The following briefs were written by our rector, Msgr. Morris, during the period of transition of the Oratory of Ss. Gregory & Augustine to share a church with St. Luke the Evangelist in Richmond Heights.

3 June 2018

I want to begin by thanking Father Blake and the whole parish family for welcoming the Oratory of SS. Gregory and Augustine to be in residence here at Saint Luke the Evangelist. It is a welcome invitation and it is hoped by everyone involved that this will be a permanent residence for the Oratory family. Of course, this move necessitates change in both communities and the more information we all have moving forward the easier it will be to weather the changes.  In this first article I would like to offer a general understanding of what an oratory is and what my role as rector of this particular Oratory will be. In future bulletins I will address the history of the Oratory and provide some basic information on the Extraordinary Form known also as the Old Mass and the Tridentine Rite.

The use of the term oratory according to the norms of the Church “describes a place for divine worship designated by permission of the ordinary for the benefit of some community or group of the faithful who gather in it” and often times does not have actual territorial boundaries. An oratory like a parish church is a sacred place set aside for worship. However, unlike a parish, an oratory makes up its membership from outside the geographical boundaries that are used to designate a parish. Concretely, this means that members of the Oratory of SS. Gregory and Augustine come from all parts of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis and because of their relationship with the celebration of the Extraordinary Form are allowed to be members even though they don’t live in the area.  In addition to the territorial reality that designates an oratory, the Oratory of SS. Gregory and Augustine has received this designation because all of the sacraments are celebrated according to the liturgical norms in existence at the time of the Second Vatican Council. The members of the Oratory for various reasons have chosen to celebrate the sacraments in the Extraordinary Form and represent a cross section of the Church: there are great many younger members and young families; there are older members who have living memory of the Tridentine Ritual; our members are married, single, and come from all parts of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis some traveling over an hour to be present for Holy Mass.

The priest who has the pastoral care of an oratory is normatively termed the rector of that community.  In all ways the rector of an oratory is like a pastor, except that the rector does not exercise authority over a territory of people. Instead, the rector has the pastoral care of those members who choose to become a part of his oratory.  As the rector of the Oratory of SS. Gregory and Augustine, I will celebrate Holy Mass, baptize, anoint, and perform marriages and funerals for the members of the Oratory.  In the same manner that Fr. Blake cares for the souls of the people of Saint Luke, my sole responsibility will be for the faithful who are members of the Oratory. I officially become the rector of the Oratory on 26 June 2018 with the official transfer date of the Oratory to Saint Luke on Friday, 29 June 2018 – the Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul. The First Holy Mass will be celebrated on 1 July 2018 at 8 am and 11:30 am with confessions prior to both Masses. I am honored that Archbishop Carlson has entrusted me with this wonderful experience in the faith and look forward to the presence of the Oratory here at St. Luke.

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10 June 2018

The history of the Oratory of SS. Gregory and Augustine reveals the blessings of God’s favor and the profound graces that flow from a life of faith and confidence in the Father’s Divine Providence. In 2004, the Oratory began with only a few families celebrating the Extraordinary Form in the Chapel of the Passionist Nuns Convent in West County.  This small community grew through faith and perseverance and wanting to respond to this growth, in 2007 Cardinal Burke, then Archbishop of Saint Louis, entrusted the care of this fledgling community to the custody of the monks of the Abbey of Saint Mary and Saint Louis. Fr. Bede Price, OSB was the first rector of this community placing it under that patronage of St. Gregory the Great and St. Augustine of Canterbury.  During his almost ten years as rector, Fr. Bede oversaw the growth of the community from 35 families to nearly 120 and offered three Sunday Masses in addition to daily Mass and the availability of all the other sacraments in the Extraordinary Form. Succeeding Fr. Bede, OSB as interim rector was Fr. Aidan McDermott, OSB who continue the good work already begun.  In early 2017 in mutual conversation and agreement between the Abbey and the Archdiocese, Archbishop Carlson relocated the Oratory to All Saints Church in University City with Msgr. Michael Witt as rector.  The relocation reflected the commitment of the Archbishop to providing for the needs of the Oratory through a dedicated priest and eventually a permanent home.  During the course of this past year, Msgr. Witt has faithfully sought to fulfill his obligations as rector along with several other major responsibilities in the Archdiocese. He realized that the Oratory would be better served with a rector fully dedicated to their needs and a place of prayer and worship that would accommodate the traditional celebration of the sacraments. Again, in conversation with Msgr. Witt and the Archdiocese, it was decided to relocate the Oratory to St. Luke as a permanent home and to appoint me as the full-time rectory of the community.

