I greatly appreciate the reflections of Fr Jonathan Munn in Possession, pomposity and power, in which he makes the point that true monastic obedience is in regard to the community and not simply the Abbot.
Many years ago, I was interested in the idea of the Oratory of St Philip Neri. As can be seen by the Institutes (reproduced below) of that congregation of Roman Catholic priests, there are striking similarities with the Order of St Benedict. Each monastery or congregation is independent and authority is vested in the community and not the strongest personality or the constitutional head elected by the community. The Oratory of St Philip Neri is more an idea than an organisation, despite the fact that it is a canonically recognised entity in the Church. Each house (London, Birmingham, Oxford, etc.) is independent but “federated”. Any group of priests may found an Oratory (presumably through permission from their local Bishop) and there are no vows. It is something that is completely original and without any similarity in the Roman Catholic Church. How such a thing ever got approved in the “totalitarian” Church is a mystery and a miracle! It just shows that the voice of prophecy is never completely excluded by authority, hierarchy and bureaucracy.
The influence of the Acts of the Apostles and other early Church documents is apparent, and perhaps there are applications possible for those who are married, not priests or even living under the same roof. The Institutions are worded in the mentality of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as the Rule of St Benedict for its time, but intelligent adaptation could certainly be thought through to suit a specific application.
Another thought came into my mind, that of marriage. All too often, the husband or the wife tries to get into a position of power and domination, and creates the situation of a stifling and unhappy marriage. Maybe, an adaptation of such a paradigm could be introduced into marriage preparation programmes. Two persons is as much a community as greater numbers. A couple should be working in the perspective of finding a common mind and heart rather than looking for ways to manipulate and coerce the other person.
It’s a thought to be discussed.
* * *
The INSTITUTIONS of the CONGREGATION of the ORATORY
At St. Mary’s in Vallicella, Within the City of ROME.
Founded by St. PHILIP NERIUS.
[Originally] Printed at OXFORD, 1687.
The Institution of the Congregation of the ORATORY in the City.
The Congregation of the Oratory instituted by Saint Philip Nerius, enured rather by practice, than bound by laws, had no peculiar rule according to the custom of Religious persons, by which to direct their consultations in managing affairs. For, the pious Father using with a paternal affection to govern the designs of all suitably to their inclinations, thought it enough to see his, altogether inflamed towards piety, to be very fervent in the contempt of all worldly things for the love of Christ; and then to approve and confirm as by the spirit of the Lord those things which by long experience he had found both well to content them, and daily to advance them in the attaining virtue, and pleasing God. This way therefore he was worthily held fit to discover to Secular Priests, though differing from the rules of the Religious, who often professed, the Congregation was not instituted by him as its Founder, but by Almighty God, as the author and perfecter thereof. Those things therefore, either which he took care after this manner to be decreed, or which have been, from his first institution, by those of our Congregation customarily observed, and ever since retained, that they may be known in short, are here summarily collected.
Of the Oratory, and the Prayer there.
Of the Church, and the Divine Offices.
Of the profitable use of the familiar Sermons.
Of the standing rules of the Congregation of the Oratory.
Of the election, and office of the President, and four Priests Deputies.
Of those that are to be admitted into, or expelled out of, the Congregation.
Of the breeding of Novices.
Of the chief practices of the Congregation.
Of their apparel, and usual converse.
Of the Refectory, and manner of their Diet together.
Of the Oratory, and the Prayers.
We truly term it the Oratory, being a place appropriated to Prayer: (for the familiar handling the word of God, hereafter to be spoken of, which was begun in it, but afterward more perfected, and translated into the Church, did not so fitly give it that name.) In this place as well strangers, as our own, every evening after mental prayer (as we call it) say the usual Litanies; or also besides three times in the week (which is an arbitrary castigation of the body) discipline themselves with whips. On Holy days likewise, from the first of November to the Feast of our Lord’s Resurrection, they are here not only by the usual Prayers, but also by a familiar Exhortation, and a consort of Music, excited to the contemplation of celestial things. From Easter again to the first of November, after Vespers sung in our Church, and a Sermon heard, they repair to some appointed place of the Suburbs, or (in case hot weather hinders) to some Church within the City, there to perform the same Spiritual exercises. Besides, every Sunday, unless there be some preaching in our Church, the Litanies being said here in the morning, and a seasonable Sermon made after a plain familiar way, chiefly from some observations drawn out of the Gospels, those of the Brethren resorting thither are named, that are to visit the seven principal Churches of the City, and the three public Hospitals of the Sick at certain times that week. The care of all this belongs to the Prefect of the Oratory, one appointed out of our priests; or to his Assistant: either of which are to see to the keeping of these Orders, and provide for the spiritual benefit of those Strangers that come in, whom likewise they are to instruct on Holy days in their personal attendance on the offices of piety to be performed to sick persons in the Hospitals; and also to choose out of the Brethren someone fit for some services of the Oratory, and especially a Rector; and to be careful, that in no wise these infringe that Constitution, which the Congregation thought good to deliver in these words:
“Let the Prefect of the Oratory by no means suffer the Brethren, who are chosen Officers therein, to intermeddle in any matter, or business belonging anyway either to the place it self, or the Constitutions thereof, which he hath not appointed them: for such authority or power they may not have. And furthermore, that nothing may be innovated hitherto observed there, especially concerning all weighty matters belonging to the Oratory, let the Prefect consult the President of the Congregation, who hath the same power to dispose of the affairs of the Oratory, as of the Congregation.”
Enough of this now, to show, after what way the many strangers, that more frequent the Oratory, are to be furthered in contemplation, and the love of heavenly things. But our own, more dedicated to such a purpose, are especially to observe that which the Fathers, instructed by St. Philip have to this end thus decreed.
“Let every one have his set hours for meditation, wherein let him daily make greater progress, affecting and aspiring after God and things celestial; of which the Superiors, according to their Charity and prudence, ought often to admonish every one, and mind them of the benefit reaped from these exercises.”
Thus those of the Congregation have their set times wherein to sequester themselves for Prayer, and meditation. And besides the President to exhort them, whom they are to hear, they have the Priest also that is appointed to take the Confessions of our Order; who is wont according to his discretion either to quicken unto these exercises any that is too slow, or, when it is requisite, moderate any too eager.
But, by reason of the many other employments beneficial to themselves and their neighbors, they have no other time or space either of the morning, or day, appointed or prescribed them for prayer, but what every one at his own choice piously and religiously shall a lot for such meditations, and holy devotions. But, at evening, as hath been said, they are duly to meet in the public Oratory, then open for all, even Strangers, and inviting them to Prayer, whence it took its name. But concerning the order, and custom of the using Prayer, and discipline in the Oratory, and concerning the other pious Offices of the Fraternity, we shall treat below in the Appendix of this Chapter.
Of the Church, and the Divine Service.
The Priests of the Congregation, as being Ministers in Divine things, are much in the Church, especially on Holy days. Some give the divine mysteries to them that come; others, busied in hearing Confessions, quit not their seats from day-break till dinner time, unless forced by necessity. All the Priests say Mass every day, and the rest serve, especially those in Orders, who when Mass is to be celebrated more solemnly, and with Music, betimes in the morning descending into the Vestry, with a devout diligence apparel the Priests with the sacred vestments; and, present at the solemn Sacrifice, and performing several other duties, never depart from the custody of the holy things, nor from the Church, till all Divine Service be finished. As touching the things belonging to the Church, the laws prescribed to ours are these.
In our Church there shall be no Statues of the deceased, either of Marble, Brass, Plaster, or any other matter.
On Holy days both Mass and Vespers shall be always said in solemn manner. There shall likewise be solemn Vespers on the Vigils of Corpus Christi, on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Consecration of our Church on the twenty third of May; upon the Octave of which the same Office is repeated; and within it is renewed unto us the joyful memory of the departure of our Father St. Philip, viz. on the twenty sixth of May. Besides, within the Octave of Corpus Christi, the Vespers every day are to be sung.
