I have entitled this paper, “An Appropriate Patron for the Oratory in the Twenty First Century?” since, during the thirty years that I have been a member of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd, I have attempted (and perhaps now largely succeeded by the writing of two earlier papers) to restore more widely the honoured position of our once “lost patron”. Without doubt, this position remained solid in all other Provinces of the Oratory except in the European Province; this omission seems now largely corrected.
In the four years since the first of those papers was originally given, we have seen special devotions to our Patron being offered at the General Chapter in Walsingham in 2019, including the singing of our founder John How’s once well-used hymn “In Praise of Nicholas Ferrar”. The Hawarden College, meeting shortly after that 2019 gathering, kept our Patron with a special Mass during their Chapter and, in so doing, placed his feast day in December firmly back in the calendar of this Province. And, of course, in December 2020, with some of our Companions and Associates, the European Province met in a virtual day of special devotion and fellowship on Blessed Nicholas Ferrar Day.
In some ways, then, the task I set myself in seeking to restore devotion to our Patron has been achieved. However, one question that arose in presenting my second paper in December 2020 was how much we can regard Nicholas Ferrar as an appropriate patron for the Oratory of the current century? Is this patron, who was so honoured by our Founding Fathers in those far off pre-First World War days, still relevant to the world in which we live now; that is the question I seek to address in this current paper.
So to begin and in order to give some context, I shall rehearse some biographical history (based in large part on the helpful work done some years ago by Canon Patrick Comerford) to remind us of the man whose life was seen as influential enough to inspire our Founders to seek his patronage.
Nicholas Ferrar (1593-1637) was the guiding light of one of the most remarkable experiments in Christian community living in the history of Anglicanism. An English academic, courtier (even though a short-lived one) and businessman; he gave up his successful careers, was made a deacon and retreated with his extended family to the manor of Little Gidding in what was then Huntingdonshire, where they lived in a prayerful community.
He was born in London on 22 February 1593; his family claimed to be closely related to one Robert Ferrar, Bishop of Saint David’s, who was burned at the stake in Carmarthen on 30 March 1555, in the reign of Mary Tudor. The Ferrar family was wealthy and was deeply involved in the London Virginia Company, which had a Royal Charter for the plantation of the North American colony of Virginia. Nicholas Ferrar’s niece, indeed, is said to be the first child ever to have been named Virginia. His family home was often visited by leading adventuring and exploring figures like Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake.
At the age of four, Nicholas Ferrar was sent to school at Enborne, near Newbury, Berkshire, and is said to have been reading perfectly by the age of five. In 1605, at the age of thirteen (less unusual then than now), he entered Clare Hall, (now Clare College), Cambridge. He was elected a fellow-commoner at the end of his first year, took his BA in 1610 and was elected a fellow that year. While he was an undergraduate in Cambridge, he first met the priest-poet George Herbert, whose influence in his own spiritual life would be profound.
He may even have been considering an academic career as a Cambridge don; but Nicholas Ferrar’s constitution had been weak since his childhood, and the damp air of the Fens was bad for his health. By the time of his graduation, his health had become a cause for serious concern, and he was advised to travel to the warmer climate of continental Europe, away from the damp air of Cambridge.
In 1613, Ferrar obtained a position in the retinue of the Queen of Bohemia, Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King James I and wife of the Elector Frederick V. He left England in April, but by May he had changed his mind and left Court Life to travel alone. Over the next few years he visited Holland, some of the German principalities, Austria, Bohemia, Italy and Spain, and learned to speak Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish. He was very much the “Renaissance man”.
He studied in Leipzig and in Padua, where he continued his medical studies, and he broadened his religious education through meetings with Anabaptists, Jesuits, Oratorians of St Philip Neri and a number of Continental Jews. During this time, he recorded many adventures in his letters home to his family and friends. Finally in 1618 he is said to have had a vision that he was needed at home, and returned to England.
