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.

Wednesday 19 January 2022

Growth in holiness

If we are to talk about holiness, we must first of all have a clear understanding about what we mean by it. I think I would say that it boils down to having a right relationship to or with God. Holiness is an interior state; yes, we may have certain outward devotional practices, or rules to help us, but these certainly don’t make us holy. Holiness, though it may be helped by things (prayers and devotions etc) is in no sense an outward thing — it is unseen, it is a relationship with God, which may be found in any state of life — providing, of course, it is one which is pleasing to the Lord. This was something the Oratorian Saint Francis de Sales stressed so beautifully in his Introduction to the Devout Life, where he wrote:

When God created the world He commanded each tree to bear fruit after its kind; and even so He bids Christians to bring forth fruits of devotion, each one according to his kind and vocation. A different exercise of devotion is required of each — the noble, the artisan, the servant, the prince, the maiden and the wife; and furthermore such practice must be modified according to the strength, the calling, and the duties of each individual. I ask you, would it be fitting that a Bishop should seek to lead the solitary life of a Carthusian? And if the father of a family were as regardless in making provision for the future as a Capuchin, if the artisan spent the day in church like a Religious, if the Religious involved himself in all sorts of business on his neighbour’s behalf as a Bishop is called upon to do, would not such a devotion be ridiculous, ill-regulated, and intolerable? Nevertheless such a mistake is often made, and the world, which cannot or will not discriminate between real devotion and the indiscretion of those who fancy themselves devout, grumbles and finds fault with devotion, which really has nothing to do with these errors.

No indeed, my child, the devotion which is true hinders nothing, but on the contrary it perfects everything; and that which runs counter to the rightful vocation of any one is, you may be sure, a spurious devotion. With the influence of true devotion, family duties are more peaceful, married love truer, service to our King more faithful, every kind of occupation more acceptable and better performed where that is the guide.

It is not only erroneous, but a very heresy, to seek to banish the devout life from the soldier’s guardroom, the mechanic’s workshop, the prince’s court, or the domestic hearth. Of course a purely contemplative devotion, such as is specially proper to the religious and monastic life, cannot be practised in these outer vocations, but there are various other kinds of devotion well-suited to lead those whose calling is secular, along the paths of perfection. Wherever we find ourselves we not only may, but should, seek perfection.

And we know that although the content of our Faith does not change, our way of thinking about it develops and changes as the years pass. Remember, perhaps, how years ago, a certain hymn stirred up great fervour and sentiment in you — yet now you sing it unmoved. We recall, maybe, how we had certain emotional experiences: when we looked at a particular crucifix or painting of our Lady, we might have had tender feelings towards them, but now feel quite differently. Is our devotion any the less? We might worry that that is the case, but it’s more likely that our tastes have changed, become more refined, or that we have moved on to another kind of experience. Because we do not experience what St Francis de Sales called “sensible consolation” doesn’t necessarily indicate lukewarmness or a lack of love on our part, only that the Lord is drawing us on by other means, wanting us to want Him alone, rather than what we can get out of Him. Someone once rightly put it: We shouldn’t seek the consolation of God, but the God of consolation. I recall Rabbi Blue once quoting another rabbi as saying: “I don’t want your heaven, I don’t fear your hell, I only want your God.” Not perhaps how I would have expressed it myself, only for fear of being misunderstood, but it gets to the nub of it. We are in the business of seeking the Lord for Himself rather than for any reward we may gain or through fear of any punishment we might merit.

The secret is to strain forward with eagerness to love God. St Thomas Aquinas was once asked by someone how could become holy. Thomas’s response was brief and to the point: “Velle”, or “Want it.” The will is of course involved — not mere good wishes, but a strong desire to be united with with God in Christ in a right relationship.

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Wednesday 12 January 2022


At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this new year 2022 got off to a rocky start, with two of the Fathers contracting COVID and having to isolate. But, while we are entering the third year of the pandemic, thanks be to God it seems to be burning itself out. This is evident in the return to something approaching normality in our lives in general: our national life, our work, family, and social lives, but especially in the life of the Oratory and our parish. A new year is always an opportunity to reflect on the past year, and give thanks to God for the many blessings and graces he has bestowed on us. It is also a time when we have to submit our annual pastoral statistics to the Archdiocese — so we thought we would share these with you too.  