Likewise every year on the twenty ninth of January is solemnly celebrated the Festival of the Holy Martyrs Papias & Maurus; and on the morning of that holy day Mass is said with a Deacon and Sub-deacon attending. The Vespers are sung with Music both on the Vigil, and on the day it self. Also on the Vigil the next days Matins and Lauds are to be said before Supper by our own Priests and Clergy; that the due honor be paid to the Patrons of our Church and Congregation.
But, on their Translation, which falls on the eleventh of February, though the same be observed, Mass and Vespers are not solemnly sung.
The Feast likewise of St. Gregory, Pope, and Patron of our Church, on the twelfth of March is solemnly kept by us, both in the first Vespers, and at Mass.
We also particularly honor in our solemn Church Service those other Saints, with whose sacred Relics, or some more eminent things belonging to them, we have been enriched.
For we honor with a Double Office, on the twelfth of May, the holy Martyrs Nereus, Achilleus, and Domitilla.
On the ninth of July Patermuthius, Copres, and Alexander, Martyrs, who have an Altar dedicated to them, with a Semi-double.
On the first of August the Martyr Pantaleon with a Semi-double.
On the twenty first of October St. Ursula, and her Fellow-virgins, Martyrs, with a Semi-double.
On the fourteenth of December Spiridion Bishop, and Confessor, with a Semi-double.
Now although ours in saying the Ecclesiastical Offices, except only the Vespers on Festival days, do not frequent the Church; yet they are wont to meet in Quire there, when any eminent Anniversary is kept; as on the day of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for Candles; on Ash-Wednesday, the Principal Fast, for Ashes; on Palm-Sunday, for Palms; on the usual days in the Week before Easter at Matins, Mass, and the other solemn Ceremonies of that time. Also on the Feast of All Saints at Vespers; besides those used likewise for the Dead, and at the Matins too; as in the morning at Mass. Last of all on the night of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, at Matins, and Mass.
After these Festivals, now to speak of Funerals.
When any one of our Congregation dies, every Priest is to say three Masses for the party deceased: those, who are not Priests, shall repeat their Beads nine times; and in the place where the dead body lies shall be said the Office of the Dead: and if it be in the morning, a solemn Mass; if not, it shall be said the next day, a Deacon and Sub-deacon attending with six Candles lighted on the Altar, and four Torches about the Corps. The Office ended, let two of those lights continue by it till the burial of it. But, if he died in absence from the house, the Night-Office for the Dead shall be said by the Priests privately: but Mass solemnly, as before. Every year likewise within the Octave of All Saints a solemn Mass shall be said for all those of our Congregation that are deceased.
Without the consent of the President and Deputies Mass shall not be said solemnly (that is with a Deacon and Sub-deacon attending) for any strangers deceased; neither shall they ordinarily grant it, except the that died were a Prelate; or of eminent rank and quality among the Laity; or else very well deserving from our Congregation.
No Legacy shall be received by the Congregation for saying Mass for ever; unless perhaps there be some extraordinary reason, and by the full consent of the Fathers of ten years standing.
As touching the things which seem fit to be here set down concerning Confessions, we have these Orders.
That every week day one of the Priests chosen for this work is to tarry in the Church to hear Confessions: but on Wednesday and Friday from morning till dinner time all are to attend there, and likewise on Holy days.
Yet is none admitted to take Confessions, without the consent of those Fathers, that have lived ten years in the Congregation.
Of the exceeding great benefit of the familiar
Sermons, as well in the Church, as in the Oratory.
In our Church, every day, except Saturday, kept vacant, four of our Priests (unless it be a Holy-day, on which some one only preacheth) who are chosen out for this employment, each in his turn, fitting their expressions to the capacity principally of the vulgar, and pretending to no pomp at all, or vain popularity, recreate the minds of their auditors with a very beneficial kind of discourse, confirming their matter especially with examples, and approved histories of the Saints. For they are to avoid all difficult questions, arguing of opinions, and whatever better becomes the Schools than the Oratory. Now, he, who is to take care of this business, is wont at the appointed time to go down into the Church, and, among other things that are to be prepared, to set an Hour-glass by the Preachers Seat, and, when he sees eight or ten auditors assembled, to read some Book of wholesome precepts, or else composed of the sayings, and lives of the Saints; and, when fifteen, or twenty at the most are present, to give notice with a Bell at the usual hour, upon the hearing whereof, he that is first to preach hastens to the place, and, after he hath heard him that reads a while, goes up into a wooden Seat, some six or eight steps high, turns the half-hour-glass, which allots him his time, and, making no Preface, begins his discourse upon that subject principally, which was read out of the Book. In the midst of his discourse the Keeper riseth up to give notice again with the same Bell tolled louder; which done, another, who is to speak in the second place, hies him thither, and waits so long as till the first have finished his discourse. In the same manner just the third succeeds the second, and the fourth the third. Neither is any one of these allowed above half an hour; but, when need is, they are put in mind of making an end not only by a glass, but by a little bell.
The Sermons being done, a Sacred Hymn is sung with Music; after which he that spoke last invited them to say three Pater Noster’s, and three Ave Maria’s to themselves, and so the assembly is dismissed. But, on Sundays, and other Holy-days, one of them, who have such days allotted them to preach on, after Vespers sung, makes a Sermon in the Church; who hath power to exceed the half-hour something, but not their established rules of discoursing already mentioned. On the same days from the first of November to the solemn Festival of our Lord’s Resurrection, as also on Sundays in the morning, one of ours all the year makes a Sermon in the Oratory. But of this elsewhere; it sufficeth now to relate our Constitutions belonging hereto.
None of ours may be admitted to make a Sermon in the Oratory, without the consent of the Fathers that have lived ten years in the Congregation.
No Stranger is to be invited to preach in the Oratory, or Church, but by leave from the President, and the four Deputies.
Of the constant form of Government of the Congregation of the Oratory.
Now we will lay down the State, and Form of our Congregation, that is never to be changed, as it is expressed in two decrees. The first of which is comprised in these words.
“Whereas heretofore our Congregation was by divine inspiration so instituted by the Holy Father Philip Nerius, as to be united only with the bond of mutual charity, not bound with any obligations of vows, oaths, or such like promises, as this always was, and, is his, and all the Fathers of the Congregation their unanimous meaning, that it should so continue; it is ordered, that, if at any time any of our intend to quit this course, and to bind the Fathers and Brethren in any bonds of vows, oaths, or promises, although these should prove the greater part, it may be in their choice, to go into what order they please, but that the other part, though in number for inferior, do enjoy all the goods of the Congregation in what place soever situate, so long as they shall continue in their first condition, and that they shall not be tied to give any thing of what is, or shall be, possessed, to that other part, that would change it. For so shall this Congregation be ever preserved in the Church of God, that is circumamicla varietate.” Thus far the words of the Decree; that from thence it may appear, that our Reverend Father in Christ could not be persuaded to lead his Sons any other way, who yet out of his Christian charity so extremely honored Religious persons, and out of his singular prudence knew that the holy institutions of so many Orders, as have been already founded, were abundantly sufficient to such as desired to tie up themselves by the bonds of vows for attaining the greatest excellency of Christian Discipline.
The other Decree is: “Lest, any, under colour of enlarging the Congregation, should destroy it, and that such confusion, and trouble may be avoided, which a multitude is wont to cause, and that those of the Congregation may be amongst themselves more strictly cemented together in the bands of love, which daily conversation begets and nourisheth; that also every ones inclinations may be more exactly discovered, and that all may more reverence those persons, whose worth hath been long known to them; it is ordered, that this Congregation shall not accept of any place elsewhere, nor undertake the charge of governing any other Congregation abroad; and, if any Colleges and Societies in other places shall procure our Rules, and desire to observe them, let them not be annexed to ours, nor their Priests accounted of the Congregation of the Roman Oratory. But let every House, or Body following our form, govern, and manage it self by it self, apart from others.
Of the Election, and Office of the President, and the four Priests Deputies.
For the governing of the Congregation, and taking care of the things belonging to it, first a President is chosen, whom we style The Father: next four Priests are made Deputies. Of the Choice, and offices of all whom the Congregation thus determines.
None shall be elected President, who hath not continued in the congregation fifteen years, in the which time he hath discharged the office of Deputy or Minister; and who is not at least forty years of age.