On his return, he was refused a Professorship at Gresham College, London (newly founded in 1597), thus ending any hope of an academic career. Meanwhile, he discovered that the family fortunes which had been invested primarily in Virginia were faring badly and were under threat. His brother John had become over-extended financially and the Virginia Company was in danger of losing its Charter. From 1619, Nicholas devoted much of his energies to the affairs of this troubled Virginia Company. By 1622, he succeeded his elder brother John as the company’s Deputy, becoming responsible for its day to day administration. In 1624 twin disasters struck; the company was dissolved and his brother John faced the threat of bankruptcy.
In 1624, Ferrar was elected an MP for Lymington, Hampshire, and in Parliament he tried to promote the cause of the Virginia Company. He also worked closely in the Commons with Sir Edwin Sandys, and together they were part of the parliamentary faction known as the “country” or “patriot party,” grouped around Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick, which seized control of the finances from a rival group, the so-called “court faction,” grouped around Sir Thomas Smith, also a prominent member of the Virginia Company.
In his pamphlet, Sir Thomas Smith’s Misgovernment of the Virginia Company, Ferrar accused Smith and his son-in-law, the Alderman Robert Johnson, of running a company within a company to skim off the profits from the shareholders. The argument ended with the London Virginia Company losing its Charter following a court ruling in May 1624.
This turn of events convinced Nicholas and the family that they should renounce worldliness by leaving London and devoting themselves to a life of godliness. At the age of thirty three, Nicholas abandoned his successful political and commercial careers to move to found this community of prayer. He retired finally from Parliament in 1625 and bought the deserted manor and village of Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire, a few miles off the Great North Road, with the added financial support of his mother, Mary Ferrar.
On Trinity Sunday 1626, Nicholas Ferrar was made a deacon in Westminster Abbey by William Laud, then Bishop of Saint David’s and later Archbishop of Canterbury, although Nicholas made it clear that he would not proceed to the priesthood. When he had been ordained, Nicholas pledged: “I will also by the help of my God, set myself with more care and diligence than ever to serve our good Lord God, as is all our duties to do, in all we may.”
The first thing his widowed mother did at Little Gidding was to enter the church for prayer, ordering it to be cleaned and restored for worship before any attention was paid to the house. The Cambridge metaphysical poet and sometime vicar of Little St Mary’s, Richard Crashaw (c1613-1649) described Mary in her “friar’s grey gown” as “the gentlest, kindest, most tender-hearted and liberal handed soul I think is today alive.” Mary Ferrar and the extended family and household, about thirty to at times forty people in all, moved into the manor house, and Nicholas became the leader and spiritual director of the community.
This was one of very few experiments (though not the only one) in living a regulated common life in the Church of England between the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII and the revival of religious communities that came about with the Oxford Movement in the 1840s. The household was centred on the Ferrar family: Nicholas’ mother Mary; his brother John Ferrar and his wife Bathsheba and their children; and his sister Susanna, her husband John Collett and their children.
They restored the abandoned little Church of Saint John the Evangelist for their use. The household always had someone at prayer and had a regular routine. They read the daily offices of the Book of Common Prayer (that of 1604; based largely on that of 1559) and also read the complete Psalter each day. Day and night, there was always at least one member of the community kneeling in prayer before the altar so that they might keep the Biblical injunction to, “Pray without ceasing”.
They fasted with great rigour, and in other ways embraced voluntary poverty, so that they might have as much money as possible to give away for the relief of the poor. Inevitably, the life of the Ferrar household was strongly criticised by the Puritans, and the community was condemned by William Prynne in a series of scurrilous pamphlets as “an Arminian Nunnery.” However, the family never lived a formal religious life at Little Gidding; instead, this was a family living a Christian life in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer (rather as Cranmer had always envisaged) and according to High Church principles.
The community members looked after the health, welfare and education of the local children, and Nicholas and his family produced Harmonies of the Gospels (one now held at the Houghton Library at Harvard and available to view digitally). The community wrote various other books and stories on different aspects of Christian faith and practice, and many members of the family also learned the art of calligraphy and illumination.
