The Brothers of the Little Oratory in San Diego are “seculars” of the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri at
London. They are not Religious, and are under no “tertiary” vows, but rather are a part of the family of St. Philip Neri and
his congregation, by virtue of a spiritual attachment to the saint and the institute, and by having gone to London, after a
period of discernment, and been blessed with the relic of St. Philip and accepted into his family. The “Little Oratory” refers
to the spiritual exercises undertaken by the Brothers as a group, and is distinct from the “the Great Oratory,” or the public
preaching and spiritual exercises practiced by the Fathers with the public. The Brothers are decended from the men who
gathered around St. Philip for spiritual council and exercises, and to serve whom the Saint was eventually ordained, and his
institute founded. In a real sense, the Brothers predate the Fathers of the Oratory, and necessitate the presence of the
Fathers. Generally speaking, their mission is to exercise their spirituality, to visit the sick, and serve the masses and offices of
the Fathers in the sanctuaries of the Oratory church. The San Diego Brothers do not have an Oratory church as yet, so we
serve and are served by Diocesan clergy whom we have come to know through the years, and who value enhancing our own
spiritual lives, and being enhanced by ours as well.
The first San Diego Oratorian was John Polhamus, who lived in London for most of the 1990’s, and came to know the
Brompton Oratorians while resident there. He became a part of St. Philip’s family in 2000, and upon returning to San Diego
in 2001 was asked to begin the Chorus Breviarii Gregorian Chant Schola and Liturgical Prayer Group. This group
immediately put itself under the protection and spiritual patronage of St. Philip Neri, and little by little the Oratorian
characteristics of good liturgy, good music, bountiful fraternity, and Romanità, all took hold in the lives of the members,
and to date no fewer than ten men have journeyed to London to receive the blessing of St. Philip and count themselves
among his sons.
Although Chorus Breviarii began solely as a Gregorian chant study group, the members quickly discerned that without a
liturgical application, merely singing Gregorian chant is like reading a play by William Shakespeare, and never actually
seeing it done, much less acting in the actual production. It was only half of the picture. With that in mind, the members
took it upon themselves to begin to learn the choral office, both musically and liturgically. They began with doing Compline
at the end of rehearsals, and move quickly on to the office of “Tenebrae” on Wednesday evening of Holy Week, which has
now become a tradition repeated annually since 2001. The group then went on to reintroduce Sunday Vespers to this
Diocese in a parish setting and at the Pontifical (when a Bishop is celebrating) level on several occasions with H.E. Bishop
Salvatore Cordileone, now archbishop of San Francisco. The group has also made a practice of singing both forms of the Roman Rite, including doing the Ordinary Form in Latin, Ad Orientem, with Gregorian Chant propers, a combination of options which
are all available to those who choose to prefer them, but which have not been seen here until the advent of the Brothers of
the Little Oratory. The Brothers have also celebrated St. Philip’s Day with Vespers and Mass for ten years running, and
have made a tradition of celebrating First Vespers of All Saints, as well as those of a number of Saints and feasts throughout
The Brothers are not currently in residence at any church, but they strive to hold a regular Monday
evening rehearsal, starting at 19:00 and usually concluding with Compline at about 21:00. Please contact us for information, if you wish to attend.
If you are a Catholic man, and are interested in investigating the possibility of joining the Brothers of the Little Oratory in
their apostolate of liturgy, music, fraternity, and Romanità, please enquire, or simply come to Monday night rehearsal when
you can. An Oratorian will always be available to talk to you, either in person or by telephone.
If you are a Catholic woman, and you wish either to sing or to help foster the work of the Brothers, you can join Our Lady of Vallicella San Diego’s women’s schola. This is a new initiative, and your help will be needed to ensure that it flourishes. We
welcome your assistance.
Lastly, commitment and total regularity are frequently at odds with each other. We understand that. We welcome your
participation, as you are able to give it. Membership in our groups is not ruled out by a busy schedule. Come as you can, and
we’ll see you when you are able to come back.