Speaking with a number of people, both parishioners and other friends, I have been struck by how more than a few have said how difficult it was to pray during the time of lock-down. Quite a few admitted that they had thought that with nothing much else to do, there would have been ample time and scope to pray more, but as the days and weeks progressed, they had felt less and less inclined to pray at all. Most had found this inability to spend time comfortably with the Lord distressing. Why was this, they asked. It’s not an easy question, because, as with most things in life and in matters of faith, one size does not fit all. Each climbs to heaven by his or her particular stairway. Although we travel together as God’s people, this journey of faith is essentially deeply personal.
‘Prayer is the raising up of the heart and mind to God’, as the old Catechism assured us. I always rather liked the late Cardinal Hume’s tweaking of this classic definition of prayer, as ‘trying to raise our hearts and minds to God.’ This seems to express our common experience rather better.
For some of us, prayer is a matter of the Morning Offering and an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be before bed, with aspirations and other occasional prayers thrown heavenward, during our busy day. Faced with more ‘free’ time to fill, we are left wondering what on earth to say. The time we have mentally put aside for extra prayer, yawns ahead, empty and uninviting. We cast around for ideas, which are soon exhausted and give up in disgust, defeated.
So, what do we do? Should there be another lock-down, how can we try to avoid too much floundering in prayer? Well, maybe we can’t, not completely, though we might remember something St Catherine of Siena said: ‘the art of prayer is that there is no art,’ and ‘every time and place is a time and a place for prayer.’ Of course, prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament is undoubtedly the best place to pray, but if we are unable to get to a church, then we should find a quiet place and make, so to speak, our domestic oratory there.
St Francis de Sales advised those who found prayer impossible: ‘if you can’t pray, then pray.’ It may not seem very satisfactory, but it is still talking to the Lord who doesn’t require us to be raconteurs, regaling Him with stories and lengthy explanations about the situations and people for whom we are trying to offer some sort of prayer. He knows all we need and desire before we ask, but, all the same, He does like to be asked.
The key is perseverance. We must keep in mind the One with whom we are wanting to be in conversation. We must desire God. Only then, will we persevere in our efforts to pray. Remember Robert Bruce and his spider!
There will always be dryness, distractions and fatigue, but by putting one foot in front of the other, so to speak, we can keep going and shall find the Lord, who seems so elusive, as if playing hide-and-seek with us, but who does, I believe, wish to be found.
Meanwhile, plan to pray and make time to do so. Don’t look for results or try to manufacture emotions. Ultimately, prayer is a discipline and jolly hard work, but as all the saints, living and dead, know, it is well worth the effort. So, let’s keep trying to pray, no matter how badly we may feel we do it, and rather than praying for ourselves, let’s continue to pray for one another.
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Today’s Masses are celebrated using Fr Jerome’s ordination chalice. Cujus animae propitietur Deus. #oxfordoratory
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The Relic Chapel has had something of a lighting upgrade this week making more of the beautiful paintings and making it possible for those praying there to see what they are doing! #oxfordoratory
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Each week in November, we set aside a day that all Masses are for the repose of the souls of those names included in our November Dead List. To enter the names of your loved ones on this list, you can collect an envelope available from the back of church and return it with a list of names and an offering. Alternatively, you can submit names and your offering online. Click here to make your offering and type the names of those you want us to pray for in the box that says ‘Add a note’.
Oratory Young Adults meets again live and in person on Friday 30 October. #oxfordoratory
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We rely on your generous support to keep our church open. The traditional cash collection isn’t possible at the moment, so we’ve recently introduced some new ways of giving. This is a guide to how they work.
If you are a UK taxpayer, the gift aid scheme allows us to claim back from the government the tax you already pay on your donation. If you give us £4, the government gives us an extra £1. To do this, we need to be able to link your gift with your name and your address. The way we do this depends on your donation method, but we can still claim gift aid however you choose to give. It also ok if you’re registered for gift aid with another charity — there is no limit to how many charities you can register with for gift aid.
Our new contactless donation box is really easy to use. All you have to do is tap the screen with a contactless credit or debit card, and the Oratory will receive £5. If you want to, you can adjust this amount by touching the number and following the on screen instructions.
To claim gift aid on these donations, go to donor.swiftaid.co.uk/register and fill in your details. Swiftaid stores your card number securely so that whenever you donate using our contactless terminal, they recognise who you are and process the gift aid for us. No card numbers are ever passed on to the Oratory, either by the contactless terminal or by Swiftaid. That’s why, even if you have already registered for gift aid with us, you will still need to register with Swiftaid online to gift aid your contactless donations.
If you want to give the same amount regularly, this is the easiest way to do it. We don’t have to pay any fees on money we receive in this way. Pick up a standing order form from church (or request one from us), fill in your details and return it to us. If you are a taxpayer, all you need to do is complete the gift aid section at the bottom of the form. You can choose exactly how much you want to give, and whether you want to give weekly, monthly or annually. We process the form and send it to your bank. You’re in complete control, and you can cancel or change your standing order at any time by contacting your bank in the usual way.
Online Donations (PayPal)
You can make card donations online at oxfordoratory.org.uk/donate. You don’t need to be registered with PayPal to do this, but having a PayPal account should speed up the process. To gift aid your donation, all you need to do is tick the gift aid box. You can make a one-off donation, or you can set up a regular recurring donation by following the on screen instructions.
There isn’t a collection at the usual place during Sunday Masses at the moment, but a collection is taken at the door as you leave. There are collection boxes at the back of church that can be used during the week too. If you are a UK taxpayer, please put your offering in a gift aid envelope available at the back of church. Use a white envelope if you are just visiting, or complete a gift aid form and use a brown gift aid envelope, which saves you filling out all your details every time you give.
We are open for public Mass.
Services in bold are also streamed on our YouTube channel.
No booking is required to attend any Masses.
The current schedule is as follows:
Sunday 8:00 (EF), 9:30 (Sung English), 11:00 (Sung Latin), 12:30, 18:30
Mon–Fri 7:30, 10:00, 18:00
Saturday 10:00, 18:30 (Sunday Vigil)
Mon-Fri 20 minutes before each Mass
Saturday 9:00–10:00; 17:30–18:30
Under our temporary safety measures it is not yet possible to hear confessions on Sunday.
Vespers & Benediction Sunday 17:00
Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament Saturday 17:30–18:30
The church is not open outside Mass and confession times for now.