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.

Thursday 18 July 2024

“It was well known in all Rome what a singular gift Philip had of exciting youths to the love of virtue and the desire of perfection. The Father Superior of the Dominicans in the convent of the Minerva repeatedly gave him his novices, that he might take them out where he pleased for recreation, confident of the fruit they would reap from his conversation: nor was he ever disappointed. Sometimes he took them to some agreeable place, where they stopped all day, and dined together on the spot. The holy old man took great pleasure in seeing them eat and be merry; and he used to say, ‘Eat, my sons, and do not have any scruple about it, for it makes me fat to watch you.’” (From the life of St Philip)

#oxfordoratory

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Wednesday 17 July 2024

Maxim-ising Our Spiritual Life (1)

My apologies for the title, which I could not resist. St Philip’s maxim for today is:

Nothing is more dangerous for beginners in the spiritual life than to wish to play the master, and so guide and convert others.

We often speak of the phenomenon of the “zeal of the convert” which itself is no bad thing at all. It is such an encouragement for those of us who have been Catholics for a long time to see others come to the faith and be on fire with real love for their newfound God. They have found that city of God on the hilltop of the Church which cannot be hidden, that light of Faith which cannot be placed under cover. We are very blessed in the large number of converts who come to the Church here each year and who become such pillars in the life of our community. They bring new perspectives and experiences, but also indeed that great and burning love for Christ which helps us all to rekindle anew our commitment to holiness and our own impression of the reality of our Faith.

There can sometimes, whether in terms of the Faith or the spiritual life in general, be the danger of wishing to run before we can walk. Our Faith is tried in the furnace of perseverance and this is what St Philip realised. This is why the Fathers and Brothers pray each day in Oratory for the gift of perseverance. At the beginning we take baby steps — we need to be held and supported, nourished and guided if we are to run the race for that imperishable crown. We do see in the Church today the danger of self-appointed “experts” and “influencers” who have ideas and opinions on every aspect of the Faith, whilst they seem to have very little grasp of what is really central to living Catholicism. It is not a good thing to proclaim ourselves experts if we can name every cardinal and cite Church documents, but still remain unmoved by the plight of the neighbour we are called to love after the pattern of Christ. We are not, any of us, called to become masters, but to become servants and friends — of God and of our neighbour. We must never seek to point to ourselves, but rather only to Christ. To “love to be unknown” as the great hallmark of Oratorian spirituality has it — “to love to be unknown” so that Christ can be known.

Hence the maxim of St Philip for 18 July:

Beginners should look after their own conversion and be humble, lest they should fancy they had done some great thing, and so should fall into pride.

We cannot give what we do not have. If we really are embarked upon the path of conversion and holiness then others will come to Christ and Church simply because of the influence that our life will have on others. This is what was true for Saint Philip — he sought to bring others to conversion through the influence he could have upon them, through the friendship he made with them, and by his own example — particularly of humility — to bring them to God and to holiness. St John Henry Newman our Cardinal wrote: “It would seem, in fact, that influence, whether secret or open, is the main driving force of the Oratory.”

What influence do we have upon others then — by our conversation, by the way we treat them, what sort of idea do we give them of how a Christian lives by the conduct of our lives? And if we are already adept at making friends and influencing people — do we make them friends of Christ and bring them under his influence? Our Lady is the great model in this: “My soul magnifies the Lord.” For us, who probably always feel as though we are just beginners in the spiritual life, it is first to ask what influence we allow God to have upon us, upon our lives. If he is that influence, that overriding, all consuming force that influences all we are — as he must be — then this alone will draw others to ask why we live differently, and please God, draw them to him who sets the path to Heaven before us.

We are celebrating the launch of our new edition of St Philip’s Maxims this summer by exploring some of those maxims together each week.


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 17 July 2024

Our picnic even had an egg and spoon race. #oxfordoratory

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Tuesday 16 July 2024

The Maxims and Sayings of St Philip Neri

Aware that he was in danger of being declared a saint after his death, in an act of humility, St Philip burned all of his writings towards the end of his life. He left no manual of holiness, no written guides to prayer, no summary of his spirituality. But that didn’t prevent those who knew him from collecting together all they could remember of what he had taught them. His early biographies are packed with his simple and effective advice for those determined to make progress in the service of God.