In 2021 we baptised 32 new Christians and welcomed Julia, Alfred, Sara, Jemima, Beatrice, Catherine, Jayron, Gala, Francisco, Lyra, Michael, Aoife, Tulia, Theodore, Claudia, Emanuel, Nicolas, Billie, Amelia, Isabelle, Edward, Elva, Helena, Stephane, Alexandre, Jessica, Olivia, Eloise, Leo, Aubrey, Arthur, and Leo into the family of the Church. Axel, Dominic, Simon, Alexander, and the Wells family were received into full communion in the One Fold of the Redeemer. The Oratory has always been a popular church for weddings, and last year 16 couples began their married lives together in our church: please pray for Henry and Caroline, Sesismundo and Augusta, Robert and Philippa, Dominic and Iona, Donato and Agnese, Daniel and Amy, David and Patricia, Thomas and Jessica, Lewis and Katrina, John-Joseph and Emily, Jamie and Anna, Stephen and Gemma, James and Stephanie, David and Regina, Sebastian and Eden, and James and Anna.

With the lessening of the coronavirus restrictions over the summer, we were able to restart two of our groups for young people, Young Oratory and Gaeta. To great popular acclaim, Cafe Neri reopened after two of the Sunday morning Masses, and we are grateful to the 15 parishioners who helped make this possible. Unfortunately Cafe Neri has fallen victim to the latest COVID wave, but we hope to restart it again in the coming weeks. Our Lodge and Bookshop continued to provide an important ministry to the parish and to Catholics in the City, with thanks to Fr Benedict, Christine Johnson and the team of 20 Porters for their hard work and dedication in this regard.

The reduction of restrictions also allowed us to welcome guest preachers again, and celebrate some of the feasts of the year with more solemnity than in 2020. Bishop Robert Byrne came home to preach and celebrate Mass on St Philip’s Day, and we were very pleased to welcome the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. An old friend of the community’s, Cardinal George Pell, visited the Oratory and celebrated a special Mass of the Sacred Heart with us. In his homily, the Cardinal spoke of his time in prison and how he was encouraged and strengthened by the support and prayers of Catholics all over the world. Cardinal Pell was last in Oxford in 2009, when he said Mass for the intention of Newman’s beatification — how much has changed since then! Fr Benedict celebrated his first anniversary of ordination in September, and Fr Nicholas was ten years a priest in October. Please do continue to pray for vocations to the Oratory.

We were delighted to appoint Mr Rory Moules as Director of Music this year, after a competitive interview and audition process. Rory had been Acting Director for eighteen months or so, and we are immensely proud of him and our Oratory Choir. 2021 saw many musical highlights in our church, but I don’t imagine that any Catholic church in the country had more splendid music for the Paschal Triduum than us.

There was much to be thankful for in the wider community too. Like schools around the country, our parish school, St Aloysius, had to contend with online-learning, social distancing, class bubbles, and staggered start-times. The staff, led by Acting-Headteacher Hannah Duncan, must be commended for the amazing work they have done in keeping things going. This work was recognised and applauded in very successful Ofsted and Section 48 (Religious Education) inspections.

Our little Oratory and parish family here in Oxford was able to help a number of charities in Oxford and throughout the world through the generosity of parishioners. In total we were able to give £6,380 of “poor box” donations to the Oxford Food Bank, the Port Elizabeth Oratory’s township apostolate, Let the Children Live, the Father Hudson’s Society, Oxford Poverty Action Trust, the Santa Maria Eduction Fund, the Community Emergency Food Bank, Sobell House, and the Gatehouse. In addition, our crib collection raised £545 for Aid to the Church in Need, and the Lent Project for Mary’s Meals totalled £864. Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity. 

Our parish has always been unusual in that we have far fewer funerals than most. There can’t be many churches in the country in which more babies are baptised and couples married than parishioners are laid to rest. But we did say farewell to a number of familiar faces, members of our parish for many years, commending to the mercy of God: Charles Grant, Kathleen Batten, Eileen Healy, Christopher Adam, Michael Kaser, and Anthony (Tony) Cockshut. May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

And so the life of the Church of God goes on. This year we will be celebrating 400 years since the canonisation of our Holy Father St Philip, along with St Ignatius, St Francis Xavier, St Theresa of Avila and St Isidore the Farmer — “four Spaniards and a saint”, as the Romans joked on the occasion — and we hope to organise a suitable way of marking this anniversary, together with the Jesuits and Carmelites in Oxford. We will also be progressing with the next exciting stages of our renovation project, with more news and information to follow. 2022 will be another Year of Grace, dedicated to the Lord and under the protection and intercession of Our Blessed Mother, St Philip and St Aloysius.

