The Secular Oratory

On a winter’s day, January 20, 2002, the first enrollment of Secular Oratorians of New Brunswick (then Metuchen) took place. (What is the Secular Oratory?)

A Directory, given to each new member, stated:

“The Secular Oratory, founded in the spirit of St. Philip Neri, has the aim of promoting holiness of life among the Christian faithful in the world. In his lifetime, St. Philip gathered around him people of every class and taught them the principles of the spiritual life. By means of daily sermons, frequent confession and prayer in common, he so increased their love for our Lord Jesus Christ that they devoted their time to works of charity and tending those in need. Keeping Philip’s original way in mind, the Secular Oratory is not so much a formal confraternity or third order as it is a society of all those who wish to serve God under Philip’s gentle guidance.”

Six years later, not only have we grown in number, but see our role of Oratorians as a vocation and how that enfolds in our daily lives. Most certainly we are as diverse as the butcher, baker and candlestick maker but our common bond of love in Christ Jesus is motivating and powerful. Philip’s personality prevails as we strive for an authentic life with “no bond but the bond of love.” We continue St. Philip’s tradition to laugh, to pray, to be humble, to study, and to serve.

The Oratory believes that heaven is other people. In the spirit of prayer alone, and prayer in community, we come to share and encourage each other in our sacramental lives. As Oratory, we meet all peoples, all experiences and in return our understanding of God is widened and deepened.

Many people belong to groups who do all these things. Many of us have belonged to many groups and then after a time, became restless. The groups were in a sense, a temporary tent. The Oratory is not a tent. It is not a temporary dwelling. It is a vocation; it is a permanent home.

Reflections on the Secular Oratory

“Remember this: the Oratory is the work of the Holy Spirit founded by Blessed Mary and inspired and enlivened by the example of St. Philip. Here is a triumvirate that has never failed; in confidence be assured that they shall not fail us.” Fr. Peter Cebulka, CO, Provost.

“The Oratory, for me, is a haven for prayer and a joyful meeting place for the community of people whose essence and task it is to pray in the spirit of St. Philip Neri, our founder and patron.” Betty Putera, SO

“We believe that we have been called to the Oratory as a means of understanding a vocation to the spiritual life.” Jane Betz, SO

“…I do believe I was searching for a spirituality of a simplistic and pure nature, when so much of our world, and perhaps even our church, is full of hype. This I felt I found in the Oratory and its members.” Geraldine Gillett, SO

About the Author

Jane Betz, S.O. (1936-2010) was a founding member of the New Brunswick Secular Oratory. She wrote this article in 2008.