An English edition of St Philip’s maxims for every day of the year was first prepared by Fr Faber of the London Oratory in 1847. We have just reprinted a new edition of Fr Faber’s work, in the same size and style of the Oratory Prayer Book, and with the same attention to detail.

Those sayings of Our Holy Father, which have already shown themselves to be equally effective in 16th century Rome and 19th century England, are now presented with the aim of being as useful in our own day, for those who wish to pursue holiness under the patronage of St Philip Neri.

Available now, priced £8.95, from the Oratory Bookshop or click here to order online.

Tuesday 16 July 2024

Oratory Picnic in the Parks last Saturday.

#oxfordoratory

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Saturday 13 July 2024

July Music

Sunday 7 July Solemn Mass 11:00
14th Sunday of the Year
Missa Quarti Toni Victoria
Hortus conclusus Ceballos
Sive vigilem Mundy
Carillon de Wesminster Vierne

Sunday 14 July Solemn Mass 11:00
15th Sunday of the Year
Missa vulnarasti cor meum Morales
Laudate Dominum Mozart
Homo quidam fecit Mouton

Sunday 21 July Solemn Mass 11:00
16th Sunday of the Year
Missa Dormendo un giorno Guerrero
Laudibus in sanctis Byrd
Caro mea Guerrero
Allegro Maestoso Elgar

Sunday 28 July Solemn Mass 11:00
17th Sunday of the Year
Missa Brevis in D Mozart
Nisi Dominus Carissimi
Ave Maria L'Héritier

Saturday 13 July 2024

The Relic Chapel will be out of action in the coming weeks while the ceiling is repaired after a leak during the spring caused some water damage. The work is being done by the same excellent team from Cliveden Conservation who restored the murals in the sanctuary, so we are confident that you won’t be able to spot the repaired section when they are done.

#oxfordoratory

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Wednesday 10 July 2024

And on the seventh day…

Rest and relaxation are seen, sometimes, as the privilege of the well-off, or the care-free, or even the lazy. For those of us who have much to do, such a luxury as relaxation is just a far away dream we might attain to one day. But perhaps this is not the right way to view it.

In the Bible, from the very start, rest is built into the logic of the universe by virtue of the fact our creator rested on the seventh day — he did all his work, saw that it was very good and then rested. Paradise is portrayed here and there as a garden, a place of refreshment, and gardens are never enjoyed hurriedly. Some of the most evocative art portraying scenes from the scriptures show little moments — the woman at the well, rest on the flight into Egypt. And our Lord himself would frequently take time away in a quiet place to be by himself and pray to the Father. These are moments of retreat, but not retreat from any hardship or used as an avoidance tactic, but rather a retreat to the source, the place from where our strength comes and might be renewed again.

Many of the saints, too, found solace and renewal in a time of being away, in those desert moments, and in cloistered escapes. St Philip found his on the little loggia on the roof of the Fathers’ house, watching the birds darting around the Roman rooftops, or out in the cool quiet of the catacombs. He also found his recreation in the picnics and walks out into the countryside with his young friends, where food was shared along with words of holy wisdom and songs were struck-up under the stone pines and the cypresses.

If we are to be resilient in a world which will forever add to our to-do lists, and make further demands on our energies, and challenge those most fundamental aspects of our lives, we have to know how and when to return to the source, like a cool spring. Some quiet prayer is always essential, but so too is an escape, some time away with the laptop closed and the phone on silent, and maybe our rosary in our hand too. A quiet walk, a long sit under a tree, and if we are very fortunate, maybe even a time of retreat. Any and all of these can help to remind us that we are not alone, that it does not all depend on us, and that the one on whom it does depend can often be found in the stillness of a place apart, waiting for us.