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 4 January 2022

First Vespers of the Epiphany on Wednesday evening is cancelled.

Sadly, Bishop Robert will no longer be joining us for the Solemn Mass on Thursday for the Epiphany.

However, all Masses and devotions will continue at the advertised times this week, including the Epiphany Procession and Benediction for children on Saturday at 3pm.

Tuesday 28 December 2021

Unfortunately this morning one of the Fathers tested positive for COVID. He has not been in contact with any parishioners since Sunday, his symptoms are very mild, and he is isolating. The rest of the community has so far tested negative. Masses continue as normal until further notice, but please continue to check our website for the latest updates in case we have to close the church. The Fathers will continue to take all necessary precautions. Please pray for us as we continue to pray for you.

Saturday 25 December 2021

Happy Christmas!


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Thursday 23 December 2021

Our carol service last night concluded with Solemn Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

If you missed it in person, you can view the recording here:


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Wednesday 22 December 2021

Timing it right

We’re nearly at the end of 2021. It’s not the greatest year many of us have experienced, though perhaps not as bad as 2020. But even this year, like all years, is supposed to be a reminder to us of something more important. An event so important that all our years are counted from it. In three days’ time we will celebrate the 2021st anniversary of the birth of Christ.

Yes, we are probably out by a few years because someone didn’t add up properly somewhere along the line. And yes, even now, we can’t be 100% certain how far we’re out by. So just think how difficult it must have been to keep track of time in the ancient world.

Before people counted years since Christ’s birth, they had a number of other important events they used as reference points. And that pops up on Christmas Eve. There’s a book called the Martyrology that lists the feasts days and saints days that occur for every day of the year. And just before Midnight Mass begins, part of our celebration of Christmas will involve solemnly singing the entry for the 25th of December, which says:

When ages beyond number had run their course from the creation of the world, when God in the beginning created heaven and earth, and formed man in his own likeness; when century upon century had passed since the Almighty placed his bow in the clouds after the Deluge, as a sign of covenant and peace; in the twenty-first century since Abraham, our father in faith, came out of Ur of the Chaldees; in the thirteenth century since the People of Israel were led by Moses in the exodus from Egypt; in around the thousandth year since David was anointed King; in the sixty-fifth week of the prophecy of Daniel; in the one hundred and ninety fourth Olympiad; in the year seven hundred and fifty two since the foundation of the City of Rome; in the forty second year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus, the whole world being at peace, Jesus Christ, being eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to consecrate the world by his most loving presence, conceived by the Holy Spirit, after nine months had passed since his conception, in Bethlehem of Judah was born of the Virgin Mary, and was made man: The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

The Word was made flesh, God became a man, Jesus Christ was born at a specific moment in human history. This is not mythology that happened once upon a time. This happened at a particular time and in a particular place: in Bethlehem, 2021(-ish) years ago.

Why then? God could choose any time in the history of the world for his Son to be born. Why did he choose that one? The answer must be that there was something right about it. And this entry from the Martyrology seems to back that up.

In the forty second year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus, the whole world being at peace…

So it seems that this was the right time. The world was at peace. Everything was ready. The world was prepared to receive the Son of God.

Except that we know that’s not quite true. St John’s Gospel tells us: He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not (1:10–11).

And this peace wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. The Roman Peace was incredibly violent. There were constant uprisings and rebellions across the empire. It was a peace that forced on people all across Europe a culture that depended on slavery, abortion and infanticide. It was a peace founded on military might, and maintained through the constant threat of violent execution. And it’s in the middle of this world that Christ chose to be born.

I’m not sure I would want to be born into a world like that. Why did God think that was a good time for his Son to enter our world? We can be certain he didn’t make a mistake. This was the opportune moment. The world may not have been perfect. But it was ready.

