Aggregation of Br Jeffrey Sullivan

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On the feast of St John Henry Newman, we celebrated a sung Mass, at which Br Jeffrey, having completed his three year Oratorian noviciate and been fully incorporated into the community, received candidacy, an initial stage on his path to ordination. Br Bruno also, who received candidacy earlier in the year, was made a Lector at the Mass.

The following is the Father’s address on the occasion.

Aggregation of Br Jeffrey Sullivan (October 9, 2023)

From the time that I became of Catholic, of course I have no further history of my religious opinions to narrate. . . . I have been in perfect peace and contentment; I never have had one doubt. I was not conscious to myself, on my conversion, of any change, intellectual or moral, wrought in my mind. I was not conscious of firmer faith in the fundamental truths of Revelation, or of more self-command; I had not more fervour; but it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption.

In these famous words from the Apologia pro vita sua, St John Henry Newman describes his state of mind after entering the Catholic Church in 1845. The peace of mind he experienced upon his conversion was even more impressive because John Henry was certainly not temperamentally disposed to peacefulness. A life seemingly dedicated to the constant ups and downs of development and change had come home, “like coming into port after a rough sea.” It wasn’t that there were to be no more controversies—there were many to come. He would be challenged, and disappointed, and even deeply hurt. But, in the midst of all of this, he realized that he had discovered a stable and sure perspective, an immovable star from which he could chart a safe course—he had found his home.

But these words could equally well describe his settling into his life in Saint Philip’s Oratory. Over more than forty years after his conversion and ordination to the Catholic priesthood, John Henry would discover his place, and that place was the Oratory. He was to describe this more particular sense of home in these humble words: “I can say for certain that whether or not I can do anything at all in Saint Philip’s way, at least I can do nothing in any other.” This, the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, was his place. Here he would put down permanent roots. And here he would remain for the rest of his life. This would be the context in which all the other elements of his life would play out. This was home.

Today, the feast day of Saint John Henry Newman, we gather to celebrate the aggregation of Brother Jeffrey Sullivan. As the rather unusual term ‘aggregation’ denotes, today Brother Jeffrey officially enters into this flock, our grex. Today both Brother Jeffrey and the Toronto Oratory as a community unite our voices and declare this to be his home, with all the support and challenges that any real home brings. The Oratory is more than merely the base where we live, more than just “central office” for our many works and apostolates. If it is to be truly an Oratory of Saint Philip it must succeed in becoming a home, a home from which we work, a home that demands the best of us, a home that pushes us towards personal holiness, but still a real home—a place where we settle in and feel as though we belong, a place to which we are relieved to return, a place where we want to spend our time.

And so today, we ask God’s blessings upon Brother Jeffrey, and the intercession of Saints Philip and John Henry. May our place here at the Oratory continue to grow into a true spiritual home, a faithful image of that eternal home about which Saint Peter wrote, the “new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.”