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Does it matter how Jesus was born?

We come to the close of the season of the Church year marking the Nativity - Poverty of Jesus' Birth.jpg.opt277x439o0,0s277x439Incarnation of our Lord, at once a great mystery and a staggering reality.  Of particular note in the genesis of the marking of the feast, before a fixed date, or particular customs or a developed liturgy and until today, is that the Church has always clung to the poverty of the Holy Family and the birth of the Lord. There were only two ways to be in Palestine – subsistence living or not. Those beneath subsistence living were the lepers, beggars, diseased, abandoned.  While the law called for care for the widow, the orphan and the foreigner, as in our own day, there was a wide array of opinions as to what that meant. Jesus was born in poverty, a poverty of place that even in his own day would have been an unlikely choice for giving birth. Not only the conditions are poor but the birth is absent a home, family in attendance, assistance at the ready. Those who first attend are those among whom Jesus will live, the working poor, shepherds. During a dialogue in his public ministry it is to these lost sheep of the house of Israel that he tells us is called first to serve. His poverty is like theirs, not abject but persistent. His access to power is like theirs, non-existent. He works as a carpenter to keep a roof over head and food supplied.  There are no amenities. No laundries, no sewers, no medical advances.

Why does it matter that Jesus is born in poverty? In choosing to become flesh in such a way, God, the creator of all, the animating force of the universe, the God of the burning bush not consumed, the God of exodus of desolation and restoration, that same God is completely emptied of all pretense to power. This, of course, is heresy to those who cannot accept a self-emptying God.  To us Christians it means everything and it is the model for our lives. It is from this peripheral position, from the world’s viewpoint, that God chose to become one of us and save us. There is nothing obvious or direct about it and the path of salvation history continues not down the center of things but towards the margins, where the lives of most people are fashioned, lived and come to completion.  It is there, always there, that the Church must exist in its fullness if we are to be true to the core meaning of the Incarnation. Salvation from the margins, among the margins, and from there for all the world.

 

Fr. Michael, c.o.

Teach Me To Be Generous

Teach Me to Be Generous

“Teach Me to Be Generous: The First Century of Regis High School in New York City” (Fordham University Press). Fr. Anthony was enlisted by Regis High School to write a history of the School to mark the 100th anniversary of its founding.   The only free Jesuit high school in the United States, Regis was founded to educate Catholic boys who otherwise could not afford a Jesuit education.  Father Anthony Andreassi, c.o. began teaching history at Regis in 2003 (before he entered the Congregation), and he continues to teach here part-time.  In 2014 Father Mark joined the faculty as the campus minister.

Sermon given by The Rev. Msgr. Ronald A. Knox

Preached at the London Oratory on the Feast of
St Philip Neri, 26 May 1951

If salt loses its taste, what is there left to give taste to it? – Matthew 5:13

Last Wednesday was a centenary; unmarked by the world, but in the world’s history, if we could read the world’s history from the inside, one of high significance. On 23 May 1555, Giovanni Lunelli, Bishop of Sebaste, conferred the sacred order of the priesthood on a young Florentine living in Rome, whose name was Philip Neri. To you, Reverend Fathers, to you, his own parishioners, the fame of him stands in little need of commendation. And we, who have come from a distance to share your happiness, attest by our very presence the fact that he is still, as he ever was, a magnet to attract souls. Let us be content to say only a little about graces so abundant, about a personality so many-sided as his; to concentrate our attention upon one facet of his heavenly crown as it shines in human memory. He is the saint of freedom.

When I say that, I am not thinking of political liberty, and the world-problems which exercise us today. Yet it is perhaps worthwhile to remember that his later boyhood was spent in Florence, just when Florence had driven out the Medici family, and was making its last, vain bid for self-government. If we find him something of an original, somewhat unrepresentative of the age he lived in, let us remember that for him the splendors of the Renaissance were only the trappings of tyranny. Such a man, even on his human side, is a little contemptuous of those worldly estimates, those fashionable conventions, which we others take for granted. He had, perhaps, the makings of a rebel in him. But the thing he stood for and stands for has nothing whatever to do with political considerations; it is something subtler, more intimate, more delicately balanced. It is what devotional authors have called the liberty of the spirit.

If he was not a rebel, Philip was nevertheless a reformer. So were all the saints of his age. The sixteenth century was such a crisis in the history of religion that you could not be sensitized to its atmosphere without becoming either a rebel or a reformer, or both at once. And because Rome was, then as always, the capital of our fortunes, the cleaning-up process must needs begin at Rome. Even in the Middle Ages, they told the cynical story of a Jew who had been converted to Rome, and explained, in answer to his questioners, that the Catholic religion must be true if it could survive so much of corruption in high places as this. And the Renaissance, that splendid rediscovery of the classical tradition, that splendid flowering of scholarship and of the arts, only served to debase the lives and the thoughts of many among those who were influenced by it. A city that is built on a mountain-top, our Lord warns us, cannot be hidden; and it is in the same context that he uses the words of my text, “If salt loses its taste, what is there left to give taste to it?” Salt of the earth, it was for Rome to save the world from corruption; when Rome itself was corrupt, what was to be done with it? That was the problem which faced the saints of the Counter-Reformation, and St Philip in particular.