So many people think that they’re not ready for Christ because they are not yet perfect. None of us is. But we can still be ready. If we wait until we are perfect to receive Christ, then we’ll all be waiting a very long time. If God had waited for the world to be perfect before entering it, he would still be waiting. The Son of God entered our world as a human being because, even at its best, our world is still broken. Even when the whole world is seemingly at peace, it’s obvious that the world — and all the human beings in it — need a Saviour.

That entry from the martyrology looks forward. When it’s sung, the final line uses the same notes that are used to sing the Passion on Good Friday. Christ’s salvation is won for us on the Cross. But even while he is a newborn baby lying in the manger, he is still solving so many of our problems. Because whatever else may still be wrong in the world, he is now in it, here alongside 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.

Tuesday 21 December 2021

We had a really generous response to the Gatehouse’s appeal for Christmas presents for the homeless in Oxford, which we delivered on Sunday. Thank you to all who donated gifts. #oxfordoratory

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Wednesday 15 December 2021

Christmas Mass Times 2021

Wednesday 22 December
Carol Service with the Oratory choir at 8pm
Free entry, all welcome

Friday 24 December — Christmas Eve
Mass at 7:30 and 10:00
Confessions 11:00–17:00
Sung First Vespers of Christmas at 17:30
First Mass of Christmas with carols at 18:30
The church is closed after Mass until 23:00

Carols and readings from 23:15
Midnight Mass at midnight

Saturday 25 December — Christmas Day
EF Latin Mass at 8:00
Sung English Mass at 9:30
Solemn Mass at 11:00
Solemn Benediction at 17:30
No confessions or evening Mass

Sunday 26 December — The Holy Family
Masses at 8:00, 9:30, 11:00 and 18:30
No confessions

Monday 27 December & Tuesday 28 December
Mass at 10:00 only

Friday 31 December — New Year’s Eve
Mass at 7:30, 10:00, 18:00
Solemn Benediction and Te Deum at 18:30

Saturday 1 January — New Year’s Day
Mass at 10:00 only
No evening Mass or evening confessions

Monday 3 January
Mass at 10:00 only

Saturday 8 January
Epiphany Procession & Benediction at 15:00

Before all weekday Masses
Saturdays 9:00–10:00 and 17:30–18:30
Sundays 7:40–8:00 and 18:10–18:30
Christmas Eve 11:00–17:00

Wednesday 15 December 2021

St Philip didn’t leave his sons a detailed rule of life to follow in the way that St Benedict or St Augustine did. Instead, the life of St Philip himself is meant to be our example.

But that’s quite hard when you think about it — so much of what St Philip did is impossible for us to copy, when we remember that his heart was enlarged with the Holy Spirit, and that he performed so many miracles, even raising the dead.

Today’s saint, Blessed Anthony Grassi of the Oratory in Fermo, set himself the task of becoming as much like St Philip as possible, with the result that in the end, he even began to look like him. But he managed to identify which elements of St Philip’s life are essential for us to copy…and which we can’t even try, unless God decides to grant us the same gifts he gave to St Philip.

“O Lord, hear our prayer and arouse in your Church that Spirit by which your priest blessed Antony unceasingly promoted peace among men and the beauty of your house. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”


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Wednesday 15 December 2021

The Coming of Our Lord

We hear a lot from John the Baptist in Advent. All the stories concerning him and his relationship with our Lord are presented to us. On one occasion, John sent his disciples to our Lord to ask, ‘Are you He who is to come, or are we to look for another?’ He did this not because he doubted in any way that his kinsman, Jesus, was the One. The question is more for the benefit of his own disciples. He had pointed out to them that here was the Lamb of God, and in case any doubted John’s gesture, he was sending them to explore for themselves. There were doubtless some among the little group who wanted John to be the Christ, and clung tenaciously to this view. However, this was an erroneous opinion, one which John, so just and honest, would have been quick to correct. So they went to Jesus and put their question to him, and received his answer. Are we to look for another? No, he says — we are not to look for another. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and furthermore, there is no name under Heaven or on earth, by which men may be saved.

Advent is about the coming of our Lord, and of his coming in several different senses. In the first part of this season, we have been made to ponder the strange, dark teachings of Jesus concerning the end times, the Judgement and the warning that, for all of us, the sands of time are running out. So we have some eschatological fireworks, interlinked with the dreary certainty of our mortality. But there is also, threaded through this, the bright and hopeful expectation of the coming of our Lord as a baby at Christmas. The Lord is coming and we are expected to jump up and run to meet him.