And it is an anticipation of something greater. The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, refers to peacefulness, yes, but also to wholeness, safety, completeness. At the end of our earthly life, we pray that we will be welcomed into a place of refreshment, light and peace. Eternal rest is our prayer for our departed loved ones, and the desire for a perfect rest ends the Church’s night prayers each day. To anticipate something is, in some sense, to participate in it, and so if we can carve our some rest now, it is a little taste of heaven, and who doesn’t want that?

As the summer vacation begins for many people, perhaps it is a timely reminder not to make our holidays another source of stress, but to build in to them the kind of rest and relaxation that is a sort of retreat. Perhaps we should all try a bit more to use this time to seek the Lord in the quietness, to listen to his quiet promptings in our heart, and to just sit still with God. I don’t think any of us will be sorry if we try.


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Wednesday 3 July 2024

Thy Kingdom Come

St Paul famously tells us that our citizenship is of heaven (Phil. 3:20). That doesn’t mean that earthly politics doesn’t matter to us, but it’s not what we place our hope of salvation in. With a general election upon us, today seems like a day to remind ourselves that we belong to Christ’s Kingdom.

Someone once said that, during the course of Jesus’ trial, every political system is tried and found wanting. The religious leaders of the Jewish theocracy, the soldiers of the Roman dictatorship, Herod’s monarchy, the voice of the democratic mob all reject Christ as King. There is no perfect political system. Politics alone will not solve all the problems of the world, as we are warned in Psalm 145: “Put no trust in princes, in the sons of men in whom there is no salvation.”

Not trusting in earthly leaders doesn’t mean having nothing to do with politics. We still have a responsibility to do what we can to co-operate with God in bringing about that prayer we utter so many times a day, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It is our duty to vote in a way that puts God’s will into action. But we don’t honestly think that electing the right candidate at the general election will suddenly change the world and solve all our problems, do we?

There has never been a perfect prime minister. There has never been a perfect monarch. Not even Saintly King Edward the Confessor was perfect. Even religious leaders aren’t exempt. There has never been a perfect pope, and there never will be. The fact that Pius X and John Paul II have been declared saints by the Church does not mean that they never made a single mistake in their lives. No political system, no political or religious leader is perfect, because no human being is perfect. Well, except two — and that’s why only Christ is worthy to be the King of the Universe, and his mother to be Queen of heaven.

When we think that we can achieve perfect happiness for everyone through political action, we are trying to save the world through our own efforts. Like Israel in the Old Testament, we are forgetting that God is our King. And that’s going to lead to trouble.

Both our country and the Church have problems running through them from top to bottom, because they are both made up of fallible human beings. But instead of trying to fix things at the top and expecting the change to trickle down, our starting point for improving things should be ourselves. How can I make Christ King of every aspect of my life? If we all really did that, there wouldn’t be many problems left for politics to solve.


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Thursday 27 June 2024

A Meditation on Mark 10:17–22

Each morning, the Fathers and Brothers assemble in church before the early Mass, in order to make their meditation. At least to try to meditate, since, as in prayer, things do not always flow easily or spontaneously, especially if there are distractions around us. Usually, one would take a subject or an event from the Gospels, or some other spiritual book, and by staying with it for a while, make it the material of prayer.

A meditation is not itself a prayer. Evelyn Underhill described it as “a sort of technique which leads to prayer, turns our minds and hearts and wills towards God, and so helps our Communion with him.” So once our meditation has led us into some sort of prayer, it has done its job and we can move on and simply continue our conversation with God and our self-offering to him.

Of course, people do things differently. One thing suits one person’s temperament, while another method or system is more helpful to another. The first thing is to want God, and I do believe that the soul that wants God has God. Our meditation on some scene from the Gospel or words of Christ opens up a path and leads us into his presence, and then we are praying. It may not be the sort of rapturous or esoteric experience we were hoping for, perhaps, but since ours is an incarnational religion, we must remain, like our Lord, with feet planted firmly on the ground — in the concrete reality of our lives. For that is where the Lord Jesus comes to meet us.