The choice of the President shall belong to all the priests of the Congregation; who, after their tenth year past, shall be admitted to giving their votes: but the Laics are to know that they have no power to elect the President, Deputies, and Prefects, but only to perform the duties appointed them by the Rule.
As well the President, as the Deputies, and other Officers may be chosen in their absence.
That Priest, that amongst ours holds the first place next to the President in the Congregation, ought to preside as Superior in the Election, and absence of the President.
Now the Election of the President shall be after this manner. He that is Secretary shall give every Elector Tickets, in which are written, or printed the names of those that are eligible, to put one of them, which they please, into a Box; two, appointed to that end, looking on. Then, as every one is drawn out in the sight of those two, he shall be named aloud by the Secretary; and he shall be chosen President, in whole Election more than half the number of the Electors do jointly agree. This way of electing, till they thus agree, they many reiterate ten times; but, after the tenth Scrutiny, if still a greater part than half light not on one, let there be a compromise, namely, that only five of the Electors choose a President only out of those two, who in any of the trials formerly made have had the most voices. Which is shown by an instance: For, if two, or more an eighth, and others a seventh; then, refusing all the rest, the Electors are to choose out of these only. But the Electors themselves, the five Compromisers, who have the power of choosing a President, are only to be elected by a major part of voices of the Congregation, not required that each have more of the electors voices than the half: and let them be taken out of those, that were not in nomination at the first election. For these two at that time have no right at all to any such election, but are deprived of both active, and passive voice, as it is called.
If at length, when the papers are drawn, the Compromisers be even, let him be chosen President, who by his place in the Congregation precedes the rest of his Competitors.
The office of President is to last three years; and may, at the pleasure of the Congregation, be confirmed every third year. He shall come and sit down at the same table with the rest, unless sickness hinder.
He is to have nothing singular, either, in the Church, at Table, in Bed, at home, or abroad; except the chief place, and a Laic of our own appointed him by the Deputies to perform any service he commands.
As for the estate, and good of the Congregation, he is to menage them carefully, and to provide things necessary for diet, and apparel for ours. To the poor or others, who are not of our Congregation, he may give the value of one Crown every month. For any greater sum, as oft as there shall be occasion of such disbursements, he shall ask the consent of the four Deputies: and (if it happen to exceed ten Crowns) of the whole Congregation. The same let him observe in other extraordinary charges of any work, or other business, and in all things no way belonging to the provision, or daily use of our House.
The chief power of governing the whole Congregation, and taking care of all things that concern it, is to be in the president; for to him only shall belong the assembling, when need is, the Congregation; the proposing things to be debated; the seeing good orders executed; the taking an account also of things done, or to be done, by any of ours, to whom any office, or charge in what manner, or place soever, is committed, and the looking that all things be duly performed. To this end he shall call the Congregation of the four Deputies at least once every week; without whose consent he shall do nothing that relates to the public governing of the house, and the choosing, or removing Officers. For, all the other Officers, and servants, who are to continue for three years, shall be chosen by the President; and the four Deputies, except the Confessor, to be chosen by a major part of the Electors in the Congregation immediately after the President, and Deputies being elected: for none of these may undertake that charge.
The Prefects over the several employments of the House, whom we term Officers, known sufficiently by their titles, are these that follow.
The Priest for Confessions.
The Corrector: one of the Seniors, who privately reprehends the faulty.
The Minister; who, looks to the managing the household business according to the appointment, and direction of the President.
The Prefect of the Vestry, to whose paternal care those assigned to the service of the Vestry are committed, as all the other Laics are to the Minister.
The Keeper of the Vestry.
The Prefect of the Oratory, and his Assistant.
The Prefect of the Preachers in the Church.
The Prefect of Ceremonies.
The Prefect of the Music.
The two Entertainers of Guests.
The Monitor of the Prayers that are to be made for those recommended at the Table every evening.
The Prefect of the Novices.
The Keeper of the Stock money.
The Procurator of the household affairs, and his Assistants.
The Library-keeper, and his Assistant, who are not to permit books to be taken out of the public Library.
The Attendant of the Sick, and his Assistants.
The Prefect of the buildings, and his Assistant.
Two Prefects, for correcting the errors of those that read at the Table.
The Prefect of the Apothecary’s shop, and the Apothecary.
The Receiver, and Dispenser of moneys.
The Keeper of the household goods.
The Keeper of the Pantry.
The Keeper of the Wine-cellar.
The Keeper of the Refectory.
All these the Congregation particularly admonisheth by this constitution.
“Let none refuse any Office imposed by the Congregation, or the President, and Deputies, but accept it with all submission of mind. And, if he conceive he ought for some reason to refuse, after he hath with befitting modesty declared his opinion once, or twice, and the President, and Deputies approve it not, he shall without any further excuse undertake the office enjoined him.”
But, as touching the Deputies to be chosen at the same time with the President, thus it is.
After the Election of the President, shall be chosen assistants to him four of the Priests that have lived in the Congregation ten years since they were admitted to their first probation; and they have power of choosing out of the whole Congregation; by whole consent, as was said, the President shall do all things, which he thinks concern the public government of the Congregation.
By the same Priests then (all of ten years standing) in the same manner as above, but proceeding to a third scrutiny only, shall four Deputies be chosen; each apart, in the same Congregation: but, after a third scrutiny, without any compromising, let those two be chosen, upon whom the most voices in these three votings shall light. But if more than two, as having equal votes, happen to be thus eligible; only two, the rest rejected, can be elected: namely those, who of course precede the other in the Congregation. For example; If, after the third scrutiny, one have an eighth number of voices, and another a seventh, the rest not so many; we say, these two are to be preferred to the office of Deputies by scrutiny, the rest being utterly ineligible. And, if many have a seventh number; he likewise shall by scrutiny be chosen out of them, excluding others, who takes place in the Congregation. If the votes for the two to be elected be equal again, let him in like manner be taken for Deputy, who of course is wont to go first amongst us.
One of the four Deputies of the three years past, (For every ones office lasts three years) or, if it be thought fit, two, may be confirmed for three years more; but after can be confirmed no longer.
Out of the Deputies also one shall be chosen Secretary by consent of the Deputies themselves; who shall write down in a Book made for that purpose all the things decreed by the general Congregation, or by the President, and four Deputies, and write Letters abroad upon occasions. But all letters, that contain business, are to be transcribed into another Book.
Besides; when a President dies, or goes out of his office, the Deputies are to admonish the foresaid Senior, who in the mean time executes his place, to summon those that are to be called to the election of a President. And, if he neglect to do it, they shall do it themselves.
If, no man dissenting, the Deputies shall think fit to grant unto, or impose upon, the President, for some just cause, a cessation from his office; four of the Priests of ten years standing shall be called in. And, if they also approve of it, let them call a Congregation, by which let him be deposed, and a new President chosen after the manner aforesaid; yet still keeping the same course in deposing a President, as is appointed to be observed in ejecting others.
Every year in January one of the Deputies, with another that is no Deputy, shall take a particular account of all the expenses of the whole year, and, being cast up, shall rehearse it in a public Congregation; that the disbursements of the former year may appear to all, and every one may see, whether any debt be contracted, and what the Stock and goods of the Congregation amount to.
Of admitting Persons into, and ejecting them out of, the Congregation.
The Fathers of the Congregation, following the practice of their excellent Founder, the Blessed Philip, would have none received for members of their Body, but persons of good life, very fit and as it were naturally disposed for their Rule: the Decrees running thus.
“Let none younger than eighteen, or older than five and forty, be admitted to their first probation; nor such as the Canons except from Orders, unless they mean to continue altogether amongst the Laity; none sickly; nor such as have been of any Religious Order; none, but persons well reported of by all; who have been frequent auditors at the Oratory, and present at the Prayers, and often wont to confess to some of our Priests, and who have made trial of our Rule. Yet, in all these, if the Fathers, that have lived ten years in the Congregation, so please, there may be a dispensation.
Two Priests shall be chosen by the Congregation, who are to be very careful concerning those that are to be admitted into the Congregation, that, before their admission, their life, and manners be strictly looked into. To this end they shall often confer with them, converse with them; and, not herewith content, inform themselves likewise from their Country men, amongst whom they have formerly lived. And the two, that are chosen, are to report the information, that they have touching them, to the Congregation being assembled again, if it any way concern them to know it, before they privately pass their votes.