I say, St Philip in particular, because God raised him up to be, in a special sense, the Apostle of Rome. All the great founders of religious institutes have made their way to Rome, as St Ignatius did, because it would give them the necessary leverage for doing good in other parts of Christendom. St Philip made no calculations of that kind; he made no calculations of any kind. He drifted to Rome because that was God’s will for him; and he set about spreading abroad the love of God there, not because he thought it was a very wicked place; he would have done the same anywhere else. Only, that was just what was wanted. When a fire is in danger of going out, you will do no good aiming your bellows now at this point, now at that, blowing furious blasts at the struggling flames which only need that to extinguish them. No, you must find out first of all, by a series of experiments, which is the real focus which responds to your efforts, and then keep on fanning that one spot, always the same spot quite gently, quite patiently, till the fires spreads all round. Rome is the heart and focus of Christendom; and Philip could not have done better service to his Master than by fanning the dull embers that seemed so unresponsive, there in Rome.

But it would be grossly unhistorical to suggest that his was a lonely protest. On the contrary, he lived under a series of reforming popes; he was the contemporary and the friend of St Charles Borromeo, who did more than any other man to restore Church discipline in accordance with the canons of Trent. Everywhere bishops were being told to put their sees in order; the luxury of the Papal court was being repressed, the Holy Office was bringing to light those strange aberrations of doctrine which an age of restless intellectual activity had allowed to creep in. Meanwhile, St Ignatius and his companions were holding up to the world an incomparable example of organization and discipline. What need, we are tempted to ask, for a Philip as well?

I have tried to suggest the answer when I spoke of St Philip as the saint of freedom. Reforms brought in from above may change the habits of society without changing its heart. You may repress luxury without repressing the love of luxury; you may drive paganism into the catacombs, but it is paganism still. Organization and discipline, the multiplying of rules and methods whether for clergy or laity, produce little effect unless they are freely accepted by the will; they develop scruples in the timorous, command but a lifeless acquiescence from the indifferent. All the salutary reforms which the Council of Trent initiated might have succeeded in their measure, and yet left us with a dull, flat, uninspired level of performance. That they produce more than that, we owe in great part to St Philip. It was the sharp tang of his unwonted spirituality that acted as seasoning to the Tridentine experiment. The little world of Rome, from cardinals in curia to loungers in the street, felt his influence, and came hurrying back to God.

 But it was an influence freely exercised, and one which made for freedom. And, partly because it was an influence of freedom, not depending on regulations or formulas, it remains the same influence today, reasserted in his children. Wherever the Congregation of the Oratory flourishes, there you will find an atmosphere that breathes liberty; an atmosphere which is at once spacious, and completely natural, and intensely personal.

Spacious – St Philip, I think, liked space; liked to say his prayers on the roof, liked to go out for a walk in the country round Rome, with a party picked up anyhow, that attached itself to him at the last moment, without any plan, visiting a church here and there when the mood took him. It was characteristic of him that when they built the Chiesa Nuova he should have kept on altering the architect’s plan so as to make a wider nave for our Lady’s church; “More elbow-room”, he seems to say; “don’t let us make anybody feel cramped.” And wherever the Oratorians go they build large; a big church, a roomy house next door; not out of ostentation, but so as to get the sense of freedom. You shall be able to wander about in their churches, and say your prayers in this chapel or that as the mood takes you, without attracting attention. And this largeness is only the symbol of something more interior and more intimate; you are to come to God at your ease, not cramped by any system or method, your heart, like the saint’s own heart, enlarged.

Natural – of all the saints, none is so full of nature as St Philip; that is why he shocks some people, that is why he attracted Goethe. He remained, all his life, very much of a schoolboy; loved to make himself look ridiculous by pulling the beard of the beadle in church, loved to make his fashionable penitents look ridiculous by carrying his cat through the streets. How much was it a calculated effect? Did he sometimes go out of his way to play the fool, force himself to be natural? It is hard to say; but, whatever the secret of it, he was always himself; never for a moment were you tempted to say “There goes Ignatius”, or “There goes Charles Borromeo”. And he wanted all his disciples to be themselves, once they had overcome that razionale, that spirit of pride, which is the enemy of all holiness. He would not mould them into a type; they should live by a tradition, not by a rule. In this, as Newman wisely saw, his spirit accommodated itself to the English genius. I have been privileged to know many Oratorians, but never one of whom I felt inclined to say, “He is typical”.

