an old and trusted friend, someone to help us and show us the way. They are those lights of the world which cannot be covered over, those cities built on mountaintops which cannot be hidden. We know and we love those saints who are so well known to all Catholics: above all Our Lady, St Joseph, the Apostles, St Francis, St Thérèse of Lisieux, St Philip… But there are the more obscure ones too whose lights shine no less brightly and whose intercession is no less sure. I once knew a person who preferred to entrust their prayers to the intercession of obscure 19th century beati “because they were less busy”. I’m not sure about that, but a saint is a saint, and they all want to help us. We have All Saints because sometimes, whilst their light burns brightly in heaven, their life on earth was more obscure, or simply they haven’t been officially canonised. Blessed Dominic Barberi famously preached “let us all be saints, but not canonised ones — that is too expensive”. November 1st therefore gives us that opportunity to pray to them all, known and unknown, those of popular devotion and those whose names are known to God alone but all of whom belong to him, and hence to us, the Church.

Monsignor Knox wrote “[The Church] chooses an excellent day for it; the first day of November, when the year has definitely turned to autumn, and the leaves have fallen, and the weather is for the most part rather depressing, either wetter or colder than we quite want it to be. Because it is then that we like staying indoors, and sitting at the fireside, if there’s one to sit by; and there’s a kind of snug feeling about coming in out of the misty twilight and drawing the curtains across the windows, which helps us to think about the saints in heaven, so snug there, with all the painful struggles of their earthly life behind them. To be sure, it is nice to be out on a November afternoon; but it is still nicer to come in at the end of the afternoon, and shut the world out from us. And the saints are happy, even in this world, in spite of all their uncomfortable goings on. But happier still when they leave this world, and draw the curtains of heaven round them.”

That is what all the saints do. They draw us home. And of course there are those destined for Heaven but who still have purgatory to undergo and that is why the very next day we pray for them all. We show those whom we have loved and lost that we love them still because we pray for them, and particularly we give them the most a human being can — we offer Mass for them. Just as the saints in Heaven help us, so we can help the Holy Souls on their way to Heaven too, and what a beautiful and consoling teaching that is. Every man, woman, and child is our neighbour and so we love them all as we pray for the Holy Souls. In the grief of our own bereavements, whether still raw or become a loss we have learnt to bear, the Church gives us All Souls as a reminder of the duty of charity we owe them, our ability to show that charity still, but so too as a remembrance of the sure and certain hope offered by our Faith: a reminder too that one day we shall die — and then? as St Philip was wont to say — well, that is up to us, not for then, but for now. The great thing then, as Our Holy Father again would say, is to become saints…

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Tuesday 31 October 2023

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Thursday 26 October 2023

“Of ghouls and ghosts and long-leggedy beasties”

I’m not a particularly squeamish person. I can cope with watching hospital dramas on the television, I am a first-aider and I’m not easily spooked. There is something, however about the proliferation of Halloween decorations in almost every public space and shop which gives me the creeps — but perhaps not in the way the owners intend. It is a slightly odd thing to want to terrify our neighbours with images we would normally run a mile from at other times of the year. Why do we delight in ghouls and ghosts but not so much in the “spirits and souls of the just”? The reasons for keeping Halloween are well known — emerging from a conflation of the All Souls’ Day observance with pagan customs. And whilst I would never want to be a party-pooper, perhaps this year we might try and think about it in a different way.

Perhaps those skeletons and skulls remind us that one day we too will die. At the end of a famous crypt in Rome three real skeletons hold a plaque which says, “What you are now, we once were, and what we are now, you too will be.” At the end, we all must die, but the remembrance of death on this 31st October falls on the vigil of one of the great feasts of the Church’s year, that of All Saints. During the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian, a celebration was called for to cover all those many witnesses to the Christian faith, too numerous to have a day each in the calendar. At the end we all must die, but, like them, we must see our death as the gateway to that sainthood, that heavenly bliss, that is ours if we are judged to be holy, to be virtuous, to be just. Those ghouls and ghosts and even the silliest and naffest of costumes must be for us Christians, who should live in the world as though we are on the threshold of heaven, a reminder to press on, to seek the face of God, to strive after virtue so that we too might be numbered among that great sea of witnesses on November 1st each year and not be consigned to ghoulish misery.

So as you bob for apples and light your sparklers, don’t forget that it is to the joys of heaven we aspire more than anything else.

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.
Wednesday 25 October 2023

We commit our souls and bodies to the Most Holy Trinity, and to the merits and grace of our Lord Jesus, God Incarnate, to the intercession and compassion of our dear Mother Mary, to Saint Joseph, and our holy father Saint Philip, and especially to thee Saint John Henry. Together with all the saints and angels, pray to God to bring us all together again in heaven, under the feet of the Saints. And, after the pattern of the Good Shepherd, who seeks so diligently for those who are astray, ask him especially to have mercy on those who are external to the true fold, and to bring them into it before they die.
— A prayer to St John Henry Newman, based on his writings

The photo shows Mass in the chapel of St John Henry Newman as part of our pilgrimage to the Birmingham Oratory last Saturday.


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Tuesday 24 October 2023

Concluding prayers in the shrine of St John Henry Newman at the end of our pilgrimage on Saturday.

The Fathers in Birmingham warmly welcomed a full coach of pilgrims from Oxford. A good number of our pilgrims had themselves been guided into the One Fold of the Redeemer with the encouragement of Our Cardinal. For all, the pilgrimage was a chance to get to know our saint better by visiting the home where he lived and worked for Christ, as well as to ask his continued prayers for all our needs.

Saint John Henry, pray for us!


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Wednesday 18 October 2023

OYA 2023–2024

Oratory Young Adults meetings include a time of discussion, catechesis, conversation and prayer. Refreshments are available from the Cafe Neri bar from 7:30 and the main discussion begins at 8:00. Adults aged 18 to 35 are welcome to come along.

20 October — What was Jesus REALLY like?
It can sometimes be all too easy forget that Jesus is not a character in a book, or just a shadowy figure from history. He was a living, breathing human being, with thoughts, feelings and emotions like us — and he still is! What kind of personality does he have? Would we have got on with him if we’d met him 2000 years ago? How do we get to know him better now? Come along to find out.

17 November — Death: the final frontier
There is one thing all people can agree on: none of us want to die. But should that be true for Christians? Is death something to be scared of, or should we look forward to it as our birth into eternal life? Does heaven mean we don’t need to worry about death? If you want to know what the answer is, don’t miss this meeting of OYA.

1 December — Stop trying so hard
Sometimes it can feel like there are too many things to get done, too many standards to meet and not enough hours in the day. Sometimes our faith can feel like that too. Overwhelmed with questions about vocation, relationships and work? Underwhelmed by your progress with prayer and the fight against sin? Maybe it’s time to let Christ do the work. Come along to think about how to do just that.

19 January — The great ascent
The spiritual life, being holy, becoming saints can all seem like a monumental task which is frankly unachievable — but we have to begin somewhere. Come and reflect on how our understanding of what it is to be human encourages us in climbing our spiritual Everest.

9 February — Lose yourself to find yourself
The scriptures are an indispensable means of encountering Christ in the life of all Christians. We lose ourselves in the text to find him — and our authentic selves. Come along to find out how to read deeply, to listen with the ear of the heart and to put into practice what Christ has to say to us.

1 March — What God buys he puts a value on
God is never required to do anything. He is always free to choose exactly what he wants to do. And of all the things he could choose, he chose to become man and save us by dying for us. Why would he do that? Come along to explore what Jesus’ death on the cross tells us about him — and us.

26 April — God give me patience: when God is silent
We would give up trying to talk to a friend who never spoke back to us. Do we ever feel like doing the same with God? Is silence always a problem? This month we’re exploring the mystery of silence. Come along to find out more.

17 May — We have no lasting city
There have always been some Christians who have looked at the world around them and thought the best thing to do is run away! But are we really supposed to abandon the world to save ourselves? Come along to discuss what it means to be a faithful Christian in Oxford today.

