Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Smelly Dogs

Ever since the beatification of Cardinal Newman "Oratories" have been on the periphery of my vision. I have a love for St Philip Neri, all those wonderful stories of him: talking to that smartly dressed Spaniard, St Ignatius of Loyal and as he did so, pulling off his cassock buttons; turning "seeking humiliations" into a fun game by getting the young aristocrats of Rome to carry that smelly dog Capricio around Rome. He appeals to my sense of the subversive whimsicality. He even wrote a joke book, yet at the same time he could calm the rages of a Pope and was sought out to give his blessing to those going to their death on the English mission.
He was responsible for the reconversion of Rome, from a place that was so scandalously corrupt that it sent half of Europe off into heresy, to the resonating heart of the Counter-Reformation, no wonder he is called the Rome's third apostle. His sanctity solid inspired so much, not just founders of the then new religious movements: Loyola, de Lellis and others but also the artists that moved the church from the Medieval into the new world of the Baroque. His Chiesa Nuova was a landmark in architectural style and form, the development of the Oratorio, backbone of the pious youth he gathered around him was the inspiration of composers and poets, owed a great deal to him. In the same way his encouragement of the scholarly work of Barronius and so many others to give a new seriousness to Catholic scholarship. In all things he encouraged excellence, generosity, beauty and holiness, more than that he managed to unite them to the service of the greater glory of God, and so bring about a great resurgence in the Christian Church, that spread throughout the world.

When I was young the Brompton Oratory was regarded as almost the annexe of the Victoria Albert Museum next door, hanging on to a world and a Church that seemed to have passed. It stood out against liturgical practice of practically everywhere else, yet increasingly its style of worship seems to be becoming mainstream, mainly under the influence of Pope Benedict, who seems to reflect their own sensibilities. NLM reports the founding of a new Oratory in Cincinnati, not that common an occurrence but the founding of the Oxford Oratory two decades ago has had a significant on the growth of the faith in that city and university, the same could be said of the Oratory in Toronto too.
Without the London Oratory I am sure the glorious musical tradition of Westminster Cathedral would have been destroyed years ago. The three Oratories in this country have offered a refreshing vision of dynamic Tradition.

I am intrigued by, and welcome, the election of Fr Julian Large as the new Provost of Brompton Oratory to replace Fr Ignatius Harrison who for the past few months has been Provost of both London and Birmingham Oratories. Fr Julian's election is perhaps a sign that London is about to take a step further along the path of Pope Benedict's reforms and vision.
One of St Philips maxims was, "to seek to be unknown", it was his influence that was so important, in the same way that our English Oratories seem to have an influence, a leavening on the English church, let us pray it continues.


Mark Lambert said...

We were at Cheesy Nova in February and had a wonderful Mass in the side chapel:!/sitsio/media/slideshow?

Richard Greenstuff said...

Without the London Oratory I am sure the glorious musical tradition of Westminster Cathedral would have been destroyed years ago.

I think that's nonsense to be honest: the Oratory has virtually nothing to do with the Cathedral, relations aren't that much better than they were under Faber and Manning, and the musical traditions of the two places are poles apart (both are splendid but they are very different and the Oratory has nothing at all to do with the liturgy of the Cathedral, formally or informally)

Dr. Adam DeVille said...

I remember reading somewhere or other that when St. Philip was canonized in 1622 along with (if memory serves) Teresa of Avila and Ignatius of Loyola, Romans quipped that the pope had "canonized two Spaniards and a saint" that day!

Seaneinn said...

Amen Father, brick by brick

Fr Ray Blake said...

I agree, but..

I remember some priests at the Cathedral saying a number of diocesan clergy (and Liturgists) wanted to be rid of the choir, which was considered elitist, stopped the laity from joining in etc but the Cathedral clergy responding by saying if we did that most of our congregation would simply decamp to the Oratory which would gift the Oratory even more influence over those who liked that sort of thing.

It was competition rather than fraternal charity!

Veritas said...

In fact the greatest threat to the choir at Westminster Cathedral was the cost. When Cardinal Heenan died in 1975, the Archdiocese of Westminster was facing a great financial crisis - and axing the choir was one of the economy measures proposed.

Fortunately Cardinal Hume had more vision than some of the bean counters.

Amfortas said...

Yes, there are real liturgical differences between the Oratory and the Cathedral (the former majors on the OF with EF trimmings and the latter majors on the OF with few trimmings) but both set high standards musically. The sounds are different as the Cathedral, after all, has a choir of men and boys whereas the Oratory has a mixed adult choir. As for outlook - both liturgically and theologically - people may be surprised by the diversity of perspectives among Oratory clergy. And the younger clergy at the Cathedral are certainly behind the Pope's reforms.

Lastly, I do wonder if Fr Large will be a unifying leader. I recall one of his sermons leading to a walk out by some of the congregation. He has a tendency to be quite political which can be divisive.