The family community attracted much attention and was visited by King Charles I. He borrowed a copy of the Gospel Harmony and only returned it several months later in exchange for a promise of a new Harmony to give to his son, the future Charles II. (Charles II never received the finished version promised to his father in 1642, and for many years it was lost. It was rediscovered walled up in a secret cupboard in an English country house in the early nineteenth century; in 1953 it was presented to Queen Elizabeth II).
Nicholas Ferrar, who never married, died on 4 December 1637 at the age of just 45. He was buried outside the west door of the church in Little Gidding. His extensive papers are held at Magdalene College, Cambridge.
The question of why he was selected as the original patron for the Oratory was examined in my paper “A Patron: lost and found”; but it is important to note here that this is a question that has been raised in the past in the two Histories. In writing the first History of the Oratory we note that Henry Brandreth records that,
“Eric Milner-White had also been studying the life of Nicholas Ferrar of Little Gidding, who may be regarded as the precursor of the modern religious life (sic) in the Church of England. In December 1913, the brethren went for some ten days of common life at the farm at Little Gidding, and held their services in Nicholas Ferrar’s little church. The rudiments of a constitution were drawn up at this time, which came to be known among the early brethren as “the Provisions of Little Gidding”.
The Oratory has always had an especial devotion to Nicholas Ferrar, commemorates him annually on December 4th, the day of his death, and honours him as patron of the Society. It is fitting that the statue of him which once stood in the chapel of the Oratory House in Cambridge is to be placed in the new church of Nicholas Ferrar on the Arbury Road Estate, Cambridge, in a parish staffed by members of the Oratory…”.
We have also noted that our Australian brother, Ron Henderson, said in the more recent history of the Oratory of the Oratory by George Tibbats, “It should be said also that we have never claimed a particular kinship with Saint Philip Neri. Saint Philip, citizen of decadent Rome, striding its thoroughfares, washing the feet of the pilgrims and nursing their sick, leading his young followers on all-night peregrinations and vigils, teaching them and hearing their confessions, he of the miraculous inner warmth; he was not chosen or commemorated as patron by the brethren of our society. We tell rather the story of a scholarly celibate gentleman who retires with his family to a country manor, who orders the details of his community with a strict and regular asceticism, following the formularies of the Book of Common Prayer, obedient to his bishop and his king.”
“But he was also keen to preserve and explore the Catholic heritage of community life, the daily offices of prayer, and praise, the pattern of Benedictine work and prayer, rooted in the psalms and the gospels. in holding these togetherhe was recovering and preserving what he called, ‘The right good old way’”.
I have suggested in my paper “Truths among the Trends; Trends among the Truths” that the anti Roman Catholic sentiment that was prevalent at the time of our founding (in the same week as the very public conversion to Rome of most of the Benedictines of Caldey Island) might have in some way influenced the choice of such a safe Anglican patron; this seems most likely. However, another key document that was largely the literary work of Nicholas Ferrar’s greatest advocate among the Founders, Eric Milner-White, points to a much more positive reason for his patronage. That document (in an updated form) remains with us to this day and that is the Seven Notes of the Oratory.
Before I examine the links between the Seven Notes and the Patron, it is important to answer here a major question that hangs over Nicholas Ferrar’s reputation due to his financial links with the London Virginia Company and the uncomfortable question of slavery. This question was raised after my last paper and it has led me to spend some months examining the archival material still available.
To begin, the question of slavery and human trafficking does not really occur in the early history of British colonial involvement in what became the Commonwealth of Virginia. However, there are two issues that must not be ignored; that of “enforced conversions to Christianity” and also the relations, both financial and political, with the Native American Tribes in that area.
The governor of the then colony of Jamestown, Sir James Gates, was given instructions on 20 November 1608 from the London Virginia Company that called for a forcible conversion of Native Americans to Anglicanism and their subordination to the colonial administration. Not all conversions would have been “enforced”; there is the notable case of Pocahontas (c1597-1617) who was baptised as “Rebecca”, married a tobacco planter called John Rolfe, was widely fêted at the court of King James I as a princess, and died tragically of disease in Gravesend.