Besides the two Fathers, who (we said) were to be chosen for that work, other Fathers likewise shall diligently inquire into the things before spoken of; and examine, whether they come disposed to continue constantly to their lives end in the Congregation, on no other ground, but the serving of God, and observing the rules, and constitutions of the Congregation, which therefore the Fathers, before their admission, shall offer them to be read, to the end they may the more advisedly deliberate on the whole business.
But, how those that are to be admitted should dispose of their estates, and domestic affairs, is shown in the eighth Chapter. For, before they be admitted to private suffrages, they must be in a readiness to live and dwell with us, lest, being so admitted, they live out of the Congregation, except for some few days, at the most fifteen.
Those admitted to the first probation shall not presently be reckoned among the Novices, but live a month in our House as guests, in that space the better to learn our customs, and deliberate more maturely; and on the other side to try them, whether they be ready to obey in all things, even in the meanest and most difficult: Whether of themselves they be inclined to the exercises of holy meditation, and of the Sacraments; not contentious, not obstinate, not proud, and refractary in any matter against their Superiors, or Inferiors.
If they make a good proof, after a month their names shall be set down in a Book appointed for that purpose, and from thence shall their first year of probation commence; in which years space, if their conversation be virtuous, and laudable, they shall continue two years in a second probation; otherwise they shall be dismissed by the President, and Deputies, whose office it is to admit to the first, and second, probation. And at three years end, if in like manner they still retain the esteem of having lived virtuously in common, they shall be voted worthy to be members of the Congregation. To this therefore by private suffrages they shall be associated, and may afterward be chosen into all offices, except that of President, and Deputy. But power of choosing others they shall only have at ten years end; unless, by consent of the Deputies, the President upon some grounds think fit to defer it.
And if any of them, upon no other cause intervening, but forgetfulness, or modesty, require not at the due time, what he might easily obtain from the Congregation, when he shall be registered in the Catalogue among ours, let him be reckoned as incorporated from that time, wherein the usual three years, or ten years, shall be expired.
The admitting into the Congregation, and to all the offices above mentioned, shall belong to the Priests of ten years standing, and shall go by the major part of voices: but the admitting to the first and second probation, as hath been said, belongs to the President, and Deputies.
None can be expelled the Congregation, unless first all the Priests that have lived ten years therein (reckoning from the day wherein they were admitted to their first probation) meet together, and every one give his vote, and that two parts of three determine it to be done. And, if the Priests cannot equally be distributed into three parts, then the proportion shall be observed that is of eight to thirteen, or to fourteen: so that, for example, whether the Priests be thirteen, or fourteen, two thirds thereof shall be eight.
None may be expelled the Congregation, but for a reiterated, and criminal obstinacy; or some heinous offense; but, what are so, it shall be stood to the judgment of two parts of three, accounting them as before.
Of the breeding up of the Novices.
Those that are admitted to the first probation, whether inferior Clergy, or Priests, are committed to his care, who manageth that office in the Congregation, till, the three years being expired, they are reckoned amongst ours. He directing all unto the good of souls, besides that special quest after virtue, which ours principally ought to possess, takes care to propose certain other things, which have hitherto been constantly observed: as namely.
That they serve every day at Mass.
That, at the appointment of the Superior, they abstain from the study of Sciences; which studies are to be moderated in the first place, that, endued with heavenly wisdom, they may learn to love, as to these, to be nothing accounted of.
That, they come immediately to the Refectory upon the Bell giving notice, and there, according to order, perform the office of Servitor, or Reader.
That all of them serve, or read, daily, or weekly, both at the first and second hour of dinner, or supper: but they, who are Priests, use only to attend at the first hour in the morning.
That in like manner they read in the Church before the Sermons, as every ones appointed week falls out: that they be present at the, and likewise take care that nothing usually observed be at such time omitted. And this custom of attending, and reading, let those also, who are associated, still observe, till they be of ten years standing, or thereabouts, as the Superiors, viz. the President, and Deputies, shall think fit.
When the Sermons are done (two of which, or at least one, every day they are to hear) that they may also something attend their health, let them recreate themselves with a walk.
At Evening let them come to Prayer in the Oratory.
After dinner and supper, for recreation, let all of them for an hour accompany together in the same place with the rest; and there laying aside all severity with a pleasant behavior, yet modestly, so demean themselves, as that none, though but in jest, touch his fellow.
If the Porter brings any of them word, that one inquires for him, let him repair presently to the gate, there dispatch his business in few words, bringing in no stranger into his chamber, or at all into our house, without acquainting the Superior.
Let them neither go out of the house, nor go forth alone at nay time, but be his leave also.
Let them manage or undertake no business of Stranger, or any other, which are forbidden to those that live in the Congregation, either by custom, or statute, without the President’s permission.
Let them on Holy-days scarcely upon urgent necessity quit their attendance on holy things, or leave the Vestry.
The Altar, which any one hath the charge of, according to the change of the Church-Solemnity let him dress up, as suites best with the time.
Thrice a week let them confess their sins to the Confessor appointed, and those, who are no Priests receive the Blessed Sacrament, as he shall direct.
Let them take care, if in any thing they err, on their own accord to submit themselves to correction.
As touching the Congregation, before which they are to appear, and declare their faults, the constitution is this.
The Congregation for the faults of the Novices, that is, those, who have not yet lived three years in the Congregation, whether they be Priests, or inferior Clerks, shall assemble, if it may be, every week, namely that they appear before the meeting for general Confession: but, if some week there happen no such meeting, let all the Novices assemble themselves privately before him, to whose care they are committed.
Sometimes also, instead of the aforementioned accusation, they are wont, met together, to use the reading of some approved author, by which, through discourse, and conference about Spiritual matters, they may as it were by turns be seasoned with most profitable instructions.
Of the principal Customs amongst us.
For the cultivating her Children’s minds with a more heavenly discipline, and the better conforming them to true Christian Piety, the Congregation chiefly lays down these Decrees.
Thrice a week let every one confess his sins to the Priest chosen for that purpose (unless one be upon good grounds sometimes permitted by him to do otherwise.) Yet the Fathers, so instituted by St. Philip, do much approve, and commend this custom as very beneficial to eternal salvation. In like manner let him so often prepare himself to receive the Eucharist; and, if his Confessor think fit, receive it.
The Congregation for faults (as they call it) meet once a fortnight, at which not only Priests, but all of the Congregation, Clergy and Laity, shall be present; where from the lowest to the highest every one accuseth himself upon his knees of some offense, though it be a shall one, committed by him in common conversation; and, whatsoever he hath displeased another in, asks pardon of him. Yet, in this public accusation, no mention is made of such secret faults as are meet only to be confessed privately to the Priest.
No Priest, who hath not been full ten years a Priest in the congregation, may be the corrector of others.
So, on the day appointed all being met together, the President, as the custom is, first by solemn Prayers invocating the Holy Spirit, that Priest, who in his turn is to correct the rest (for in this office they use to take their turns) called forth sits down in a seat at the President’s right hand, and making a short speech before, for the better enflaming their minds towards God, in the spirit of meekness performs the duty of Corrector: and, while he corrects those of the clergy, and Priests, he remains uncovered; which he useth not to be, when he reproves the Laity. He stands bareheaded likewise in his admonishing, and correcting, the President.
The Laity, and inferior Clerks, when they have accused themselves of their faults, after correction, and a very short admonition from the President concerning some vicious custom to be amended, or commendable to be retained, presently depart. Next all the Priests, who are as yet Probationers, accuse themselves: these likewise going away, the rest of the Priests take their turn, who, having accused themselves, and received correction, the President returns thanks to God in the accustomed Prayers.
There is to be prescribed a Form of Penances, as it is termed, which, in the enjoining them, it shall not be lawful to exceed. And these written in tickets the same day, that the faults are acknowledged, at evening in the Refectory at the end of supper let them be distributed to every one out of a bag.
After this distribution, as it falls out, let every one in order, and openly before all, read his own penance.