The term Extraordinary Form has been used in this article as well as last week’s insert in the bulletin. The term refers to the celebration of the Holy Mass and the sacraments that existed prior to the reforms implemented at the Second Vatican Council. The phrase itself was given to the Church by Benedict XVI when he was Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. In a document entitled Summorum Pontificum Pope Benedict encouraged the Church to reflect on the old and new ways of celebrating Holy Mass as different forms of one Roman Rite, hence the use of Ordinary (the one most familiar to the faithful) and Extraordinary Form (less familiar to the faithful).  In this document the Pope removed all restrictions from celebrating the Extraordinary Form. It is a misconception that the restrictions were lifted solely to accommodate those of an older generation attached to the Tridentine liturgy. In truth the Extraordinary Form attracts a large number of younger people and families who would have no nostalgic attachment to it; rather, they are drawn to the celebration through the language, gestures, music and solemnity that are hallmarks of the Extraordinary Form.  My own experience with the Extraordinary Form began when I started teaching liturgy and sacraments at Kenrick Glennon Seminary over 15 years ago. I celebrated my first Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form four years ago and cannot express enough how it has changed my priesthood. I have come to a deeper experience of the nature of the Holy Mass as sacrifice, a true sense of the transcendence of the liturgy and grown in my own reverence and respect for sacred space. Next’s week reflection will take a closer look at the structure of the Extraordinary Form.

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17 June 2018

As the communities of the Oratory of SS. Gregory and Augustine and St. Luke come together in this new venture it’s important to keep in mind that both celebrations of the Holy Mass have the same goal: the adoration properly due to God and the sanctification of mankind through God’s holy grace.  I’ve heard several people describe the Extraordinary Form as something radically different from the Ordinary Form. While there are profound ritual differences, both Forms represent the genius of the Roman Rite and allow each of us the opportunity to properly worship God.  For those unfamiliar with the Extraordinary Form, the two realities of difference that immediately stand out are the use of the Latin language for prayer and the orientation of the priest during the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice.

The official and universal use of Latin in the liturgy dates from before the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. This development stems largely from the presence of both SS. Peter and Paul in Rome and the impact of the growth of the Church in Rome and beyond. The Latin language remains the universal language of the Church. All of Her documents and liturgical books are written in Latin and it is from these Latin texts that translations are made into the vernacular.  The use of Latin in the Holy Mass avoids the possible confusions created between various translations into the vernacular while safeguarding the integral meaning of the liturgical texts recognizing that in the vernacular the meaning of words has the potential of changing. So too, Latin allows the celebration of the Holy Mass to be truly universal. When one attends the Extraordinary Form in a foreign country, he is not limited in his active participation in the liturgy by an unfamiliarity with the language.

The other major difference is that priest during the celebration of the Holy Mass faces the tabernacle or cross and rarely faces the people. Some refer to this posture as the priest having his back to the people; however, the priest faces in this direction in order to lead the faithful in pray and to pray along with them. Everyone is facing the same direction and that direction is toward God present in the Blessed Sacrament. The tradition of facing the East or ad orientem is common not only in Christianity but also in non- Christian religions as well. This posture allows the whole community at prayer to face the Lord, direct are prayers to Him and be drawn into the mysteries being celebrated on the altar. When the priest faces ad orientem the focus remains squarely upon the Lord and not the person, disposition, facial expressions of the priest.

While these two differences stand out in the minds of those who experience the Extraordinary Form there are other differences as well: the cycle of readings in the Extraordinary Form is fixed and does not change from year to year; the Holy Mass begins with prayers at the foot of the altar entreating God for mercy and grace as the priest approaches the altar of sacrifice; the normative posture for the reception of Holy Communion is kneeling at the communion rail and on the tongue; the only ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion are priests and deacons. These differences will be the most visible to those who come to experience the Extraordinary Form. Before concluding this reflection, I would like to address some practical questions and considerations.

