A Brief History of the Oratory

Edward Wynn (Founding Father and Superior.jpg
Bishop Edward Wyn OGS, Founding Father and Superior

The Oratory began in 1913 as a group of Cambridge (England) College chaplains, who were looking for some form of disciplined life in the comfortable circumstances of the University of those days. The first World War interrupted things, but afterwards they came together again, meeting at Little Gidding, the site of Nicholas Ferrar‘s community in the seventeenth century. The Notes were compiled and the way of life devised. There is much debate over what groups influenced the Oratory in its conception but, in essence, the Life of OGS is sui generis.

Until 1939, some of the brethren lived in the Oratory House in Cambridge, where they were joined by research students and others. In 1939 the Oratory House was passed on to the Society of St Francis, since when the Oratory has had no permanent base – although, for a season, St Deiniol’s Library in Hawarden functioned as the centre of Oratory life. On occasion two or three brethren have lived together when staffing a parish, and the Oratory Manual makes provision either for brothers to live together or to live a common life in dispersion.

Among its members have been Fr Alec Vidler, a noted liberal scholar, and Fr Eric Mascall, a more conservative Thomist, and many have wondered how such diverse people could exist in the same order, but this has been perfectly possible, given the breadth enjoined by the Notes, and the ideal of the Love that makes for Peace. We still have academics in our number, but most of our membership is to be found in parish communities across the world, all finding support and discipline from the Oratory in living out their vocation.

Click here for Fr Henry Brandreth’s A History of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd

Adapted from the brief history written by Fr George Braund OGS (d. 1999),
which can be found on ogs.net.

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