Yesterday I celebrated an anniversary: one official week at Star of the Sea parish in San Francisco. So far, in my honeymoon phase, I’ve have enjoyed every minute. I’m getting to know the neighborhood and have found the essentials: a bank branch, a dry cleaners, a real Chinese restaurant (an excellent meal for $7), and a barbershop, all within walking distance.
Our first parish staff meeting was full of smiles and good cheer, and all wanted to know more about the Oratory. Our parish secretary, however, brought up an arresting observation. In her charming Irish brogue, Carmel related that someone had read in the archdiocesan newspaper that Oratorian Fathers do not take vows. “Does that mean our new priests are not bound by a vow of chastity?”
You, dear readers, probably know this, but for the record: Oratorian priests have already made the vows (or “promises””) that all priests make: lifelong celibacy, obedience to the bishop, and daily praying of the breviary. Most religious orders make additional vows (e.g, the Missionaries of Charity vow “free and wholehearted service to the poorest of the poor,” etc.), but Oratorians stick to the original three. So, yes, we have committed ourselves to chastity in our state in life, which is celibacy: to lifelong virginity of body and soul.
An Oratory is essentially a group of parish priests living in community, in the manner most parish priests did 30 years ago, when priests would pray the breviary in common every day and eat together. Fr. Driscoll and I pray 45 minutes in the morning in the church, and 30 minutes in the evening. We take at least one meal a day together, and try to pray the rosary together every day. Lay folk are welcome to join us for morning prayer in the church at 7am, and evening prayer at 5:15pm.
Yesterday I celebrated another anniversary: one official week in the “Oratory-in-Formation” of San Francisco. We are at the very beginning of what only the good God knows will become of us. I realized with great conviction this morning in prayer that we cannot do this. If anything good comes of this initiative, it will be all God’s grace. We are learning to live together, to pray together, and how to love one another in Christ. There have already been some small bumps, and it is not an easy thing for two middle-aged men to adapt to a new way of life. But I am firmly convinced that this is the will of God, our sanctification. And as we all know, each one’s personal way of sanctification is the sanctification of all.