So take a scene and picture it in your mind’s eye. What’s happening there? Who is present? What does our Lord do or say, and what message may be there for us? What is our response? By thinking about these things, we shall soon find ourselves praying — leaving the meditation behind — talking to God quite simply and from our hearts.

Try taking your Bible and go to Mark 10:17–22. There we read of the encounter of the Rich Young Ruler with our Lord. It starts so beautifully, doesn’t it? You can see Jesus on the road and the boy running to him and kneeling before him, drawn to the Master by that wonderful power of attraction, as iron drawn to a magnet. He recognises that Jesus has the words of Eternal Life, which everyone really longs to hear. And the boy, there on his knees, asks him the price of full life in God and for God. He’s not talking about what happens when he dies. He is thinking of the great consummation, when all the prophecies will be fulfilled in Messiah. The young man has already done all that would make him respectable. Since his youth, he tells our Lord, he has kept all the commandments of the Law. Yet, he remains unsatisfied, feeling that there is yet more to be done. Now, picture our Lord looking at him with love as he tells him the cost of discipleship: the price of friendship with God is an unreserved consecration, if you like, total self-abandonment. “A condition of complete simplicity, costing not less than everything.” (T.S. Eliot) Let go of everything that ties you here, “take up your cross and follow me.”

And so from meditating on the scene, we move on, without fuss, to prayer. What about us? Do we have these interior battles? Have we a sense that we could be doing more for Christ and that he is maybe asking more of us than we are currently giving? Are we merely respectable in our belief and practice? What are the possessions we might have to relinquish in order to be free? Somebody? Ambitions? Interests? Comforts? Anxieties? Self-chosen aims? We should pray for honesty and courage when facing these questions. What shall I do Lord? Take from me all that hinders me in paying the price you are asking of me. Cleanse my heart from all self-serving desires. Let me be content to follow you with an undivided heart. Let me do your work with a joyful and loving heart, going wherever you want me to go, acting always without self-interest, remaining your friend and loyal servant.

The story of the Rich Young Ruler is rather sad. There is no happy ending, at least, not in Mark’s Gospel. But maybe later, when he had matured in faith and understanding, he had run back to the Master a second time, now willing and able to make the sacrifice demanded of him, with a wholehearted act of generosity, believing that he would indeed be richly rewarded in the Eternal Life of the Kingdom.


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Thursday 27 June 2024

Men’s Oratory made the most of the summer weather in their meeting last night. #oxfordoratory

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Friday 21 June 2024

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A post shared by The Oxford Oratory (@oxford.oratory)


Wednesday 19 June 2024

Walking by faith and not by sight

Like many people, the Fathers and Brothers have greatly enjoyed watching Clarkson’s Farm, on the rare occasions we can gather together in front of the television. That entertaining depiction of the trials and tribulations of farming life gives a glimpse of what goes into producing the meat and vegetables that we take for granted on the shelves of supermarkets and butchers. It also shows the huge amount of knowledge our farmers possess: what is good and what is bad seed, how to prepare the soil, how to plough a field, when to plant, when to harvest, how to breed pigs and wean goats, how to build a dam and repair a wall, and much more besides. Farmers have a different way of looking at things to the rest of us: an old air-raid shelter turns out to be the best place to grow mushrooms, and that bit of rain that is a welcome relief from the heat of summer for most of us can spell disaster for the grain harvest. A farmer can look at piles of manure and see pound signs. Someone who is not a farmer will look at a seed and think that nothing much can come of it, but a farmer knows that with patience and the right conditions, that seed is his livelihood — and that a crop or a tree cannot be judged solely on the size of its seeds.

St Paul tells us to walk by faith and not by sight. Many people will think this is delusion or ignorance, that Christians close their eyes to the reality of this world and live with their heads in the clouds, focussed on some fantastic afterlife where everything will be put right. They accuse us of denying cold hard facts and science in favour of fairytales, trading vision for blindness and deluding ourselves that we have the better deal.