I think that many Christians aren’t really too sure what this means. How do we prepare ourselves for the Lord’s coming, both at Christmas and at the End, ‘when he shall come again to judge the living and the dead.’ The thought that the secret thoughts and actions of all will be laid open can fill anyone with a measure of dread. Perhaps this is because we fear what others might think of us were they to be presented with the completed and unvarnished truth about us. I think it only fair to say that come the dreadful day, we are most likely to be worrying about our own sins, rather than anybody else’s. Besides, is this what the Lord wants? He wants us to look forward to his coming with joy. You know how it is when you are awaiting the arrival of a family member or dear friend. The eager anticipation, with which you have made the necessary (and some unnecessary ones too, no doubt) preparations. You just want the visit to be perfect and enjoyed by all. Surely it is the same for the coming of Christ. True, we may have forgotten some provisions, but we have made the room spruce and clean. The important thing is to make joyful preparations. For us, it is a matter of getting our lives sorted: the spring clean of the soul, the sincere effort to conform ourselves to our Lord’s teaching and will, employing the gifts with which he was endowed us, which sometimes we leave lying idle around. For now, we must fix our hearts on him with whom true joys are to be found, and not lose sight of the goal and the prize.

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 13 December 2021

Welcome to Helen Birch, our new organ scholar! Helen will be working with and learning from Rory Moules, our Director of Music, at the Solemn Mass each Sunday for the next year.

Our organ scholarship was made possible through the gift of one generous benefactor. Find out more about supporting the work of the Oxford Oratory by becoming a friend:


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Saturday 11 December 2021

“Watch therefore—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.” (Mark 13:35–37)

Watchfulness in action before dawn this morning at the Rorate Mass.


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Thursday 9 December 2021


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Thursday 9 December 2021

Yesterday we welcomed His Excellency, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, Apostolic Nuncio to the UK to celebrate Mass and preach for the feast of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception.


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Wednesday 8 December 2021

Planning ahead

My childhood parish had a lovely custom of building the Christmas Crib throughout Advent. The first Sunday saw the stable and the first animals arriving. Then, as the Sundays of Advent progressed, more and more figures would be brought up at the beginning of Mass — the shepherds, the angel, St Joseph — until finally, Our Lady and the manger appeared on the last Sunday, ready to receive the Christ Child at Midnight Mass. Like the candles on the wreath, this practice helped to mark the progress of Advent, but it was also a visual reminder of what the season is all about: preparation for the birth of the Saviour. Just as the crib was gradually made ready, so we were reminded to prepare our homes and our hearts for Christmas: through prayer, through acts of charity and kindness, and especially in the Sacrament of Confession.

But this custom is also a representation of God’s saving plan in history. After the Fall, God gradually prepared his Chosen People for their redemption, through the Law and the Temple sacrifices, through the prophets and kings. And his final, and most wonderful, act in that plan — the last piece of the puzzle — was the mystery we are celebrating today: the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Our Lady, by a singular grace, was preserved from all stain of sin from the first moment of her creation, to be a worthy dwelling place for God’s Son. Free from all the foolish pride, arrogance, grasping greed, and self-centredness of sin that had afflict humankind since Adam, Mary was able to be so open to the Lord and his will, so trusting and so loving, that she was able to say “yes” to God and welcome his Son into her womb. With the Virgin Mary, “our tainted nature’s solitary boast”, God was able to complete his plan, and everything was finally ready for his coming into the world.

Our celebration of Mary’s Immaculate Conception gives glory to God for his plan of salvation and for the immensity of his love for her and for his sinful children. We honour Our Lady because in her God gave honour to the whole human race. But our calling to mind her “unsullied purity of soul and body” is also meant to help us prepare and purify our own souls for the feast of the Nativity of the Lord. Our Lady prompts us to look at ourselves, and see what in us needs forgiving, and healing, and strength; she helps us to know what in us needs saving so that we can welcome our Saviour when he comes.

