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 24 February 2024

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Saturday 24 February 2024

Fr Dominic spoke on St Philip’s life of prayer this morning. #oxfordoratory

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Friday 23 February 2024

Today we discovered a section of mural depicting St Aloysius’ First Holy Communion at the hands of St Charles Borromeo.
#oxfordoratory #oratory150

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Wednesday 21 February 2024

Work on uncovering our sanctuary murals began this week. #oxfordoratory #oratory150

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Wednesday 21 February 2024

Jerusalem

Flanders and Swann once pointed out that England doesn’t really have a national anthem of its own: God Save the King is for all the United Kingdom, and so England is left with a patriotic song about the capital city of another country — Parry’s Jerusalem. This hymn, which poses questions in its words that can all be answered ‘No’, speaks to us of the constant fascination with Jerusalem, with the Holy City, which God chose as his own. This fascination we see in other outlets of mankind’s God-given genius: for example, the beautiful hymn, which I should like at my funeral, Jerusalem the Golden and the other 1960s version, which I should not, popularised by the Israeli pop ballad singer Ofra Haza. There are books, thousands of them, of course, which tell of Jerusalem’s tortured history or otherwise introduce us to her glorious cuisine. Pilgrims today, as in the past, bear her very name tattooed on their bodies, and in many Jewish homes there is a plaque on the wall bearing her name or simply ‘Mizrah’ (east), as Muslim homes will have an image of the Al-aqsa mosque. She is the focus of the prayers of billions each day, and has been fought over since first she was thought of. Etymologists debate the origins of her name but we suppose that Jerusalem is called the ‘City of Peace’, which only heightens the terrible irony of her suffering.

If you have had the chance to go to Israel and to visit Jerusalem you will know that for a Christian it is an unparalleled experience. The first-time visitor never knows quite what to expect, and some are disappointed that their pilgrimage is not an expedition into time-travel. But for all the modern dual-carriageways, impossible bureaucracy, and millennia-old general chaos which inhabits everything, there is ever a sense of the proximity of the Incarnation. In the Old City, those streets that wind about and those tiny courtyards that beckon one into yet another site of God’s dwelling with mankind, all of it changes, fundamentally, how one hears the Gospel and reads it — because with Jerusalem one can see it. These stones upon which Christ walked, these places where his Apostles preached him, this mount where his blood was shed…the wonder and the privilege to be simply there is something that not even hordes of selfie-takers can obscure.

As Christians, Jerusalem is in our soul. We have always faced East to offer the Sacrifice of God to God and in the Mass our very posture positions us towards the East: to Eden and to Jerusalem, that our faces and hearts may be lifted up to God and to his City and thus to the hope of the Heavenly Jerusalem. Each day we utter the name of Jerusalem: in our psalms, hymns, and prayers. Our minds and hearts are transported there by the words of the prophets, the songs of David, and all our sacred history as it is recounted. Just a few months ago we found ourselves only just outside her limits as we knelt before the Christ-Child in Bethlehem and then Candlemas took us up to Jerusalem — one always goes up to Jerusalem just as one does to Oxford — to the Temple itself, and now in these weeks we will follow Our Lord through her alley-ways and porticoes, to witness there his miracles and to hear his preaching, to follow him then from Gethsemane to Calvary. And not long thereafter we shall wait at the Sepulchre from which will burst forth his victory, to be taken thence out of the Holy City of Jerusalem to every corner of the world.

During Lent, each Friday in our church at 5:30pm, we pray together the Stations of the Cross, tracing Christ’s journey to Calvary to shed his Blood for our redemption. This is the Via Dolorosa. The Franciscans bought back this devotion from Jerusalem so that all those who could not travel there could instead trace Our Lord’s journey in every Temple of God throughout the world. The journey to Jerusalem has rarely been easy and at this precise moment would be rather precarious; if we want to see those streets and follow the Cross through them we are probably better advised to do it on Google Street View for the moment. Far better of course to follow Our Lord in his own House, in his Church. The Stations are not a re-enactment; they are a prayer — lifting our mind and heart to the moving and bloody reality of the price God paid for us in love.