Politically, in 1622, the Second Anglo-Powhatan War erupted; its origins are still disputed. English apologists at the time for the Virginia Company say that the tribal chief Opchanacanough (1554–1646) initiated the war. However, Robert Williams, a prominent Twenty First Century Native American law professor, argues that Opchanacanough had already secured concessions from Governor Yeardley which the Company would not accept. Thus, Opchanacanough’s attack, on 18 April 1622, may have been a pre-emptive attempt to defeat the colony before European reinforcements arrived.
In about a day, the Powhatan killed 350 of 1,240 colonists, destroying some outlying settlements. The London Virginia Company quickly published an account of this attack. It was steeped in the popular Calvinist theology of the time: the massacre, they thought, was the work of Providence in that it was justification for the destruction of the Native Powhatan, and building English settlements over their former towns. New orders from the London Company directed a “perpetual war without peace or truce” “to root out from being any longer a people, so cursed a nation, ungrateful to all benefit(te), and incapable of all goodness(es).”
Within two years, the Crown took over the territory in 1624 as a Royal Colony. This was, as we have seen, the situation that led to Nicholas Ferrar entering Parliament in order to promote the cause of the London Virginia Company; and, of course, it led ultimately to the financial situation that caused him and his family to renounce their life of worldliness and to retire to Little Gidding.
We have no reasonable way (at least from extant archival material) of knowing exactly how much Nicholas Ferrar would have known of these religious attitudes towards the Native Americans or of the subsequent events that were part of the history of Virginia and the London Company’s dealings there. His subsequent life at Little Gidding, however, showed him to be very much out of tune with the prevailing Calvinistic attitudes in the Church of England at the time as did his choosing to be made deacon by (Arch)bishop William Laud, that leading High Churchman of the period. Indeed the community at Little Gidding were called Arminians after the Dutch reformer Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). Interestingly, his followers believed in the love of God for all people, Christian and non-Christian alike.
We also know that when Nicholas Ferrar’s father (of the same name) died in 1620, he left in his Will £300 (a figure of nearly £90,000 in modern terms) towards the building of a college for Native Americans in Virginia that they “may be persuaded that it is not the intent of our nation to make their children slaves, but to bring them to a better manner of living in this world and to the way of eternal happiness in the life to come”. But, we know, the Ferrars and their views had enemies within the company; in 1616 Deputy Governor Samuel Argall decreed “no trade nor familiarity with the perfidious savages, lest they discover our weakness.”
And there is clear documentary evidence that Nicholas Ferrar was opposed to slavery in principle. His archives contain a sixteen page pamphlet, mentioned earlier, indicting King James’s supporter Sir Thomas Smith, entitled ‘Sir Thomas Smith’s Misgovernment of the Virginia Company’, which was only published in 1990. In it, Nicholas alleges that one Dr John Woodall had bought some Polish settlers to Virginia as slaves, selling them to the then governor Lord de la Warr. He also claimed that Smith was trying to reduce other colonists to slavery by extending their period of indenture indefinitely beyond the accepted seventh year. In this, Nicholas Ferrar was 150 years ahead of his time, as the antislavery movement did not really get under way until the 1770s.
It is enough, perhaps, to acknowledge and to be aware that the Company, from which his family gained some of its wealth and for which Ferrar at times worked, operated under a philosophy and practices that today would rightly be unacceptable and abhorrent. But to suggest that Ferrar is not an appropriate patron in our age due to his family’s financial background would, perhaps, be equally unreasonable as to suggest that the hymns of John Newton might no longer be sung in church as he was once a slave trader (“Amazing Grace” might pass muster as it was written after his conversion but “How sweet the Name” would not?), or indeed that we should not read the writings of St Paul as he had once been a persecutor of the Christian Church. Equally it would be inappropriate for us as a community not to acknowledge with penitence that he did have involvement in a Company whose dealings with Native Americans in the Virginia colony were often totally unacceptable.
Equally one can ask whether his position as a man of some wealth and intellectual standing makes him less appropriate than he might have been to our Founders who were mostly from “modestly comfortable” middle class and academic backgrounds? On this question one might well look to the wise words of both William Barclay and C K Barrett (and more recent commentators, Paul Ellingworth and William Mac Donald) in their respective Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians where they make note of the “saving” letter “M”. They all points out that St Paul does not say, “ For consider your calling, brothers: not any of you were wise according to worldly standards, not any were powerful, not any were of noble birth”, but rather he does say, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth”! (1 Corinthians 1:26).
