6 November 2017
There has been a significant number of important celebrations and well-known visitors to The Oratory School’s two chapels in recent weeks.
On 14 September, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, The Most Revd Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, came to celebrate our Sung Mass, preach and visit the school. Although His Grace has been here before to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation, this is the first time that he has visited us to celebrate Mass for the whole community on a working school day. It was a joyous day and His Grace and his secretary, Fr Dominic Cosslett, greatly enjoyed their visit and appreciated the opportunity to offer Mass assisted by the impressive resources of our sacristy team and Schola Cantorum. It was so good to have our own Archbishop with us here at the southern end of his enormous diocese.
Three weeks later saw the feast day of our Founder, Blessed John Henry Newman, and we were privileged to welcome Mgr Mark Langham, the senior Catholic Chaplain to the University of Cambridge. Fr Mark has had a varied ministry, including spending periods at Westminster Cathedral and in Rome before taking up his present appointment. He generously gave his time at the hectic beginning of a new university term and shared many insights from his life among undergraduates with some of the senior boys in the Black Room after Mass and at a more informal supper before heading off on the long winter’s drive back to Cambridge.
The weeks surrounding Half-term saw the Oratory’s priests helping neighbouring parishes. More than that, the extended Oratory family remains in touch once boys have left school. Fr David Elliott met several recent Oratory boys at the baptism of a mutual friend in London and Fr Kenneth was delighted to assist at the marriage in Henley of an OPS former pupil whose brothers and parents have been involved in the life of the OS for many years. On a much sadder occasion, it was a great privilege to be able to help the family of Jack Camilleri whose funeral took place in the chapel, celebrated by Fr Antony Conlon, an event which brought together a congregation of several hundred mourners.
The return from half term has meant the usual busy few days at the beginning of November. All Saints’ Day (a holy day of obligation) was celebrated with a Sung Mass in gold for the whole community. Fr Elliott preached powerfully and we were assisted by Fr Paul Fitzpatrick, the Dean for the South Oxford deanery. The following day, All Souls’ Day, saw two far more sombre Requiem Masses celebrated in black vestments. The book of remembrance for the names of the departed is at the back of chapel and the Requiem Masses for the Old Oratorians in London and Remembrance Sunday here in Woodcote will soon be upon us.
The Fifth Form Day of Recollection at Arundel Castle and Cathedral took place as normal. It is always a privilege to celebrate Mass in the castle’s chapel through the generosity of the Duke of Norfolk. The Upper Sixth spent a thought-provoking day at Westminster Cathedral with Lord Alton encouraging them to embrace life after school fully. How will they make a difference?
We were also delighted to welcome Mrs Marie Fahy, the Education Officer for the charity Aid to the Church in Need, who addressed the school after Evening Prayer. She thanked the boys for the sum of £1,3802.02 which was raised in chapel collections last academic year. Every penny goes to families in great need, often in the Middle East, as they seek to rebuild shattered lives, homes, churches and countries. Mrs Fahy also mentioned two projects for the near future: Red Wednesday at the end of November, when many public buildings and churches will be lit up with red lights to raise awareness of the suffering millions of the world, and the charity’s campaign #Go2Mass. Many people in this world would love to go to Mass but for a wide variety of reasons – including fierce persecution – cannot do so. No-one will stop us here at school or in the UK. Why do we not make a resolution to go to Mass for them?