The Congregation of Oratory of Saint Philip Neri is a congregation of Roman Catholic priests and lay-brothers who live together in community bound together by no formal vows but only with the bond of charity. This way of life originated from St Philip Neri’s efforts to make the word of God and the life of virtue accessible and attractive to the laity and, in fact, to all people of Rome in the sixteenth century.
Oratorian Communities are never big, they are always family like and certainly don’t have the prestige of the big Orders in the Church… However, An author who wrote about the beauty of the Congregation of the Oratory wrote:
You may say that this is but a small company of volunteers compared with the disciplined forces of the religious bodies which sustain the church with so much strength and splendor; and you are right. But, although it may be a small band, it is still a reinforcement, and sometimes a small reinforcement arriving at the critical moment of the battle is worth the whole strength of the army by enabling it to gain a complete victory. . . .
Behold the model of the sons of St Philip who, in imitation of their Saviour, do what they do in the service of God spontaneously and of their own free will, and can say with Him, “Voluntarie sacrificabo tibi” , out of zeal for the glory of God, for the salvation of souls, and for their own greater perfection. … The beauty of our Congregation lies in our subjects not being imprisoned, or bound by the chains of rigorous laws, but by love, which is stronger than death itself. Its beauty is that its subjects always serve as volunteers, and serve at their own cost, like volunteer soldiers attached to an army, who if they behave with as much valour as the others in fighting the enemy, are held in higher esteem and acquire great fame. This, then, is the prerogative of our subjects, always to have the liberty of abandoning the Congregation, and yet not to abandon it through love and fidelity to our vocation. . . .
(Taken from The Excellencies of the Oratory)