The Congregation of the Oratory was established in the year 1575 by St. Philip Neri, a renowned Roman priest. St. Philip did not found a new religious order with a binding rule and vows like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Ignatius Loyola, but instead inaugurated a society of priests and brothers bound only by the bond of charity. The primary end of the Oratorian life is the sanctification of the individual, the community, and those souls entrusted to our care.
As a young man, Filippo Neri made his way from Florence to Rome, where he earned his living as a tutor. He studied philosophy and theology, while by night he would visit the Catacombs of St Sebastian and pray for hours on end. These visits to the meeting place of the first Christians awakened a love for the early Church and a desire to emulate the martyrs. It was in these catacombs that St. Philip received the Holy Spirit as a ball of fire at Pentecost in the year 1544. Cardinal Alfonso Capecelatro (1824-1912) said of St. Philip: "I think that even in the formation of his Institute of the Oratory, Philip had before his mind the Christian society of the early ages, with its simplicity, its faith, and its charity".
Philip was ordained a priest in 1551 and served as spiritual director to men and women from all classes of Roman society. As more people were drawn to St. Philip he began to hold meetings at the Church of San Girolamo, and these exercises would serve as the beginning of the Oratory.
While it was never his intention to found a religious order or society, Philip received the approval of Pope Gregory XIII for the foundation of the Congregation of the Oratory. St. Philip spent the rest of his life serving his community, his penitents, and the Roman Church. St. Philip died on 26 May 1595, and was canonized in 1622.
"Brothers, when shall we begin to do good?"-St. Philip Neri
The Little Oratory was established in Washington in January 2014 and currently about forty men are enrolled as brothers, ranging in age from 20 to 75. The Brothers meet on Wednesday evenings and observe the following program:
7:00-7:40 P.M. Spiritual Conference, Prayer, and Oratorian Devotions
7.45 P.M. Recreation in the Oratory House
8.15 P.M. Communal Discussion
9:00 P.M. Conclusion and Blessing
The Secular Oratory is open to everyone and meets on a Saturday once a month for a morning of recollection in accordance with the following program:
9 A.M. Confessions
9.30 A.M. Sung Mass
Breakfast in the Parish Hall (SUSPENDED DUE TO COVID-19)
10.30 A.M. Spiritual Conference
11 A.M. Prayers to St. Philip
11.05 A.M. Exposition of the Blessing Sacrament and Confessions
11.45 A.M. Benediction
12:00 P.M. Mass