  1. Fluency/knowledge of Latin is not required to be present at Holy Mass; worship aids are provided that assist with the readings and prayers.
  2. If you are participating for the first time and are sure when to sit, kneel, stand it is best to follow the servers in the sanctuary. The Extraordinary Form did not provide many specific directives on the gestures of the lay faithful at Holy Mass.
  3. While a great many women present at the Holy Mass wear chapel veils, it is not a requirement.
  4. Everyone who is comes to St. Luke the Evangelist for prayer and worship is welcome to attend the Masses celebrated by the Oratory. In truth, it might seem as if St. Luke is losing a Mass, but the parish is actually gain a third Mass on Sunday.
  5. Finally in addition to the resource links attached below there are many more resources on the Internet to assist you in coming to better understanding of the Extraordinary Form.

Next week I will address the basic structure of the Extraordinary Form and provide information about resources for further information and education.

Please visit our website and the other links provided for further information:

24 June 2018

Next Sunday, 1 July 2018, the Oratory of SS. Gregory and Augustine will celebrate Holy Mass here at St. Luke at 8 am and 12 Noon. Both celebrations of the Holy Sacrifice will be preceded by confessions: 7:00 to 7:45 and then again from 11:00 to 11:45. Everyone is welcome to attend either celebration. What can you anticipate when you come to the celebration. The Extraordinary Form celebrated at the Oratory is normatively what is called Low Mass. Low Mass is marked by only one sacred minister (the priest) celebrating the Holy Mass, no chant or incense is used, and two candles on or near the altar are lit. Low Mass is distinguished from High Mass which uses chant, incense and six candles for celebration. High Mass becomes Solemn High Mass when there are additional sacred ministers assisting the priest: a deacon and subdeacon.

At Low Mass, the priest approaches the foot of the altar and offers prayers in preparation for his ascending to the high altar. The priest is accompanied by at least one server but usually two. After the prayers at the foot of the altar, the priest approaches and reverences the altar, proceeds to the Missal set on stand and placed at the right side of the altar. There he recites the Entrance Antiphon after which he makes his way to the center of the altar and looking up at the crucifix recites the Kyrie Eleison (Lord, Have Mercy) following the Kyrie he recites the Gloria. After the Gloria is complete, the priest kisses the altar, turns and faces the people and greets them with Dominus Vobiscum (the Lord be with you) to which the people respond Et cum spiritu tuo (and with your spirit). He then invites them to pray. He moves to the right side where the missal is place, recites the Collect (opening prayer) and then reads the Epistle. In the Extraordinary Form normatively there are only two readings: and Epistle and the Gospel. After he reads the Epistle he will recite the Gradual (the responsorial psalm) followed by the Alleluia. The priest returns to the center of the altar praying several prayers in preparation for the proclamation of the Gospel. While he prays these prayers privately the server moves the Missal and missal stand to the left side of the altar. The priest then makes his way to the left side of the altar for the Gospel. After the Gospel, he gives the homily from the ambo/pulpit and then returns to the center of the altar for the Creed. After the Creed the priest recites the Offertory antiphon then there are a series of extended prayers during the offering of the gifts. After the priest has made ready the sacrifice, he again turns to the faithful inviting them to pray with him. The priest prays the preface, the Roman Canon (Eucharistic prayer), the Pater Noster (Our Father) and then offers private prayers before he receives Holy Communion and distributes communion to the faithful who receive kneeling, on the tongue at the communion rail. After communion, the priest returns to the altar, purifies the vessels and then moves to the right side of the altar for the Prayer after Communion. Completing that prayer, the priest returns to the center of the altar, greets the faithful and declares that Holy Mass is ended (Ite missa est). There is a private prayer of the priest after which he bestows upon the faithful the final blessing. Immediately after the blessing for the faithful the priest moves to the left side of the altar for the concluding Gospel taken from the prologue of Saint John.

This is a simple overview of the ritual and is best experienced by being present at Holy Mass. Again, everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend. On behalf of the Oratory of SS. Gregory and Augustine, thank you for welcoming us to St. Luke the Evangelist. Let us commend the success of our labors to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Please visit our website and the other links provided for further information: