St. Luke the Evangelist and the Oratory of Saints Gregory & Augustine form a special partnership by sharing the same physical building at 7230 Dale Ave in Richmond Heights. St. Luke offers Catholic Mass in English for Daily Mass, Saturday, Sunday and Holy Days. The Oratory offers Traditional Tridentine Latin Mass on Sunday and Holy Days.
What is the Oratory of Saints Gregory & Augustine?
The Oratory of SS. Gregory & Augustine was canonically established on the First Sunday of Advent, 2 December 2007, by His Grace, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, then Archbishop of St. Louis. It is a non-territorial parish of the Archdiocese of St. Louis that celebrates all the Church’s Sacraments in their extraordinary form for the pastoral good of the faithful according to the 1962 Missale Romanum.
In establishing the Oratory, Archbishop Burke wished that Holy Mass would be celebrated with the greatest possible dignity and that at the same time the faithful would receive sound pastoral care. He wrote, "Given the longstanding devotion of the Order of St. Benedict to the cultivation of the Sacred Liturgy, I see the offering of the regular celebration of the Rite of Mass found in the Missale Romanum of Blessed John XXIII to be a fitting work of your community."
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.
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.
How is the Oratory Related to St. Luke?
While sharing the same physical building as St. Luke, the Oratory is a distinct and separate "non-territorial parish" with its own Rector, records and leadership. Baptisms, Confirmations, and Weddings that occur at the Oratory are recorded separately from those of St. Luke. The Oratory makes monthly financial contributions to St. Luke to support the facility. The Rector of the Oratory works closely with the Pastor of St. Luke.
What is the history of the Oratory of SS. Gregory and Augustine?
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 the following year, Msgr. Witt 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. In July 2018, the Oratory relocated to St. Luke as a permanent home and appointed Msgr. Eugene Morris as the full-time rector of the community.
What is the Extraordinary Form of the Mass?
The term Extraordinary Form 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.
What is the difference between the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinary Form of the Mass?
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. Some people describe the Extraordinary Form as something radically different from the Ordinary Form. However, while there are profound ritual differences, both Forms represent the genius of the Roman Rite and allow each 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 prayer 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 our 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, or 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. There are also a few practical questions and considerations:
- Fluency/knowledge of Latin is not required to be present at Holy Mass; worship aids are provided that assist with the readings and prayers
- If you are participating for the first time and are not 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
- While a great many women present at the Holy Mass wear chapel veils, it is not a requirement
- Everyone who comes to St. Luke the Evangelist for prayer and worship is welcome to attend the Masses celebrated by the Oratory
What is the Difference between Low Mass and High Mass?
The Extraordinary Form celebrated at the Oratory is normatively called the 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 placed, 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.