7 June — Rediscovering the off button: Self-sacrifice in an age of instant gratification
Do we look after number one or love our neighbour? How do we find time for ourselves, for others — and for God — when there are so many demands on our time and energy already? Come along to think about how we can rediscover the off button.

Wednesday 18 October 2023

The law of praying (12): The law of living

Over the summer, we are looking at a section from the Canon of the Mass each week, to learn what the ‘law of praying’ has to teach us about what we believe. You can find the previous posts in this series in our reflections archive.

…through Christ our Lord.
Through whom
you continue to make all these good things, O Lord;
you sanctify them, fill them with life,
bless them, and bestow them upon us.
Through him, and with him, and in him,
O God, almighty Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honour is yours,
for ever and ever.

It is astonishing the complex ideas that are conveyed through a few small words. ‘Through him, and with him, and in him,’ that is, ‘Through Christ, and with Christ, and in Christ’. These are the ways in which we give glory to the Father.

We give glory to the Father through the Son as our intermediary. He stands forever to intercede for sinners, just as we saw at the beginning of this prayer. All prayer to the Father is made through his Son Jesus Christ.

We give glory to the Father with the Son, standing next to him as co-heirs and adopted children of the Father, even more so now that he is present with us on the altar.

We give glory to the Father in the Son, from within his Body, as members of his Church.

We do all this when we join ourselves to this great prayer of the Mass, as we have seen. But this Eucharistic model of prayer does not cease when we reach the end of the prayer.

One of the saints we didn’t look at last week, St Ignatius of Antioch, really loved the Mass. When he was arrested for being a Christian, he pulled the same trick as St Paul and demanded, as a Roman citizen, to exercise his right to be tried by the emperor himself in Rome. Unlike Paul, he wasn’t taken by boat, but began a very long and slow journey on foot towards Rome in the company of some soldiers.

On the way, he wrote to each church he passed, and members of the churches would come to meet him and exchange letters with him. His letters survive, and he captures for us a wonderful snapshot of the life of the Church around 110AD. He often talks about what Christians do when they gather for Mass. He is one of the most powerful witnesses to the continuity of what we do whenever we celebrate the Mass, following the same patterns that Christians have done ever since the time of Christ.

But not only does St Ignatius talk about the Mass when he describes what should happen in church. He also talks about the Mass when he describes his own desire for martyrdom. He says that he wants to be like Christ. He wants to pay back Christ by dying for him who died for us.

When we think of trying to be like Christ, we can focus solely on imitating what we read in Gospels of Christ’s life on earth. Ignatius tried even to conform himself to Christ as we encounter him now — he wanted to become like Christ in Holy Communion:

Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God.

I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world. I want only God’s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed of the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish.

He is not alone in tying together martyrdom and the Mass. When the Romans attempted to execute his friend St Polycarp by burning him alive, Polycarp’s prayer sounds very much like a Eucharistic prayer. Meanwhile, he was miraculously unhurt by the flames: ‘he appeared within not like flesh which is burnt, but as bread that is baked’.

When Ignatius was condemned to death, we’re told that he prayed: ‘I thank you, O Lord, that you have vouchsafed to honour me with a perfect love towards you.’ Again, it is a prayer of thanksgiving, a Eucharistic prayer, the same kind of prayer as the Canon of the Mass.

The Eucharist — the Mass — is not just something we attend. It is not just a law of praying, or even a law of praying that forms a law of believing for us. It is also a model of what we become. St Ignatius made his life and his death into a prayer of thanksgiving, modelled after the prayer of the Mass, conforming himself to Christ as we encounter him there. If we appreciate what Christ has done for us, we will want to find our own way of doing the same in return.

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Monday 16 October 2023

Adoremus in æternum sanctissimum Sacramentum!

Our annual Forty Hours’ devotion concluded last night with Vespers and Benediction.


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Friday 13 October 2023

Congratulations to Br Ambrose, who was clothed in the habit of St Philip today.


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