Besides this, as is said before, one of the Seniors shall be chosen to perform the continual office of Corrector. Who is privately to correct every one of the Congregation, even the Deputies, and President: which duty notwithstanding he shall discharge with all meekness, and lenity of mind, considering himself (as the Apostle faith) lest he also be tempted; so that he seem to endeavor more to reform himself, and his own life, that by this means he may reduce his brethren to a better course.
Last of all, the care of the discipline of the house requires, that that week, wherein there is no public acknowledgment of faults, all the Lay-persons of the Congregation do meet before the Minister to whose charge they are assigned, to be by him instructed, and gently directed in observing the way of eternal salvation.
Furthermore, to the end our be none of them infected with covetousness, or corrupted with ambition, and that by degrees they neither cast off modesty, nor rashly usurp authority, provision is in some kind made by these following Constitutions.
To the end, all who are admitted into the Congregation may more disengaged give up themselves to God and divine matters, they are in the first place to look chiefly, that by no means there by any difference about the estates they enjoy; and they are to know, that their yearly profits are to be laid out in such pious uses as they think fit, and nothing to be hoarded up; that so none of the Congregation may set his mind upon getting of riches; nay every one according to his ability is to contribute liberally out of his estate, to the common use, and benefit of the Congregation. Which thing hath hitherto been so carefully observed by our Fathers, that, if any one through poverty hath omitted the paying of the rate appointed, as soon as he is any way more enabled he hath not neglected to supply and make it up; so fitting and reasonable hath it always seemed to them to war every one at his own charge; and to abstain from the means of the Congregation, as from another mans estate, wherewith she is especially to maintain those of hers who have nothing to live on. Nor may the Congregation therefore be thought to use a command over any ones money, whilst she requires only the set proportion for every ones diet from a cheerful giver; and this too only where their estate will bear it.
The President and Deputies may likewise remit part of the means allotted by any one, or all of it; if upon any ground they think fit so to do.
Those of the Congregation are forbidden to meddle with all secular business; unless when some upon a necessary cause is appointed them by the President, and four Deputies.
None of ours may (though requested) profess under any Congregation or Society out of the house, or undertake any charge whatever without leave of the Congregation.
Whereas there are many in the Church of God, who either do, or conveniently may, employ themselves in taking the confessions of Nuns; therefore, that none be drawn away from the particular design of the Congregation, it is decreed, that none of ours oblige, or apply himself to the hearing the confessions, reforming the manners, and managing the business of such. The same we say of Seminaries, Colleges, Congregations, Societies, or Universities, and the intermeddling any way in their affairs.
No Bishop, Prelate, nor person admitted to any dignity whatsoever, may be received into the house of the Congregation to tarry, and dwell there with ours, though but for a certain time.
In no wise at any time may they sue for, or accept, any Ecclesiastical Benefices: but may keep those they had formerly, if they do not require their personal residence.
None may take any dignities, but upon the Popes command.
None without the Presidents, and the four Deputies consent may frequent Courts, nor seek after offices, or livings for himself, or others.
None may have a servant of his own; if any one be in necessity, he shall acquaint the President therewith, who together with the four Deputies shall provide them what is necessary.
None shall suffer boys to come into his Chamber, unless they be brought in by others, who are present as witnesses; others let them very sparingly admit, but rather being called let them go down to them.
None may be admitted to any Ecclesiastical Orders without the consent of the Priests that have lived ten years in the Congregation. The same holds for preaching publicly, or hearing confessions, as elsewhere is said.
None may put a Book to the Press without the Presidents, and Deputies leave.
No Statute shall be proposed to be confirmed by the Pope, except the Priests of ten years standing first consent thereunto.
When any universal Law is to be made, let all the Priests of three years standing be present, and have their votes in the consultation; but in the decision only those of ten years standing.
When any thing is proposed to be done, let the Fathers beforehand have a public, and free consultation about it; then after some days their private votes shall pass concerning it; unless perhaps the necessity, benefit, or sometimes also the meanness of the matter require, that it be dispatched presently after consultation by their private suffrages. But, as hath been said, though all the Priests of three years standing be admitted, and have a vote in the consult; yet those only have votes in the decree, who are past their tenth year.
Of their apparel, and familiar converse.
Moreover, for the external modest behavior of ours, we exhibit these Rules, and Observations. Let not them be wanting to apply them also for obtaining internal virtues.
Let none of the Brethren, or Fathers in their apparel wear any silk, except a short close Cap upon their Crowns, for keeping their head warm, and a lining to be sewed to the inside of their hat.\
Also the fashion of clothes used by the Secular Clergy shall always be observed.
The Laics shall wear a Cassock down to their knees, and a Cloak somewhat longer.
Those that are clothed at the House’s charge, as oft as need is, are to go to the Minister, or, in his absence, to the President, and acquaint him what they want; and let them, when appointed to relieve them, with all charitable affection satisfy their requests.
In all their apparel, gait, discourse, actions, and gestures let them observe a decorum, and every one behave himself with all modesty; but let none of ours show himself in any action of his singular (as it is called) from the ordinary sort; or in his carriage differ from the common course of honest, and plain persons.
And, though it be a peculiar custom with us, that (in honor preferring each other, and obeying one another) every one desires (for abasing their minds) to take the lowest place; yet, lest the order of precedency, and ages, especially in sitting, and going together publicly, and other such like actions, should be confounded; those Priests, who are the Seniors, shall precede: yet so, that, if any of the inferior Clergy of three years standing be promoted to Priest-hood, he be preferred before the Novice-Priests, namely those, who have not lived full three years in the Congregation. And the Laics must always come after the Clergy.
After Dinner and Supper all persons of the Congregation are to stay together in a place appointed, for the space of an hour, after which let all depart to their Chambers.
The Senior Priests shall take their choice of the Chambers that are void, unless the President and Deputies shall appoint otherwise.
None under ten years standing in the Congregation may go out of the house without the Presidents leave: for after three years standing to that time the President either himself, or by some other, is wont to take the particular care of these (especially such as are not yet Priests) for their progress in virtue.
None invited out of the house to dinner, or supper may go, without the Presidents consent.
No Stranger, without the acquainting the Superior, may be invited to dinner, or supper; much less to lodge in the house, but by the joint consent of both the President, and Deputies.
None of the Fathers, or Brothers may invite any Stranger to any of the country Farms belonging to the Congregation, nor entertain him, to continue there with him, but by consent of the President of the Congregation.
None shall have leave from the President to be absent from the Congregation above a month, whether he go into his Country, or elsewhere; except the Deputies likewise consent thereto.
None of the Congregations shall be Sponsors for any either in Baptism, or any other Sacrament.
To these may fitly, and pertinently be added likewise some things, which being by long continued custom received, and allowed, are strictly observed among us.
As: At Evening in their several weeks all the Priests say Litanies in the Oratory.
At the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass not only all the inferior Clergy, and Laity daily serve, but many Priests (to be commended for it) use to be attendants.
At table, besides the Laity and inferior Clerks, who constantly serve by turns, all the Priests likewise, on their several days at the evening, do attend.
Some of ours also often repair to the Hospitals of the sick, there by their labor to help the infirm.
If any fall sick in the house, all often visit, assist, comfort, attend on, and confirm him very carefully.
When any one is near his end, upon notice given, all come together both Priests and others, unanimously to implore the divine mercy for the dying person.
If at any time one offends another in word; when the matter is decided, at evening in supper-time he kneels down in the midst of the Refectory, and, accusing himself as guilty, he craves pardon of him whom he offended; then the other rising up, and doing so likewise, at least takes the fault to himself, as giving the occasion thereof: But he that did the wrong is enjoined by the President due penance, which is sometimes a slight one, sometimes none at all.
The Penances usually imposed on the faults confessed twice a month in the Congregation are commonly such as these. Kissing the feet of the three first, or last Priests at table: Saying in the middle of the Refectory in a low voice, with their arms extended, the Psalm De profundis, or the Psalm Miserere, joining their hands: taking the lowest place at table: eating their meat sitting upon the ground: begging on their knees the auxiliary Prayers of those that come into the Refectory: or begging them for the expiating their sins at least by repentance before their death: the craving of every one, as they sit at supper, something as an alms, before their own sitting down at table: serving at the second table; or performing at it the Readers office: saying their Beads for the Pope, or the Benefactors of the Congregation, or for those of it that are dead: visiting the sick in Hospitals, and the like.