I suggest that our Founding Fathers looked rather to the life at Little Gidding not only in seeking his patronage but more pertinently in composing the original Seven Notes of the Oratory (These appear in both original and later forms as a footnote to this paper). They might very well be in some ways a biographical sketch of the man whom they chose to be our Patron back in 1913.
In the Notes we surely find clear echoes of that life at Little Gidding lived by Nicholas Ferrar and his family four centuries ago and by which we each, professed, companions and associates, seek to mould our lives within the Oratory of the Good Shepherd. Here in the Oratory we find Fellowship in “a true Christian family” united in its “mutual love and service”. Here we find our Liberty to use our gifts for God and His people (as he did as a deacon and not as a priest). Here we find a life of true Christian Stewardship (both materially and in terms of talent) and Labour of the Mind, shaped to us each as individuals and not imposed upon us in any form of conformity.
Here in the Oratory too we find a true Love that makes for Peace, ensuring that we all remain involved in matters of both Church and State and not isolated emotionally. Even though Ferrar and his family seem, at first glance, to have been isolated at Little Gidding; they were not. They remained very much involved in the local area in terms of worship, education, medical assistance and indeed whatever gifts they had of which to be open and generous stewards.
In the Notes too we find what we need of Discipline to live our Christian calling within the family of the Oratory until we are called home in Joy as Ferrar was, and as we pray we all shall, having heard that blessed voice, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”.
Just as our dedication to Our Lord the Good Shepherd continues to draw people, in our day, to seek to live out their Christian lives within the Oratory family, so too our Patron continues to speak of a life shaped by the same Seven Notes that are so key to all of our vocations, whether we are professed brethren, companions or associates. We are each, in our own way, seeking to follow in the footsteps of the One whose shepherding remains not only “good”, but “beautiful” and “attractive” not only to us but to those to whom we seek to minister (cf ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός John 10:11).
And in our Patron, we still have someone who is not only very much appropriate for us in our day, but still inspirational in his way of living his Christian life; as inspirational today as he was to our Founders over a century ago. He, like our departed Brethren for whom we pray each day, is urging us ever on by his prayers and example to live “the right good old way” in fellowship always with Our Lord, Who is Our Good Shepherd. So, Blessed Nicholas; pray for us.
THE SEVEN NOTES OF THE ORATORY
The aim of the Oratory is the adoration of God in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the imitation of his most holy life. Its fellowship and discipline are intended to encourage and direct its members in achieving this aim. Their membership will remind them that they can carry out their vocation of worship and service only in communion with the Good Shepherd and in the power of the Holy Spirit. They will seek in the Oratory these blessings for themselves and will order their lives for the strengthening of their brethren in accordance with the Notes which
The first note of its life is fellowship. Individual members will endeavour to merge their lives in the corporate life of the Oratory, so that they will feel incomplete without it and the Oratory incomplete without them. Brethren will find and maintain in the Oratory a true Christian family in love and mutual service. Each member’s work will be an element in the work of the whole. Members will seek the advice of the Oratory in meeting personal problems and difficulties, and in undertaking additional or new work, the corporate life of the Oratory and the College will be taken into account. Brethren must be prepared for criticism as well as encouragement when they ask for advice. The corporate life of the Oratory will be expressed in the common observance of the Rule, in the sympathy of common work and in the daily fellowship of prayer and sacrament. This fellowship will be deepened by understanding and affection between the Colleges, so that the whole Oratory may grow into a holy temple in the Lord.
The Oratory will allow full scope for the development of individual talents while insisting on fellowship as the first note of its life. It will encourage its members to develop their personal gifts and thus to enrich the offering laid at the feet of Christ. The same liberty will be claimed for an Oratory College as for an individual.
