ORATORY priest Fr Adrian Sharp said Brisbane’s Oratory community didn’t exist for itself, but was called to sanctify the laity.
“I’m sure all priests and parishes (want that) but it might be less obvious in some ways, whereas it’s our whole reason for being,” Fr Sharp said.
“We want the laity to be holy and (living the faith as) authentically and fully as possible.”
Fr Sharp said Oratory founder St Philip Neri never wanted to start a new congregation or order, but began with his work to sanctify the Roman laity, and the priests and brothers who joined were a by-product of this goal.
That was still the Oratory’s structure and purpose today, he said.
And St Philip Neri’s work was still necessary.
Healing through faith
Fr Sharp said the world was full of things that could injure people, and just “going with the flow of the world” could hurt in all sorts of ways.
“I think people coming to live the faith, living morally, living in accordance with the teachings of the Church more than they might have in the past, I think they find healing in that because they might have been wounded by just living as the world suggests to live,” he said.
“And when they find the teachings of the Church, they can see that the teachings of the Church are actually there to help and save you and preserve you from all sorts of things that will hurt you.”
Fr Sharp saw this particularly in young people trying to live their faith authentically in the Annerley Ekibin parish, where the Brisbane Oratory was based.
“The Lord is healing them and helping them,” he said.
Key to sanctification was evangelisation, and evangelisation was deeply tied to three aspects of Oratory life – community, liturgy and an emphasis on helping people.
Through community groups like the all-men Frasatti, the all-women Flores or the youth group, the Oratory was able to reach out to evangelise and teach about a range of topics like pre-marriage education, young family formation or heftier theological matters.
Another distinctive practice and advantage of the Oratory was its established community of priests – something that drew Fr Sharp to join.
Since the parish had an established community of priests, more one-to-one ministry could be consistently offered, he said.
The Sacrament of Penance was particularly popular.
“The more we put (the Sacrament of Penance) on, the more people turn up,” Fr Sharp said.
He said people travelled from “all over the place to avail themselves of that”.
Evangelising with beauty
Perhaps the Oratory’s most extraordinary form of evangelisation was that it offered both the Ordinary and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.
“The liturgy itself evangelises,” Fr Sharp said.
“The old Mass has a particular power to evangelise on its own just because of what it is.”
And what it was was beautiful.
“It’s beautiful, and beauty evangelises,” Fr Sharp said.
He said it was beautiful because it was an unchanging ritual infused with sacred music, a wealth of theologically rich prayers, and visually inspiring symbols.
Fr Sharp said people often told him the old Mass had a unique way of nourishing their faith.
“Even as a priest I feel that as well,” he said.
“We just want to live the whole faith, that’s what we’re trying to do.
“So whatever means we can use to help people live and embrace the faith in its entirety, that’s part of our mission.”
Fr Sharp said the old Mass was unique to the Oratory in Brisbane, and the 9am parish Latin Mass was its largest and fastest-growing Mass.
The growth of the Mass was mirrored by the growth of their priests.
The next few years would see two more Oratory brothers ordained – providing more priests to serve and sanctify the laity for generations to come.