This Lent, as we follow his Via Dolorosa in our own churches, as we pray those psalms and hymns, and hear day after day of Jerusalem, we do well to pray for the people of that Holy City and Land that Christ wept over. And for ourselves too, that we may follow Christ this Lent in every mystery of his Passion, to contemplate his inexhaustible love continually poured out for us, and know at last the “sweet and blessed country, that eager hearts expect! In mercy, Jesus, bring us, to that dear land of rest”.


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 15 February 2024

Last Saturday, the sisters of the Spiritual Family The Work invited the Fathers and Brothers to Newman’s College at Littlemore to take part in the Forty Hours, where Benediction was given by one of their recently ordained priests. #oxfordoratory

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Wednesday 14 February 2024

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Wednesday 14 February 2024

An Island in the Rain

Many of us might dream of an escape to an island. Perhaps the island you think of is full of palm trees and coconut trees, hammocks strung between them and endless sunshine. Perhaps it is the calm of the beach that your fantasy island provides, sea lapping at the sandy shore, not a cloud in the sky nor a care in the world. Today, on Ash Wednesday, another island might come to mind to some. Despite the wild natural beauty of the place, the tranquility, the breath-taking sunsets and sunrises, this is no holiday island, but a place of pilgrimage and a place of penance. On Lough Derg thousands come each year, unshod, fasting, denying themselves sleep and replacing the chatter of conversation with constant prayer. Our fantasy islands are about escape from the world, getting away from it all, a change of scene. And although from the Maldives or the Seychelles we might come home rested (and poorer), that’s all. From this island we are invited to come back changed.

On this island, called, in fact, “Station Island”, the round of “Station Prayers” contains a gesture that is particularly striking. At a simple cross cut into the wall of the church, pilgrims stand facing out, with arms outstretched in the form of the cross, saying three times aloud, “I renounce the world, the flesh and the devil.” Watching this scene, a young man will come along and make this profound sign, then a teenager, and next in line perhaps a woman in her seventies. Bare-foot, hungry, there is an amazing equality in these pilgrims — even down to the wet-weather gear that is almost always needed on this island island lake in Donegal. There is equality in their penitence, in their penance, but also in their desire for the mercy of God. The three days they spend here are not an escape, but rather they think about their lives, they thank God for his blessings and, by disciplining themselves a little, they seek what is most essential, to strengthen their relationship with him. It is a powerful gesture of their need for God.

Lough Derg has always struck me as a sort of mini Lent. Lent is not a time of punishment for punishment’s sake, but a time of renewal of what is most important. Lent is a powerful gesture of our need for God. By paring back for a while, by denying ourselves, by praying more, by thinking of those who have much less than we do, we gain a different optic on our life. We look again and we seek to change for the better. Our Lenten penance is a bit like standing at that cross on Station Island: we renounce those things that can trap us so that we can be freer to love God. It sounds simple, but if only it were so. Rather in stretching out our arms we are reaching out to our God who comes to save us, to lift us up by his grace and help us.

At the end of the three-day pilgrimage on Lough Derg, the pilgrims (shoes on, faces washed) return to the world delighted, a spring in their step, a smile on their face. They have done it! The real joy comes from that reaching out to God, however, of having given him their small gesture, to receive much grace in return. Whatever you do this Lent — whether it’s giving up Mars Bars or merlot — remember that it is really all about the heart that is within our sacrifice, and if in our heart we too reach out more to him, then we too will skip off our own Lenten “island” closer to him and ready to face life a bit better off for it.


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 13 February 2024

We have reached our goal of £20,000 to uncover the Pippet murals in our sanctuary. Thank you to all our generous donors!

The work will begin next Monday.

This old postcard of the church shows how important the murals are to planning the decoration of the whole sanctuary.

It’s still not too late to send a donation. All money will be put towards the next phases of restoring our church to celebrate its 150th birthday.

For more information or to donate go to: www.oxfordoratory.org.uk/murals

#oxfordoratory #oratory150

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Sunday 11 February 2024

Our Lent Project this year is Let The Children Live! We welcomed the founder of the charity, Fr Peter Walters, as our guest preacher at all Masses this weekend.