Most Holy Virgin, obtain for us a deep hatred of sin, and purity of heart, so that our every thought, word and deed may tend to the greater glory of God. Obtain for us a spirit of prayer and self-denial, that we may recover by penance what we have lost by sin. Obtain for us the grace to share one day your happiness in heaven.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

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 4 December 2021

December Music

Sunday 5 December Solemn Mass 11:00
Advent II
Missa Veni Domini Lobo
Vigilate Byrd
Audivi vocem Lobo

Tuesday 7 December Solemn Vespers 18:30
The Immaculate Conception
Invitatory Croce
Ave maris stella Hassler
Magnificat octavi toni Victoria
O salutaris hostia Laloux
Tantum ergo Brough
Adoremus Laloux
Alma redemptoris mater Victoria

Wednesday 8 December Solemn Mass 18:00
The Immaculate Conception
Ecce sacerdos magnus Elgar
Missa Ave maris stella Victoria
Ave Maria a8 Victoria
Sancta et immaculata Croce

Sunday 12 December Solemn Mass 11:00
Advent III (‘Gaudete’)
Kleine Orgelmesse Haydn
O Sapientia Ramsey
Egredietur virga Handl

Sunday 19 December Solemn Mass 11:00
Advent IV
Missa Ave Maria Palestrina
Ave Maria L’Héritier
Alma redemptoris mater Lassus

Saturday 25 December Solemn Mass at Midnight
Christmas Day — Carols & Midnight Mass
A spotless rose Howells
Sing lullaby arr. Quinney
Bethlehem down Warlock
God is with us Tavener
Missa Sancti Nicolai Haydn
O magnum mysterium Lauridsen
Verbum caro Sheppard

Saturday 25 December Solemn Mass 11:00
Christmas Day — Mass during the day
Messe solennelle Vierne
Laetentur coeli Byrd
Hodie Christus natus est Palestrina

Wednesday 1 December 2021

One of the heads looking down onto our sanctuary is that of St Edmund Campion, who is celebrated today together with his fellow priest martyrs of the University of Oxford, St Ralph Sherwin and St Alexander Briant.

When he was finally caught and arrested, he was taken to London with the sign ‘Campion, the seditious Jesuit’ pinned to his hat. Here we see that the Jesuit fathers who built our church have omitted that particular adjective out of reverence to the saint.


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Wednesday 1 December 2021

Decking the halls

It may not have escaped your notice that Christmas decorations are out in force. In shops and schools, civic buildings and the high streets, trees and lights are bringing a cheery sparkle to these early nights. And it only the start of December.

In our house, growing up, there was always a certain excitement about the decorations being excavated from the loft yet again. Some were gaudy and brightly painted, others, made of glass, almost as thin as the tissue paper that wrapped them, had cherished stories of which grandparent had owned them, and still there were new purchases, adding to the hotchpotch collection. Advent has only begun, and trees perhaps shouldn’t really be appearing just yet — Christmas Eve is time enough — but the decorations should be a salient reminder to us rather than a cause of horror or stress.

The 17th century Venerable Fr Giambattista Prever of the Turin Oratory was noted for his outstanding growth in the virtues, for his gentle and charitable guidance of souls in the confessional and for his zeal in getting them into the box in the first place. But he was also notable for his creative ingenuity. “In the church too, which is the material, as souls are the spiritual temples of God, Father Prever exercised the zeal of his ingenious and ardent charity,” writes his biographer. He had an incredible desire to make the church beautiful, decorating it for feasts and celebrations with great care and, we are told, great taste. “Such was the perfection of his work and the beauty of the designs, that all were in astonishment, especially as a pair of scissors and a penknife were his sole instrument.” Sadly, no illustrations of his decorations are provided by the biographer.

For Fr Prever, the decorations he worked so hard to install were to attract the faithful to the feast, and were a gesture of devotion, making all beautiful to welcome the Lord who becomes present among us on the altar. They were expressions of that Oratorian conviction that beauty in art reflects the beauty that is in God and speaks deeply to our souls.

But the soul is the spiritual, where the church is the material temple of God. As we think about turning our mind to the decorations in our own home for the approaching feast of Christmas, as Advent has begun we ought to think about those spiritual temples of God which are our own, and how we might make them ready for the feast, to renew in them the welcome we have for our Lord by the beauty that is in them. For Fr Prever, and for us, Confession and a renewed zeal to avoid sin and practice the virtues must surely come first. The means are very simple — if Fr Prever managed so much with a pair of scissors and penknife, what might we allow God’s grace to do in 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.

Monday 29 November 2021

Our novena to Our Lady continues each evening, in preparation for the feast of her Immaculate Conception.


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