|What are the Historical Origins of
the Priestly Society?
|We take our inspiration from the
Congregation of the Oratory, which has a
long and distinguished history, tracing its
spiritual roots back to St. Philip Neri, who
was born in Florence in 1515. In his late
teens, St. Philip went to Rome where he
spent the rest of his life. He began to live a
solitary (hermetical) way of life, including
praying in the catacombs of Rome. He
eventually had a group of people who
gathered around him and began to pray
together, and for whom he held spiritual
conferences at the time when Europe was
being rocked by the Protestant Reformation.
| In 1551 Philip was ordained to the priesthood and went on to live at a parish church in Rome. It was from this
beginning that the Oratory, a mostly secular group at that time, grew into what is today a religious
congregation of priests and brothers.
The Oratory was seen by St. Philip as a means for charity , catechesis and evangelization. The holy Founder
envisioned that his Oratorians would live together under a Rule without being in vows, with the bond of an
Oratorian being charity alone. In The Excellences of the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, we
find the following description: "I do not know what end can be found more sublime than the one to which the
sons of St. Philip are called; for their vocation consists in three things, the highest and holiest which adorn
Holy Church: prayer, the administration of the sacraments, and feeding the people with the daily Word of God.
Even the Apostles themselves were not called to a nobler end."
The Oratorian way of life attracted many over the centuries. Eventually, through the great convert John Henry
Cardinal Newman, the Oratory arrived in England at a time when many Italian Oratories were being
suppressed. Nevertheless, Cardinal Newman sought to live out his priestly life in an effectual way and to
chose the Oratorian way of life as his own. Through Cardinal Newman's foundation of the Birmingham and
London Oratories, the Congregation went through a revival, having a deep effect, especially on the
English-speaking world. In addition to Cardinal Newman, the sons of St. Philip have proudly included Cardinal
Bronius of the sixteenth century, Father Frederick Faber of the nineteenth century, and the contemporary
liturgist, Father Louis Boyer of the French Oratory.
In many ways, our new Society has an orientation closer to that of the French Oratory than to the
Confederation of Oratories, in that our priests maintain diocesan incardination, rather than gaining
incardination into the Institute proper. Furthermore, ours is a Society of secular clergy, that is, we are not
Religious and, in this sense, similar to a Community like the Society of St. Sulpice.
Candidates for the priesthood who come to the Society prior to earning a bachelor's degree in philosophy or
classical languages, complete their studies at a suitable nearby Catholic university. Theological studies are
undertaken at an approved seminary readily accessible to the Society's Center of Formation and
We welcome inquiries from men between the ages of 17 and 30
|Father Peter M. J. Stravinskas