We will be raising money for this project throughout Lent. You can donate to their excellent work directly at https://letthechildrenlive.org

From their website:
“Let The Children Live! is a charity that works in Colombia with children from the streets and shanty-towns of the city of Medellín. These children were once called ‘the disposable ones’ and although that name is no longer used they are still at high social risk from the violence that they experience in the streets and shanty-towns of cities such as Medellín. Most of the danger in the shanty-towns comes from the many gangs that control them. Let The Children Live! is at present working with 320 very vulnerable boys and girls in this city. For most of them it is their last hope. Their ages range from babies to teenagers and they are often unloved and unwanted; even beaten, robbed, raped and sometimes murdered. By the rest of the world they are either unknown or forgotten. The charity, which was founded by Fr Peter Walters, aims to safeguard the lives of these children from the poverty and violence of the streets and shanty-towns, and to make their lives worth living by giving them love, education and a future.”

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Saturday 10 February 2024

Today we confirmed ten adults: five newly baptised, three received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church, and two Catholics. Congratulations to them all, and a warm welcome to our new members of the Church!

Our newly confirmed have been preparing since October, and have been the first to attend our classes for adults. They have been waiting for this moment for a while now, but God has been looking forward to this moment for even longer. Monsignor Ronald Knox described how Christ waits for us to receive him in Holy Communion:

“Go to communion in some little country church, where you find yourself alone at the altar rails, or go to midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral, and get sucked into the interminable queue which is slowly moving eastwards — it makes no difference. In either case the sacred Host which you are destined to receive contains the whole of Christ, all meant for you. “Is my friend there?” he is saying; waiting for you, like the person who comes to meet you at a crowded terminus, looking out for that particular trick of walking, that particular way of holding yourself, which will single you out at a distance.”

Please pray for those who received the sacraments today, and those who are still waiting. We have a few more people from our first classes still looking forward to the sacraments, and a whole new class preparing to receive the sacraments in June.

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Friday 9 February 2024

February Music

Friday 2 February Solemn Mass 18:00
Candlemas
Mass for four voices  Byrd
Senex puerum portabat Palestrina
Videte Miraculum Tallis
Allegro Maestoso (Sonata II) Mendelssohn

Sunday 4 February Solemn Mass 11:00
5th Sunday of the Year
Missa Vidi speciosam Victoria
Perfice gressus meos Palestrina
Ave regina caelorum Lassus
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland BWV 665 Bach

Sunday 11 February Solemn Mass 11:00
6th Sunday of the Year
Missa Simile est regnum Victoria
Benedictus es Palestrina
Ego sum panis vivus Palestrina
Praeludium ex A, BuxWV 158 Buxtehude

Wednesday 14 February Solemn Mass 18:00
Ash Wednesday
Missa Emendemus Palestrina
Miserere mei Allegri
Miserere mei Byrd
Emendemus in melius Byrd

Sunday 18 February Solemn Mass 11:00
1st Sunday of Lent
Missa Vulnerasti cor meum Morales
Ecce nunc tempus acceptabile Gombert
Usquequo Domine Guerrero

Friday 23 February Sacred Concert 19:30
The Crucifixion
by Sir John Stainer
Tickets available online: tinyurl.com/oratory-stainer

Sunday 25 February Solemn Mass 11:00
2nd Sunday of Lent
Missa Aspice Domine Palestrina
Ne irascaris Domine Byrd
Civitas sancti tui Byrd

Friday 9 February 2024

FUTURE PLANS (Pt 5)

Along with all the exciting decorative and building work, we will be doing a lot of necessary maintenance to the structure of the building. The roof, stone and brickwork all need attention. A lot of electrical wiring is due to be replaced. There will be a new more efficient underfloor heating system and better lighting.

All of this work is essential if we are to leave to future generations a church that is fit for purpose, and ready to serve the needs of a growing Catholic community in the city of Oxford.

Help us complete Phase 1: www.oxfordoratory.org.uk/murals

#oxfordoratory #oratory150

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Thursday 8 February 2024

FUTURE PLANS (Pt 4)

Our plans include finally building the missing baptistery for our church and a new chapel — or Little Oratory — dedicated to St John Henry Newman.

#oxfordoratory #oratory150

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Wednesday 7 February 2024

FUTURE PLANS (Pt 3)

Not all of the work that needs doing to our church is as visible as the sanctuary decoration, but it is still important. Our sacristy has developed various structural problems and its flat roof is failing. We have plans for a new sacristy, adding a floor for extra storage, and providing a fitting and safe home for the historic vestments, vessels and other items used in the sacred liturgy.

#oxfordoratory #oratory150

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Wednesday 7 February 2024

The Growth of the Church

It is the privilege of each bishop, as father of his diocese, to baptise adults and receive Christians from other churches into Full Communion with the Catholic Church. As the Church has grown over the centuries, it is now rarely possible for him to do this himself, except in his cathedral. And so, whenever an adult in Oxford is ready to become a Catholic, the Fathers have to request the Archbishop’s delegation to baptise or receive the person in his name.

The permissions given by the Archdiocese are all numbered, and having received one such permission in late December, we were able to see how many had been granted in the whole year. It turned out that 5% of all such requests had been made by us.

In England, the Oratory has always specialised in the instruction of converts. The first fathers of the Birmingham and London Oratories were, famously, converts from the Church of England, under the leadership of St John Henry Newman. This history surely left some mark on our own consciousness, and has formed the way in which we approach this important aspect of our work.

St Philip used his friendliness with individuals to bring about dramatic conversions, rather than preaching to great crowds in the street. He would approach people and speak to them one to one. So in preparing our own new Catholics, we have tried to put this into practice ourselves. Catechesis has usually taken place not in an RCIA class, but in weekly one to one sessions.

For whatever reason, the grace of God is leading more people to seek the fullness of truth in the Catholic Church than we have experienced in previous years. At the end of summer 2023, we had over 20 adults seeking baptism, reception or confirmation, and we have found it impossible to see everyone by themselves for an hour each week. We started weekly classes for the first time in October, taking the group through the key points of the Creed and the Christian life together. We still make sure that there is time to check in with each person in the class. This time is then used less for sharing information that everyone needs to know, and more for answering specific questions, or taking a deeper dive into particular areas of difficulty or interest.

One unexpected but wonderful outcome of the classes has been the many friendships that have formed between those attending the classes. For the first time, our adult converts get to meet and support each other throughout the process. We are particularly blessed by the presence of many Americans who are not afraid to start a conversation with new people!

The first series of these classes has ended, and most of the participants will receive the sacraments this Saturday at 11am (come along and support them!). The next series of classes is already underway, and there are almost as many again preparing to receive the sacraments in June.

The work of the Fathers would not be possible without the warm welcome that visitors receive when they first attend Mass or Cafe Neri and the help and support of so many parishioners who act as sponsors throughout the process. Many enquiries come from those who have been brought to us by a friend, or have been sent on recommendation. Never underestimate the power of a friendly invitation.

The Catholic Church has been at the heart of the city of Oxford, since its roots in the early abbeys and friaries, from which the University developed, and through the Oxford Movement and the many conversions from the Church of England. In the Church today, our city is exceptional in our country and the world for the number of religious habits that can be seen in the streets, and the growing number of young people who practise their faith with inspiring commitment and devotion.

It is a great privilege for us to share our faith with others. But there is also a message to us in this growth of the Church. Whatever else may be happening in the world, God never ceases to call his children back to himself. And it is a great joy to be there and welcome them when they answer that call.


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 6 February 2024

FUTURE PLANS (Pt 2)

Here is a more detail of our new high altar plans. The details and choice of stone are all based on the designs for the original high altar. That altar was unsympathetically modified in the 1950s. We have managed to incorporate as much as possible from that altar in this restoration.

#oxfordoratory #oratory150

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Monday 5 February 2024

FUTURE PLANS (Pt 1)

We’re uncovering the murals first so that we have a colour scheme for the whole sanctuary. We have to finish the rest of the high level sanctuary decoration next so that any scaffolding is resting on our old floor. But this work unlocks the possibility of a new floor, which we’ll need if we restore the high altar to its original position.

Here is an artist’s impression of the restored altar and the new floor. The altar has been designed by @adamarchitecture working from Joseph Hansom’s original sketches.

#oxfordoratory #oratory150

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Sunday 4 February 2024

We recently made a few budget improvements of our own to the church lighting. The new lights don’t make everything orange and are much more efficient to run.

It’s all part of making the sacred liturgy as beautiful as possible, so as to raise hearts and minds to God even more effectively.

#oxfordoratory

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Sunday 4 February 2024

Gabriel Pippet designed the decoration in our Relic Chapel, which we restored in 2009. It gives us an idea of what the murals of St Aloysius’ life will look like when we uncover them on the sanctuary.

#oxfordoratory #oratory150

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