Oratory, Congregation of the [Lat. abbr., Cong. Orat. ], in the Roman Catholic Church, founded in 1575, an association of secular priests organized into independent communities according to the rule written by St. Philip Neri. The purpose of the oratory is to raise local religious standards. To do this they employ three means—prayer, especially the solemn performance of the liturgy; the sacraments, especially the confessional; and preaching, every oratory having daily sermons. Confessions are heard at all times. The best-known oratory of the English-speaking world is probably that of John Henry Newman, who introduced it to England as a means of extending the church there. There are Congregations of the Oratory in the United States at Rock Hill, South Carolina, and Yarnell, Arizona.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.