Members of the Oratory will always strive to regard material possessions, as well as spiritual and personal gifts, as a stewardship of wealth to be consecrated to the service of God. Brethren are not required to renounce worldly possessions or to surrender positions of influence or moderate comfort, but they are required to render an account of their stewardship, and if necessary the Oratory will criticise or condemn.
4. LABOUR OF THE MIND
Its birth in a University and the learned tradition in religious communities give the Oratory a duty of thought and study. Members will endeavour to worship God with their minds as well as with heart and soul. They will be fearless in following truth, and will constantly try to express it, so that Christ may be fully presented as thought and word allow. They will have a private rule of reading. Each brother will seek according to his ability to bring new thought and knowledge under the discipline of Christ, and to interpret them to a better understanding of the loving purposes of God.
5. THE LOVE THAT MAKES FOR PEACE
The foundation of Oratory life will be that mutual love which has always been the essence of community life in the Catholic Church. The unfailing love of its members one towards another will be increased by extending this love to all men, whether within the Church or without it. Members will have a concern for living interests and problems in Church and State, and in discussing opinions which differ from their own will avoid harsh judgments. Brethren must try to understand these differing opinions, in the hope that they may help to restore the unity of all Christian people in the spirit of charity and peace. They will recognise in all men those for whom Christ died, and will treat them with the courtesy and reverence due to his great love.
Members of the Oratory are men under authority, pledged to assist in maintaining its common discipline. They will be particularly careful in the practice of internal discipline and surrender to the will of God, which it is the purpose of the Oratory to assist them to attain, and in submitting to the degree of corporate control demanded by the Oratory and their College. Each brother will have a share in the formation of that common mind, and will accept it in a spirit of love and loyalty, and in confidence in the combined experience of the whole fellowship. It is his duty to see that his own contribution to the corporate mind of the Oratory will strengthen the authority of the whole society over individual members.
Members of the Oratory will regularly make thanksgiving to God for his love until thanksgiving be spontaneous and perpetual. They will be regular in recreation; they will avoid anxiety and fuss; they will disown discouragement and depression, and check all complaint and bitterness as destructive of the brethren’s joy as well as of their own. They will accept gladly their share of weariness and sorrow in the joyful spirit of the saints, and the faithful following of him who for the joy that was set before him endured the Cross. They will welcome any labour or sacrifice which will minister to the joy of others, looking toward that most blessed voice, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”.
THE SEVEN NOTES OF THE ORATORY Before 1975
The aim of the Oratory is the adoration of God in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the imitation of his most holy life. Its fellowship and discipline are intended both to direct and to encourage the attempt of its members in achieving this aim. Whether they be priests to laymen, their membership will remind them that only in communion with the Good Shepherd and by the power of the Holy Spirit can they carry out their vocation of worshipping the Father and of ministering to the flock of Christ. And as they will seek in the Oratory these blessings for themselves, so they will not fail to acknowledge their duty so to order their lives that they may be for the strengthening of their brethren.
These ends all the notes now to be described will subserve.
The first note of its life will be Fellowship. The individual member will so strive to merge his life in the corporate life of the Oratory, so that he, for his part, will feel that without the Oratory and its fellowship his life would be incomplete. He will strive to find and to maintain in the brother hood of the Oratory a counterpart of the true Christian family in love and mutual service. Personal interest will be subservient to the corporate; the work of the single member will be but an element in the work of the whole. A member will not fail to seek the counsel of the Oratory, not only in meeting personal problems and difficulties that may arise, but also in undertaking additional or alternative work, and in reaching a decision the need for maintaining the corporate life of College and the whole Oratory will be taken into account. As he will often find in such counsel encouragement and approval, so he will also be prepared to receive criticism, reproof or restraint.
The corporate life of the Oratory will find its expression in the common observance of the Rule, where possible, in the daily fellowship of prayer and sacrament and in the sympathy of common work. Moreover, the fellowship of individual members with one another will be deepened by frank understanding and affection between the various Colleges, that the whole Oratory, fitly framed together, may grow into a holy temple in the Lord, being builded together for an habitation of God.