But the thousands upon thousands of hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, schools, soup kitchens build by Christians over two millennia are hardly the work of men and women who aren’t concerned with the problems of this world. Some of the greatest works of art and music and the most important advances in science have been created by people of faith. And the Christian faith makes for terrible fairytales: forgiving your enemies, confessing your sins, caring for the sick and defending the unborn, taking up your cross, dying to yourself.

To walk by faith is not to close our eyes. We see what everyone sees, and we see more. Like farmers. Or like Antiques Roadshow experts seeing artistry and value in what looks like old junk. Or software programmers making whole virtual worlds out of lines of numbers and symbols. Or a parent forever prizing the paintings and drawings of a child, seeing scribbles and blobs of colour — but seeing more.

So it is with the Blessed Sacrament. The priest speaks the words that Christ spoke and...nothing seems to change. The bread and wine look the same, weigh the same, taste the same. Nothing looks different, yet everything has changed. Faith sees what eyes and scales and microscopes and chemical tests cannot. Jesus Christ is present — body, blood, soul, and divinity.

And so is it with us. We walk by faith when we see the poor as more than a need to be met, or a problem to be solved, but as a privileged encounter with the risen Lord. We walk by faith when we recognise this world as more than something to be used and abused, but also as God’s gift to be treasured, preserved, and shared. We walk by faith when we see ourselves as more than a bundle of desires, more than customers, more than the sum of our failures and pains, but as coheirs with Christ and children of eternity. We walk by faith when we see the smallest acts of kindness and love as the seeds of the kingdom of God; and know that God’s reign comes in power through the seemingly insignificant actions of each one of us.

We see what everyone sees, and so we do not deny evil, but neither do we believe that evil has the final word. We proclaim the beauty of this world and thank God for the wonder of our lives, but we also know that in Christ we are meant for life beyond this. Though we live and move, draw breath and have a pulse, we have already died and been buried with Christ. And that although we will return to dust and be forgotten by men, we hope to live forever in Christ.

None of this is apparent, it is not obvious to the eyes. By faith, we see that we are more, much more, than we appear to be. So is this world, and so is the Kingdom of God.


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Monday 17 June 2024

Our second hand book sales have been a great success. Yesterday’s raised over £500 towards our building project, and new homes were found for some previously loved spiritual and theological reading. #oxfordoratory

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Sunday 16 June 2024

On Saturday our team from Oratory Outreach served lunch to 42 homeless guests in the Parish Centre. The lunch was to celebrate St Philip’s feast, and although a little late(!) it was enjoyed by all in the spirit of joy and friendship St Philip loved. #oxfordoratory

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Thursday 13 June 2024

Extraordinary Time

It seems as though we have been riding on an extraordinary wave of liturgical drama for a few months now. We have followed Our Lord through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection with Holy Week. We have looked up as he goes to prepare a place for us at his Ascension. And Pentecost then found us praying with Mary, his Mother, and the Apostles as the Holy Spirit descended and we were sent forth once more, on fire with the love of God to proclaim the Good News to all peoples. But the fun did not end there! We had the joy, which is ours year after year, to prepare for, and celebrate, the great feast of Our Holy Father Saint Philip ‘choicest of priests’ and then to return to the source and summit of our Christian life with the feast of Corpus Christi and the splendid procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the heart of our city. A few days after we had the glorious feast of the Sacred Heart — that annual reminder that God really does love us, and to commit ourselves again to try each day to love him back. In our parish we have had the baptism and reception of a good number of converts just last Saturday, our second ‘batch’ this year, and with more to come. Looking ahead there is still the feast of St Aloysius, as well as First Holy Communions. But just for now we find ourselves in the not-very-inspiringly-named Ordinary Time: the feasts are memory, albeit living ones, and the future awaits, but it seems just for now we are all of a sudden ‘back to normal’, whatever normal is.