Of the Refectory, and their Dieting together.
In the last place the ordering of the Table in the Refectory, and sitting it for pious converse, comes to be insisted on; where all ours have both the same quality, and same portion of meat, and drink: It is read sometimes at supper in Italian, by the President’s or Ministers appointment, set down much what after this manner.
As soon as notice is given of dinner or supper-time, every one giving over his employment, and work, repairs to the Refectory. He is silent as he goes to, and also as he comes from, the table to the place where ours are to meet for recreating their minds.
At his first entrance bowing his head, he doth reverence to the sacred Image before him; then with the wonted expression of respect saluting the company; every one modestly, and silently stands in his place near the table, neither out of curiosity looking on the dishes served up, nor on others coming in.
The President, or he that in his absence supplies his place, after he hath tarried a while till all may come from their chambers, with a plain and distinct voice blesseth the table in the form prescribed by the Holy Roman Church; and the President sits in the first place; then the rest, as every ones order is in the Congregation. If any one come late, yet so, as before the Latin lection be ended, standing near the door, he saith Grace to himself, and making his reverence to the President sits down last after all the rest: for out of honor, and respect, the President hath his place in his absence kept empty on purpose at the table, but none else. But, after the Latin lection at table, he may not come in, till the cloth being laid again, they be called by the wonted signal to the second Table; that thus all may be present both at benediction, and giving of thanks. Yet Confessors are excepted, who on Holy days have leave to come to dinner, after the reading at the table is ended. At the beginning of the meal none toucheth any thing on the table, till the President prepare himself to eat (who, before he begins, hears about two verses of the reading.) Likewise care is taken, that there be not much noise made at the beginning.
They are all to be content with what is set before them at table, asking for nothing more, nor of themselves bringing ought without the Presidents, or Ministers leave; who shall freely bestow, and provide what they judge necessary, and fitting for everyone. If any one want some of those things usually brought, and served up to the table, he himself may ask the Servitors for it, though this better befits him that fits next to him.
At table silence is always observed, unless some exception hinders: for liberty of speaking is allowed to him, that propounds, or those that answer, for explicating a doubt.
Allowed also to him, who after supper mentions those that are to be recommended to the Prayers of the Congregation: last of all to the President, and Minister, when any thing falls out which may neither be committed to the Reader, nor ought to be deferred: else the law of silence is to be observed, whereto even the President himself is obliged.
None may read Letters at the table, nor may the Porter bring any, or carry word thereof to any, whilst eating. If there be any urgent necessity, the Porter, acquainting first the President, or Vice-President with it, by his permission dispatcheth it. The fame he is to observe till they come from the Refectory to the place where, for recreating their minds’ all are to meet together.
After meals the cloth taken away, as soon as the President riseth, all rise and going forth stand near the table, so that, if it may with convenience be done, those who sat lowest stand in the midst, and those who sat in the middle, stand lowest, all standing in their due order. Only the President for dignity’s sake is a little further distant from the rest. This is the posture, and order, wherein they use to give thanks; which done, they go by couples out of the refectory; so that he who at table sat next to the President goes out with him, and afterwards the rest, in the same order.
None may tarry at all in the refectory, or the Porch adjoining, any longer than whilst they wash their hands.
The Reader, and Reading at the Table.
Not the body only, but the mind too is to be furnished at table with its proper food. Therefore, before other books, the Holy Bible is there read; then some kind of pious Commentaries, or piece of Antiquity; last of all, at the Superiors pleasure, another book, wherein either the approved histories of the Saints, or some profitable instructions in Italian, are contained. The Reader, before dinner or supper, makes himself and the books ready for reading on the desk; where he stands bareheaded, whist prayers are said at the table: and having pronounced the verse, Jube Domine benedicere. and tarried till all be set, sitting down himself with his head covered, and held upright, he reads aloud, distinctly, and plainly. The whole reading being discreetly distributed into its parts, he ceaseth not reading of the last till commanded by the President; nor doth he command him till above half dinner, or supper be past. The rest of the time at table is spent in putting a question, as the manner is, and clearing it by answers. The Reader is not only at table to read the aforementioned Books, but to invite them to the putting of some doubt: likewise every week once at least to rehearse the names of our Benefactors; lastly to publish whatsoever he shall be enjoined, either in word, or writing by the President, or Minister. For, he may neither read, nor pronounce any thing more, than what is by them imposed upon him. The Reader, when corrected, is to repeat the Correctors words with the same pronunciation of the syllables as he gives them: and the Corrector chosen for this purpose is to take care, that he only modestly correct the word mistaken, without the interposing any other words.
When he hears the President say, Et reliqua, the Reader gives over. Then saying the verse, Tu autem Domine miserere nobis, and giving notice aloud to the Priest, who, in his turn, is to propose some doubt, he goes down, and making an obeisance to the President sits down to meat.
Doubts to be proposed at Table.
After reading presently some one of the Priests (for all of three years standing in the Congregation are wont to do the same) every day, morning, and evening, propounds something out of the Scriptures, or Morality, or instructions for right informing the mind, and conscience, that may be questioned, or disputed: but avoids the putting any thing difficult, obscure, or too curious, to which all are not able to speak. Yet if at any time one make no other answer, save that he stands to the common judgment of the rest, it is rather to imputed to modesty, than ignorance. And he that is to do that office, when his day comes, proposeth the question of himself, though the Reader, according to the custom, do not advertise him; yet, if any stranger invited be at the table, not without the command of the President, or his Substitute, for then, the Reader is not, as at other times, to put him in mind. If the Proponent be absent, he is to succeed him, who useth to sit next him at table. If any be long e’re he propose the case, either through forgetfulness, or neglect, coming unprovided, the President is either to demand it aloud of him, or to mind him thereof by the whisper of some one that sits near him. The difficult questions proposed at Table are usually two: every one speaks to one, or other thereof; but the proponent in the last place, to remove all doubt, makes a premeditated answer to both. The first Answerer is to be he that sits next below the Proponent at table; then the other Priests of full three years standing in the Congregation in like order. Let the answers (which are to be very short) have nothing of flourish, and ostentation: for the doubt is proposed as it were in the name of the whole company, to have it explained; that every one, even the proposer himself, may answer to it, as a Scholar, examined by his Master.
Lastly; Concerning the Constitutions themselves it is ordered thus.
If there be any thing doubtful in our Constitutions, the President, and Deputies shall clear it: yet by no means may they change, or impair them, nor in any wise innovate, or make new ones.
An Appendix to the first Chapter purposely set by its self.
In the Oratory every day at evening, upon tolling a Bell, a lamp and candles being lighted, and an hour-glass set upon the Altar before the Image of our Blessed Lady, from the solemn Feast of our Lord’s Resurrection, till the first of September, the hour before Sun-set, and from the first of September to the Feast of Easter the first hour after Sun-set, is appointed for Prayer: but on Holy days, from the first of November, the second hour too; for then there is both a Sermon, and Music.
