The Little Oratory – Chapter 1: The Christian Life

We have a ‘man of letters’ reading club on Facebook now, and I’m doing series on The Little Oratory that I figure may as well be cross posted here. I’ll be going through it chapter by chapter every Tuesday.

In the introduction, the authors talk briefly about why they’re writing this book. How, as converts, they don’t really know HOW to live as catholics in all the inbetween times of life, and how none of their cradle catholic friends seemed to know either. This book is the distillation of what they’ve discovered about living as catholics in all those inbetween times.

It starts with a chapter about what the goal of Christian living actually is. Before we can ask how to do it, we have to ask what it is we’re meant to be doing. The title is The Christian Life, but it’s really about how we manifest the Christian Life in the world.

The answer they offer is the liturgy, which is the work of the people of God. To bring it into the home and have it sanctify our fractured times. They mention the LotH briefly, as a way to join in the liturgical prayer of the Church, but the main emphasis is on how participation in the liturgy transfigures us, brings us into communion with God, and then sends us out to the world. What we are meant to be doing is manifesting the light of Christ to the world.

The rest of the chapter is about this evangelization. The Way of Beauty is briefly discussed, and the inherent attractiveness of the Gospel. It ends with hospitality as an especially important method of evangelization, and the introduction of the family oratory ("house of prayer") as a powerful tool to help us.

So my thoughts: It’s a frustrating chapter to read, it floats from topic to topic in a way that makes sense while I’m reading, but I find hard to summarize. And it doesn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. But I still think it’s helpful to take this reminder of what the Christian life as the starting place for growing your devotional life instead of the lists of devotions and sacramentals and cultural accretion you find everywhere else.

I had very much the same experience with the lists, only lacking plenty of catholic friends nearby in similar states of life, I had turned to the internet for the answers. ( was so especially unhelpful here, that I repeatedly gave up in disgust.) So, while this first chapter is dry and erudite and frustrating to read, I like the content and message quite a bit. I had to fumble my way towards the understanding of what I was supposed to be doing, and all of what I learned the hard way (and quite a bit that I haven’t internalized yet) is right here.

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