Whilst insisting on fellowship as the first note of its life, and this calling for a high degree of self-effacement in each of its members, the Oratory will at the same time allow full scope for the development of person al gifts. It will foster individuality that it may have the greatest treasure in which all its members share, and a rich and varied offering to lay at the feet of Christ. As this liberty is claimed for the individual, so also will lit be claimed for an Oratory College.
As in the case of spiritual and personal gifts, so also in the case in the case of material, the Oratory and its several members will ever strive to regard the possession of these as a stewardship of wealth, to be consecrated to the wider service of God. Though the Oratory does not require its members to renounce possessions in the world, or to surrender positions of influence or moderate comfort, it will yet require each member to render an account of their stewardship, and if need be, it will boldly criticize or condemn.
4. LABOUR OF THE MIND
The ancient tradition of learning in religious communities, and the many questionings of the modern intellect, and its own birth in a University, combine to give the Oratory a special duty of thought and study. Its members therefore will labour deliberately to worship God with all their minds no less than with all their heart and with all their soul. They will love truth and will be fearless in fowling it. Not only will they have a private rule of reading, but they should also make constant effort to improve their powers of so that Christ be presented by them as fully and richly as thought and word allow. Believing wholeheartedly in the Spirit’s guidance of the Church in the present as in t he past, they will, in addition to their theological reading, watch for His influence in the work of thinkers whose calling it is to study the nature of the world and the mind of man; and each according to his ability will seek to bring new movements of thought and increase of knowledge to the light of the revelation of Christ, and to interpret them to the better understanding of the loving purposes of God.
5. THE LOVE THAT MAKES FOR PEACE
The foundation of the whole life of the Oratory will be that spirit of mutual love which has always been the motive and the glory of community life in the Catholic Church. But the unfailing love of its members one towards another, and their very power of love, will be increased by extending such a spirit towards all men, whether within the Church or without it. They will avoid quick or harsh judgement both in mattes which touch their own personal feeling and in those which concern living interests in Church or State. The Oratory forbids them absolutely to speak ill or slightingly of other Christians and their convictions. Rather it expects that members will strive to understand the principles of those whose opinions differ from their own, in the hope that they may help according to the grace that is given them in restoring the unity of all Christian people. They will refuse to encourage or to employ arguments which tend only to harden difference, and when forced to take part in controversy will above all things seek to maintain the spirit of charity and peace. In all men, known or unknown to them, they will form the habit of recognising hose for who Christ died, and will treat each with the courtesy and reverence due to His great love.
Members of the Oratory will bear in mend at all times that they are men under authority, pledged by their membership both to accept and to assist in maintaining the common discipline of the Oratory. The wide measure of liberty which the rule allows in regard to personal life and work will render them particularly careful both in that practice of internal discipline and surrender to the will of God, to which it is the purpose of the Oratory to assist them to attain, and also in submission to that degree of corporate control which the Oratory and their College demand. In submitting to the Superior or prior, they will recognise that they are submitting to the corporate mind and will of the Oratory as a whole, not to an individual. In the formation of that corporate mind and will each Brother has a share: and each will endeavour to accept it in a spirit of love and loyalty to his fellows an confidence in the combined wisdom and spiritual experience of the whole fellowship. He will further recognize that it is his duty to see that his own contribution to the corporate mind of the Oratory is such as to strengthen the claim of the whole society to exercise authority over individual members.
The seventh note of the Oratory shall be that of Joy. Its members will ever remember how St Francis and his fellows were enabled to fulfil a hard mission themselves, and to attract countless souls to Jesus in the power of joy, as the troubadours of God. A member of the oratory will regularly make thanksgiving to God for His love until thanksgiving be spontaneous and perpetual. He will be regular in recreation; he will particularly avoid anxiety and fuss; he will disown discouragement and depression; he will check complaint and bitterness of all kinds as destructive of the brethren’s joy no less than his own. Furthermore, he will try to accept gladly his share of weariness and sorrow, in the joyful spirit of the saints, and the faithful following of Him who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross. And finally, he will welcome any labour or sacrifice which will minister to the joy of others, but looking only toward that most blessed voice, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”.