Now the manner of the Prayers is this; after they have spent half an hour silent in mental Prayer, as it is called, the Sacristan lighting the rest of the candles upon the Altar, and giving notice, the Priest, whose week it is to officiate, begins the Litanies, alternately with him recited by the company assembled, excepting the following prayers pronounced by him alone: Who, when he comes to the Prayer for Peace, which begins, Deus a quo sancta desideria etc. presently two of the Brothers, or Ministers of the Oratory, taking from off the Altar two little pictures of our Blessed Savior first give them to the Priest kneeling to kiss: he kissing them both, and saying on the one side, and the other, Pax tecum, they bowing their heads answer, Et cum spiritu tuo: and afterward offer them to be kissed by all that are in the Oratory, with the like salutation [Pax tecum] a the Priest used. The rest of the prayers in the mean while being ended, he desires them all aloud to pray to God for persevering constantly in his worship and service, saying to themselves five times the Lord’s Prayer, and the Angelical Salutation: his words are Petamus, quaso, nobis in divinis perseverantiam, recitantes etc. Let us I beseech you, beg perseverance in things spiritual, rehearsing etc. These Prayers ended, he again desires them to repeat them both again twice for the Pope, Cardinals, and other more eminent Priests; for the concord of Christian Princes, propagation of Faith, extirpation of Heresies, and for obtaining the conversion of wicked livers. Then again to recite them once more for the brethren of the Oratory that are deceased, begging for them eternal rest. Afterward saying the verse, Dominus det nobis suam pacem, he repeats an Antiphon of our Blessed Lady, either Salve Regina, or some other best suiting to the time. At last they, who with these sacred Images have saluted first the assembly, and then mutually themselves with the kiss of peace, relate to the Priest what things they have received from them to be at that time recommended to their prayers; who thereupon intreats all that they would be pleased to say one Pater, and Ave, for those particulars, and five times invoke the most Holy Name of Jesus. Which done, so soon as he hath pronounced the verse Divinum auxilium maneat semper nobiscum, and all have bowed themselves even to the kissing the very ground, the Assembly is dissolved.
This is the constant order of the Prayers, excepting Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the whole week before Easter: for on these days, in memory of the scourging wherewith our most innocent Lord Christ Jesus for our sakes was punished, they all whip themselves in the Oratory. And the custom, and manner is (unless these days be Holy days, or fall in Easter week) that after half an hours mental prayer (as they call it) made secretly, straight some of the Keepers, or Officers of the Oratory distribute whips made of small cords, full of knots, put forth the children (if there be any) and carefully shut the doors and windows, and extinguishing the other lights, except only a small candle so placed in a dark lantern upon the altar that the Crucifix many appear clear and visible, but not reflecting any light, thus make all the room dark. Then the Priest in a loud and doleful tone pronounceth the verse Jube Domine benedicere.
“The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ be ever in our hearts.
“Remember, Dear Brethren, that our Lord Jesus Christ was for us sold, betrayed with a kiss, let first to Annas, then to Caiphas the High Priest, and at last to Pilate into the Judgment Hall, where he was bound to a Pillar, and Scourged; crowned with a crown of thorns, and clothed with a purple vesture; buffeted, and spit on, and delivered to the Jews to be crucified; brought to Mount Calvary, and crucified, and with him two thieves, one on the right had, the other on the left; and when he said I thirst, they reached him vinegar, which having taken he said It is finished, and bowing down the head gave up the ghost.” [Here every one with his fist beats his breast] “Afterward one of the Soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and straightway issued out blood, and water; and being taken down from the Cross, he was buried in a new tomb; and the third day rose from the dead. Tu autem Domine miserere nobis.” They answer; “Deo gratias.” Then follows: “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice unto him with trembling: Apprehendite disciplinam etc.”
At which words taking their whips they scourge their naked bodies during the time that the fiftieth Psalm Miserere with the Gloria Patri, etc. and the 129. De profundis (at the end of which is said, Requiem aternam etc) be devoutly by turns recited: Likewise during the prayers, Fidelium Deus omnium conditor, & redemptor etc; and, Deus qui culpâ offenderis etc; at the conclusion of which, upon a sign given, they end their whipping. Then the Priest requests them to repeat the Lord’s Prayer and Angelical Salutation five times: after that, twice for the Pope etc; and once for the faithful departed etc; so as they are wont to do on other days, when they use no disciplining. Meanwhile in this space they all put on their clothes in the dark, and in silence. After this they say by turns the Song of Simeon, Nunc dimittis fervum tuum Domine. In the mean time the Keeper of the Oratory makes him ready against he hears those words, Lumen ad revelationem gentium etc; when opening his lantern he lights the candles anew. The Priest who officiates goes on praying, Da pacem, Domine etc; and, that prayer being ended, Deus a quo sancta desideria etc. the holy Pictures are presented to be kissed in token of peace, after the same manner, as on other Feria’s. Meanwhile the other prayers following being added, he that prayeth faith, Dominus det nobis suam pacem: to which they answer, & vitam aternam. Amen. In the last place they salute the Holy Virgin Mother of God with an usual Antiphon, such as befits the particular season of the year: and so the rest, as in other Feria’s, wherein they use no whippings at all.
The Exercises wherein they are employed on Sundays.
On Sundays the Sacristan, or some of the Keepers, betimes in the morning opens the Oratory doors; the Reader prepares to read in some book of some good subject and profitable discourse, till, the company increasing, the Prefect, or his Assistant, all kneeling down, proposeth something for their pious meditation: after this he goeth on with the Litanies, and other prayers, as is every day the custom there at Evening to do. These ended, some one of the Priests, that are not then appointed to hear confessions, making a Sermon upon the Gospel for the day in a plain style, and not above half an hour long, exhorts his auditors to the avoiding sin, the keeping up good customs, and in fine to the conserving all piety. The Sermon ended, and the Lord’s Prayer and Angelical Salutation rehearsed, the Prefect asks, whether any of the company knows any of the Brethren sick, that he may presently dispatch such as are appointed, or as he likes best, to visit, and comfort the party languishing, relieve his sadness or want, exhort him to the confessing of his sins, and the bearing his pain patiently and cheerfully. The sick Brothers name, and dwelling is writ down in a table, that the offices of visiting and praying for him be not omitted. Then seven of the Brothers are sent to the seven Churches of the City famous all the world over for devotion and the several Indulgences of Popes; and three to the three public Hospitals of the sick; that so each of them may once a week visit either the Church, or Hospital, that falls to his lot: for on Holy days almost all attend on these offices of Piety. And in these exercises they spend about an hour and a half. Also on the last Sunday of every month they are put in mind to prepare themselves for the Communion, to receive the Holy Eucharist: for every first Sunday in the month they arm themselves with this Sacrament; and in the afternoon [i.e. at Vespers] either certain brief instructions written in tickets, or paper pictures of some Saints are distributed in the Oratory, for everyone to take one, and learn by that which is written underneath what he is to request of our Lord by means of that Saint whose picture is fallen to him.
The Afternoon Exercises both for Sundays and Holy-days.
On all Holy days after Vespers sung in the Church, and a Sermon made, many of ours, Priests, and Laicks, with the Brethren of the Oratory and divers others, meet in an appointed place in the Suburbs, where, sitting down n the grass, first those that are skillful sing some pious or sacred hymn; then some one says by heart a Sermon adorned no less with Piety, than elegancy, given him in writing by the Prefect of the Oratory: which done, they sing again. After this the Prefect of the Oratory riseth up, or some other thereto appointed by the Fathers, who, proposing very briefly a subject concerning living virtuously and christianly, invited second to discourse thereon; then a third; and, if the time permit it, a fourth: who all of them speak to the matter propounded with equal brevity, and piety, to the benefit of both themselves, and their auditors. When it is time to conclude their discourse, a hymn is sung, and so all return home, or to the Oratory. And, when they cannot go to such places for extreme heat in Summer, they repair in some Church to those their exercise. But in Winter, from the First of November to Easter, on Holy-days at evening, when the Ave–Mary-Bell rings, they go into the Oratory. Half an hour mental prayer lasts; Litanies are said or sung with music; our Lord’s Prayer and the Angels Salutation repeated according to the usual number (but, when there is music, rehearsed only thrice;) then the Antiphon of the Blessed Virgin, which is changed according to the season; and lastly some pious song set to the music is sung. After this one of our Priests, as it happens to be his turn to preach, with as much profit and plainness as may be, dispenseth to the people present the word of God for half an hour: after that the music again: then they pray to God in the usual form thrice; salute the Virgin Mother; and so the Assembly is dismissed.
The employments of the Strangers in the Oratory
Out of the Strangers, who are Brethren of the Oratory, first the Prefect chooseth a Rector to oversee the offices of the rest; two or our Sacristans, or Keepers, to sweep the Oratory, light the Lamps, and Candles, take care of the disciplines, Clock, and dressing the Altar. Likewise two or four tenders of the sick, who are to visit the Brothers that are ill; some are also chosen, faithfully and carefully to dispose of the money voluntarily offered either for the benefit of the sick Brothers, or of the Hospitals, or of the Oratory; and they are by no means to receive any, unless they know it be freely offered; observing that of the Apostle Non vestra, sed vos: Not yours, but You. One likewise is chosen Secretary, to register all things to be debated of. A Reader also, who on Holy days reads some pious lessons before the Prayers. Besides, every Holy day they carry to the sick in the Infirmaries things conducing to their recovery approved-or by the Physician.