And – personal; with the saint himself, that is a point hardly worth proving. His apostolate was neither of the pen nor, chiefly at any rate, of the pulpit; if you came under his influence, it was because he plucked you by the sleeve, folded you to his heart. And he was always there; as well expect to find Ars without St John Vianney, as Rome without St Philip. In this, above all, he has bequeathed his own spirit to his children. The sons of St Ignatius are ready to be sent off, at a moment’s notice, on some perilous mission; the sons of St Philip, called to a different form of self-sacrifice, are always at home. Nor is their love of room like the Benedictine’s love of his cell; the Benedictine’s abbey is his fortress, the Oratorian’s house is an open town, where all the world may pass through. He gives you that freedom which of all others is today most lacking: freedom of access.

Reverend Fathers, you do not keep St Philip to yourselves; you share him with the world. Pray for us others, that we too may learn something of his spirit.

Little Oratory – Fostering the Prayer of St. Philip

Monthly Little Oratory

The Little Oratory, also know as the Secular Oratory, supports the spiritual development of our community in the Oratorian tradition and the spirit of our Holy Founder St. Philip Neri.
Little Oratory gathers the first Thursday each month from September through June.  We gather in the Oratory Church of St. Boniface from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

This is not a series and you are welcome to any and all of the sessions. 

2017 remaining dates

April 6           May 4             June 1

Our Format

Hymn
Lectionary readings from the coming Sunday
Silent meditation
Faith sharing
Non-scriptural spiritual reading
Silent Meditation
Vocal Prayers
Hymn

Why the Little Oratory?

Following the early practice of St. Philip and his companions, these gatherings help to foster the joy and presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and our community through song,  prayer, meditation and reflection. We embrace the model that helped to birth the transformation of Rome, reforming hearts, lives, communities and the Church across that city in a time of tumult and turmoil.
This is an excellent opportunity to enter more deeply into the presence of the Lord and invite the action of the Holy Spirit to swell our hearts with love and joy.   We are called to be transformed in our minds and hearts, thus transforming the world in which we live. This is one way by which we can participate in the redemption and sanctification of the world.

 

Oratory Marks 27 Years of Service to Brooklyn

035-e1420323357924 On February 11, 2015, the Brooklyn Oratory marks 27 years in service to the Church of Brooklyn.  Erected by Papal Bull on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, The Congregation is dedicated to bringing joy to those in our care and to encourage the pursuit of what is right, true and good among those we encounter.

 

Listen to the Foundation Day Homily given by
Fr. Joel Warden, c.o.
http://www.oratory-church.org/homilies/15.02.08.11.15amJW.mp2

 

 

House members and guests following prayer and dinner on our Foundation Day with priest friends from the area.   Front row left to right: Fr. Joe Nugent, Provost Fr. Dennis Corrado, c.o., Fr. Joe McLafferty, Back row left to right: Fr. Peter Mahoney, Fr. Joel Warden, c.o., Fr. Anthony Andreassi, c.o., Fr. Michael Callaghan, c.o. Also present but not in the photo: Fr. Jerry Walker, Br. James Simon, c.o.

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Fr. Mark Lane, c.o. gets in the picture after taking the one above! Fr.Mark prepared a delicious meal of roasted lamb with mint sauce, roasted root vegetables and string beans almondine.

 

Chanticleer Concert 2015

This second annual concert performance by Chanticleer was a smashing success.  We are so pleased by the tremendous reception this concert received.  Many thanks to those who worked to make the concert a great success.

As we honor the quincentenary of the birth of St. Philip Neri, Founder of the Congregation of the Oratory we hope that those who came form beyond our regular community join us again for music, prayer and service rooted in the joy of the Holy Spirit.

Stay tuned for the next concert series!

 

The diversity of music and voices was resplendent in tone and texture.
The diversity of music and voices was resplendent in tone and texture.
Chant1
Solos performances showed the range of talent int he ensemble.

 

IMG_2279

 

Chant2
The participants offer Chanticleer a rousing ovation at the conclusion of the concert.

Vespers – Winter 2014

Advent Vespers

2014 Sundays, In the Church, 4:00pm.

Theme:..”Like a shepherd, he feeds his flock: in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care…..” Isaiah 40,11.

Schedule

November 30, Advent 1
Pam Keating, Member, Community Writer, Etymologist

December 7, Advent 2
Rev. Nadine Hundertmark, Interim Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn Heights

December 14, Advent 3
Roger Knight, Oratory Community;  Board Member, Nazareth Housing

December 21, Advent 4
Richard Adams, Oratory Community ;  “outside the walls”, Computer Design Consultant