In our city and university too change is afoot. The streets filled no longer with nervous-looking students wearing white carnations and hurriedly reading their notes before heading into their first exams. Now rather, there are only a few red carnations to be seen of the unlucky few who have to wait until the very end of term before the glorious freedom which comes with the much-anticipated final visit to Exam Schools. Now the roads are full of parents dutifully packing away the belongings of those who will always be children for them as the full expanse of summer stretches before us. The students will soon be replaced by the hoards of tourists who come from all over the world to look at their telephone screens in different locations, and so Oxford summer begins…

For us, as Christians, there is really very little in our life that is humdrum and ordinary. Every day is filled with the miracle of God’s grace at work in the sacraments and every time we lift our mind and heart to him in prayer. Every day is filled with nigh-on hundreds of opportunities to learn from the school of God’s love and then for us to be the instruments of his love to all those we meet each and every day. There are opportunities so often for charity, for gratitude, for simple kindness and consideration — as well as the times and moments which test us and help us to become saints, to be people who are patient, and pure, and compassionate, and all those things in which we seek to imitate Christ.

Here at the Oratory each and everyday is filled with the extraordinary — even when the vestments are green. There are the hundreds of people who come each week to receive the miracle of God’s mercy in the confessional. Three times, often more, each day, God himself comes down from Heaven as the Mass is celebrated — so truly, wonderfully, totally amongst us, and thence to feed hundreds with the Bread of Life in Communion. There he dwells, Love awaiting love, in the tabernacle as each day so many people come to him in our open church (7am-7pm each day) seeking consolation, blessings for themselves and for others, or simply to be with him, knowing he IS there. Children and converts are instructed and so the Good News takes root in hearts made new by the hearing of the Word, minds and hearts are nourished with the Truths of the Faith and go out, to our city and beyond with the joy of the Gospel in the School of St Philip to bid others, ‘Come and See’.

So you see, there is never a time that is ordinary for Catholics. It is often repeated (and rightly so because it is true) that we do not pray so much for miracles but for the grace to have the eyes to see them when they come. And here they are, here for each one of us, just waiting for us to see them and experience them and from thence to live each day in the supernatural life and love of God, in whose service all are kings.


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.
Saturday 8 June 2024

Today we confirmed ten adults, including four newly baptised and three received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church. Congratulations to them all, and a warm welcome to our new members of the Church! Our newly confirmed have been preparing since February in our second round of classes for adults this year.

Today’s feast of Mary’s Immaculate Heart is a celebration of the purity of her will. When the angel told her God’s plan for her, she said, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” And that was the summary of her life — she only ever wanted what God wanted. On this day, and for the rest of our lives, may she inspire us through her example and help us with her prayers to do the same ourselves, as some of us begin — and all of us continue — to do what she was privileged to do for longer than anyone else — to live with her Son here on earth.

Please pray for those who received the sacraments today, and those who are still on their way. Our next series of classes will begin in October. #oxfordoratory

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Saturday 8 June 2024

That thou would defend, pacify, keep, preserve, and bless this city,
we beseech thee, hear us.

#oxfordoratory

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Saturday 8 June 2024

A Prayer of St Cajetan for the City

Look down, O Lord, from thy sanctuary,
from thy dwelling in heaven on high,
and behold this sacred Victim which our great High Priest,
thy holy Son our Lord Jesus Christ,
offers up to thee for the sins of his brethren
and be appeased despite the multitude of our transgressions.
Behold, the voice of the Blood of Jesus, our Brother,
cries to thee from the cross.

Give ear, O Lord. Be appeased, O Lord.
Hearken and do not delay for thine own sake, O my God;
for thy Name is invoked upon this city and upon thy people
and deal with us according to thy mercy. Amen.

#oxfordoratory

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Friday 7 June 2024

I adore Thee, O my Saviour, present here as God and man, in soul and body, in true flesh and blood. I acknowledge and confess that I kneel before that Sacred Humanity, which was conceived in Mary's womb, and lay in Mary's bosom; which grew up to man's estate, and by the Sea of Galilee called the Twelve, wrought miracles, and spoke words of wisdom and peace; which in due season hung on the cross, lay in the tomb, rose from the dead, and now reigns in heaven. I praise, and bless, and give myself wholly to Him, who is the true Bread of my soul, and my everlasting joy. (St John Henry Newman)

#oxfordoratory

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