Every month, or oftener, if they please, they are to report the sum of their disbursements, according to the orders given them, to the Rector, and Prefect of the Oratory; for these Strangers, and Lay-Brethren have no authority or power in disposing the things belonging to the Oratory, but only in the dispensing them by the direction of the Prefect.
The Order in electing these Lay-officers.
Every four months the Brethren, that re Strangers, are chosen to these Offices in this manner. After rehearsing the Lord’s Prayer and Angelical Salutation, the Prefect is wont in this form to implore the Divine assistance: Veni Creator Spiritus, rcple etc. Answer is made: Et tui amoris etc. V. Emitte Spiritum tuum, & creabuntur. R. Et renovabis faciem terra. The Prayer, Deus, qui cordafidetium etc. Actiones nostras etc. As soon as they are declared, and published, Te Deum is said; an Antiphon of our Blessed Lady; the Prayer, Gratiam tuam etc. the Antiphon, Da pacem etc: the Prayer, Deus, a quo sancta desideria etc. And the Prayer of that particular Sunday, or of the Saint, whose Festival is then kept. Then some pious directions or instructions are briefly read to the persons elected.
An Advertisement concerning the Constitutions of the Congregation.
Seeing that the Congregation hath power to eject, and expel out of the society and house, all enormous offenders or disturbers of its orders; and seeing that it is likewise very probable, that whoever neglects his own salvation will hardly continue long there, where is to be bother a daily advancement in virtue, and a pious emulation of the most perfect, the Holy Founder hath declared his intent, that these constitutions should not oblige any one under sin. God the great Arbiter, who will bestow on every one eternal rewards according to their piety, in his great mercy be propitious unto us. Amen.
Here end the Rules of the Congregation of the blessed Philip, or of the Roman Oratory of St. Mary’s in Vallicella, composed, revised, and confirmed by the authority of the Holy See Apostolic.
Prayers used before a Congregation.
V. Come Holy Spirit,
R. fill the hearts of thy faithful; and kindle in them the fire of thy love.
V. Send forth thy Spirit, and they shall be created.
R. And thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
V. Remember thy Congregation.
R. Which thou hast possessed from the beginning.
V. O Lord hear my Prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto thee.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy Spirit.
V. Let us pray:
God, that hast taught the hearts of the faithful by the illumination of the Holy Ghost: grant us in the same Spirit to understand the things that are right, and always to joy in his consolation.
Prevent our actions, O Lord we beseech thee, by thy favor, and further them by thy help: that every Prayer, and work of our may begin always from thee, and begun may end in thee, Through Christ our Lord.
Prayers after a Congregation.
V. But thou O Lord have mercy upon us.
R. Thanks be unto God.
V. Let us pray:
O God, whose property is always to have mercy, and to spare, receive our petition; that, if in this Congregation we have committed any error, the clemency of thy piety may pardon it, Through Christ our Lord.
V. Our Father,
R. who art in Heaven hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom Come Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses,
V. And lead us not into temptation,
R. But deliver us etc.
V. From the Gate of hell.
R. Deliver them O Lord.
V. Let them rest in peace.
V. O Lord hear my Prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto thee.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy Spirit.
V. Let us pray:
O God, the bestower of mercy, and lover of mans salvation, we humbly beseech they clemency, grant, that the brethren, relatives, and benefactors of our Congregation, who are departed out of this world, may be the intercession of the blessed and perpetual Virgin Mary, and of all thy Saints, attain to the fruition of eternal felicity, Through Christ our Lord.
Let the souls of the faithful through the mercy of God rest in peace.
R. GLORY BE TO GOD!
. . . to be imitated by none;) of a more perfect way of life than the mere keeping the Commandments (as these oblige all men under penalty of sin) went and sold, or abandoned, all that they had, and all that they could hope for in this world (to become thereby the poor of Christ); and take up their Cross, that is a penitential life, gave it to the poor, and followed him; by imitating his divine chastity, poverty and obedience, as for forth as by his grace they are capable thereof. Who have but one heart and one soul in our Lord, one common habitation, one purse, one pantry, and live as such a distance from any real propriety, that these cold words, Meum & Tuum, Mine and Thine (the source of all dissension) are banished out of their Society. Whose whole application, as well by profession as practice, is to God and godly Studies; whose exercise is to pray and sing heavenly Psalms, Hymns, and Canticles, before the throne of God, day and night; in a word, whose Conversation in entirely in Heaven.
I greatly appreciated Fr Munn’s reflection.
What a difference it might make, spiritually speaking, were the Churches to re-calibrate the liturgical architecture to incorporate the whole period as an extended triduum? And here’s another idea: we know why the Annunciation was celebrated 9 months before 25 December: but this significance is lost in people’s focus, and there is no need for liturgy to mimic biology at the expense of theology. Why not relocate it to the beginning of Advent?
By the way, what did anyone think of this idea for re-ordering the liturgical schema?
Well, the suggestion appears to make a lot of sense . . .. and that’s what I truly don’t like about it. That’s the major problem with all of the contemporary liturgical revision. For a considerable time I was a strong advocate for rationalizing our whole liturgical life, for getting rid of anomalies, restructuring everything according to a logical pattern, and in general rendering the whole thing understandable. I’ve come to see that approach as utterly wrong-headed and ultimately man-centered. God isn’t like that. God cannot be fit into human logic, nor does he operate in ways we can perceive as logical. When we make too much sense out of liturgy, or theology itself, for that matter, we suck the life right out of it. Our God is too small if we think he can be packaged like that. He can’t.
Christianity is utterly unlike other major religions in that it does not depend on a philosophy or on a set of propositions, but upon a Person who is divinity incarnate in His own creation. It is not the abstract recognition of a god or divine principle who is separate and utterly above the material world, but about a infinitely intelligent Being who is constantly active in His creation and with His people. He is not (in Lewis’ terms) a tame lion, nor is He safe, but He is GOOD. Yes, propositional truth is a part of Christianity, but all our propositions need to flow from that reality, not from our own understanding.
It is because of the incarnate nature of the Faith that theology and liturgy are both messy and disorderly and really have to be that way. They are God’s word and will be incarnate in the history of the people He loves and guides. Thus, if a historical development appears problematic, it probably needs to be accepted anyway with all its spots and wrinkles, until there is darn good reason – REAL necessity, I mean, for a small and gradual change. Wholesale changes in theology, liturgy, the calendar, and suchlike will usually do more harm than good.
So, what do I think of this proposal? Good Lord, deliver us. I’m not a rigid traditionalist, but I find radical changes in traditional things to be abhorrent.
By the way, what did anyone think of this idea for re-ordering the liturgical schema?
I guess I got my answer!!
There is already something like this in the liturgy, as the Wednesday and Friday Ember day Masses in the 3rd week of Advent feature the Gospel lessons of the Annunciation and Visitation – a lovely pre-Christmas diptych, if you like. So you can have the Annunciation on 25th March and a “streamlined” Advent one!
In reply to Timothy Graham
Another glitch in the system. You were being “moderated” like a new comment poster. You should now be free to post as you like and see your comments immediately. I’ll keep an eye open. I have slightly modified your first article to make the second and third superfluous.
Just a note on this Annunciation in Advent. It is the Golden Mass of Ember Wednesday of Advent. Just to add my grain of salt to the discussion, things in the liturgy tend to come about by historical reasons and usage rather than by rational design. The Golden Mass is naturally a ferial (ember) day, but with strong overtones of Our Lady.
Fr A: Thanks – for fixing & for the link to your article.
Fr. Anthony wrote:
“Liturgically, the Epiphany is much more important than the Nativity.”
Under correction, Father, this is certainly true of the East, but in the West Epiphany was a relatively late comer. May I recommend three articles which I wrote which bear on the subject?: