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The Oratory of St John Vianney is a voluntary religious association of laymen and clergy who live their lives according to a Rule of Life with a particular common purpose i.e. to promote true fraternal fellowship between Sacred Ministers (men ordained as Deacons, Priests and Bishops) of the Catholic Churches. The fraternity also exists to pray for the vocations of its particular members and all who are called to serve as Sacred Ministers and to foster vocations to the ordained ministry. The OSJV also exists to promote, practise and perfect the sanctification (making holy) of the lives of its members and the ongoing formation of ordained clergy.
An immediate response to this question is; the Oratory of St John Vianney is not Roman Catholic and is not a Religious Order in the conventional understanding of that term. A more detailed response provides an answer in two parts;
Firstly, the OSJV is ecumenical, it does not belong to any particular denomination of Christianity, however it is "Catholic" in the sense that it's members are baptised and confirmed Christians of the "Catholic" Churches i.e. those Christian Churches that make up the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and profess the Catholic Faith. These Churches include the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Catholic Churches, Continuing Anglican Churches and traditional Old/Independent Catholic Churches. These Churches claim "catholicity" i.e. to profess the ancient universal (Catholic) Faith from the Apostles and the Early Christian Churches.
Secondly, the OSJV is not a Religious Order as such but a "Society of Apostolic Life" and further more its members do not take Vows. The OSJV is a voluntary association with a distinctive spiritual character similar in concept to a Religious Order but its members do not take vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience though these concepts are expressed in the Rule of Life lived by the Oratorians.
Literally the word oratory means "to speak" or "to give an address" e.g. public speaking. But this word is derived from the Late Latin word oratorium, meaning "place of prayer" from Latin orare meaning "to speak" or "to pray". So an "Oratory" is a place of prayer or a Church or Chapel. When St Philip Neri began preaching publicly the people who gathered to hear him in the Oratory (i.e. church) became known as "oratorians" and later, when he founded the congregation his disciples who served and lived in and around the Oratory Church became "Oratorians".
For the OSJV this concept of a "place of prayer" is extended to mean a "faternity of prayer" i.e. that though the brothers may be dispersed, in living the Rule of Life which states that the first duty of the Oratorian is "to pray", collectively they are the "place of prayer" themselves, they are collectively then "the Oratory". A communcal house is also called an "Oratory" as every communal house must have and serve a "place of prayer".
Any baptised and confirmed male of a recognised Catholic Church i.e. Roman Catholic, Orthodox Catholic, Continuing Anglican or traditional Old/Independent Church whether ordained or layman. Women and men who sympatise with the purpose and aims of the OSJV but do not wish to become Oratorians, may join the Companions of St John Vianney which is a support prayer group.
Through being an ecumenical fraternity, Oratorians, even if they are ordained Sacred Ministers, may be married or single, not necessarily celibate. Anglican, Old/Independent Catholic and even some Orthodox clergy are not necessarily required to be celibate to be ordained and some laybrothers may be married and with families too. However, Oratorians living in community i.e. in a communal house are required to be chaste and single.
The Oratorians of St John Vianney do not take vows but instead express "the bond of charity" by making an "Act of Committment". The "bond of charity" is best described as the expression of a voluntary desire on the part of the Oratorian to be a member of the fellowship of the Oratory. The idea of St Philip Neri (founder of the Oratorian concept and spirituality), after which the members of the Oratory strive, was one of a community and consecrated life in service to the Church, lived in a spirit of prayer, where obedience is offered out of fraternal love rather than through any external compulsion. An Oratorian "chooses" to live his life in the fellowship of the Oratory.
Oratorians do not take vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, commonly called the Evangelical Counsels, but instead voluntarily live a life following those principles. Oratorians do not desire or seek material wealth for it's own sake but for what they practically need and require and they are required to be unselfish with their material wealth i.e. to be generous and charitable in their use of it either by voluntarily sharing it with others in the Oratory if needed or requested or in service of the Church's ministry. They are required to be chaste in their relationships if they are married, i.e. not to be lustful, and chaste if they are single or celibate, meaning to be abstenious. Obedience is a necessary discipline required for any kind of society or community to work, by everyone following the rules, harmony is assured and for Oratorians this means obeying the Rule of Life, Statutes and Constitutions of the Oratory and necessarily those who are put in authority over them.
Oratorians of St John Vianney do not necessarily live and work together i.e. in the same house and work-place, though some may. Oratorians can elect to form a communal house and ministry but others may live out their vocation in their own homes, work-places and ministries dependent on their circumstances and how they wish to practise their vocation. The "bond of charity" does not prevent the Oratorians from living out their normal lives and ministries, indeed it is hoped that membership of the Oratory will enhance their current life and ministry.
As an ecumenical fellowship, an Oratorian is not free to dispense with the customs and obligations required of him by his own particular denomination, especially if he is a Sacred Minister. Membership of the Oratory is designed to enhance rather than detract from an individual's current life and service, therefore an ordained Oratorian in active ministry is still subject to the Canonical obligations required of him by his Bishop or ecclesiastical superior.
The Oratory is governed by its Rule of Life, Statutes and Constitution. The Oratory also has an "Episcopal Visitor(s)", a Bishop not a member of the Oratory who acts as a guardian ensuring the Rule, Statutes and Constitution are adhered to (the statutes require an Episcopal Visitor for each tradition represented by a certain number of members in the Oratory).
The Superior of the fraternity is called the "Provost General" who is advised by an elected representative body of members called the General Council. The Oratory is divided geographically into "Chapters" each governed by a Provost, a communal house constitutes as a Chapter in it's own right and has it's own Provost.
The Oratory is generally ruled by "consensus", i.e. a question may be asked by the General Council and sent to the Chapters for discussion and response and vice versa. Biannually a General Chapter is held to elect officers to the General Council and elected representatives from every Chapter attend.
Intercommunion i.e. the recognition of holy orders, Eucharist and ministry between Churches can only be affected by the Oratory where official agreements between the traditions of respective Oratorians exist. Of course, mutual respect amongst the brethren of the Oratory exists, all must recognise that another's vocation and ministry is valid to him, however, the official policy or agreements of member's respective Churches must always be adhered to.
The Oratory exists to work towards that unity which Christ prayed for His Church and it is hoped that the ability to unite individuals in a spiritual and personal way will influence or help lead to greater expressions of unity amongst the Churches the members belong to. Wherever possible and whenever allowed, unity in Faith will always be expressed by the Oratory in worship but never to the embarassment of a particular member or any tradition.
The Oratory earnestly prays for that day when the celebration and reception of one Eucharist by all it's members at one Altar may be permitted!