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The Founder of The London Oratorv 



Verger at the London Oratory 

With a Foreword by 

His Eminence 





Printed by The Westminster Press, 
diia Harrow Road, London, W. 


THE name of Father Faber 
is a household word among 
Catholics in England, and 
his hymns and other writings are in 
grateful remembrance wherever 
Catholics use the English tongue. 
But those still left who knew him 
personally are now very few ; the 
Life written soon after his death is 
not easily found, and the details of 
his interesting career and edifying 
life are in danger of being forgotten. 
For this reason we heartily welcome 
this account of the first Superior 
of the London Oratory, which owes 
so much of its ever fruitful work to 
his inspiration and the traditions 
that he established. We beg God s 
blessing and reward for the compiler. 

Archbishop of Westminster. 

February 4^, 1914. 

ALL that the author desires in this little 
Life of Father Faber is to supply a 
demand to which he, in his position, 
has repeatedly had his attention drawn, 
viz., a small cheap book telling something 
about Father Faber. 

Most grateful thanks are offered to 
Father Sebastian Bowden and to Father 
K. D. Best for their kindly advice, and 
the permission of the latter to use his 
poem on " Faber s Grave." And also 
to Father Ralph Kerr for permission 
to reproduce the pictures for the 

September 1913. 


Father Faber Frontispiece 

Facsimile of the MS. of Father Fact - nf fafe 
Faber s most popular Hymn 29 

The First London Oratory, 

King William St., 1849-1853 39 

A Ragged Congregation 42 

The Old Oratory at Brompton 45 

The New London Oratory 50 

Father Faber s Grave 55 




was born on June 28, 1814, the 
man who, under God, was des 
tined to do more for the revival of the 
Catholic Faith in England than any 
other during the short period of his life 
in the Church. His grandfather was 
incumbent of Calverley, and at the 
vicarage there Frederick William Faber 
first saw the light. He was not baptized 
at the church at Calverley, as might have 
been expected but was taken to the 
church of St. Wilfrid, whose name he 
afterwards took and to whom he appealed : 

" Make us the missioners of Mary and of 

As a child, " the child of his mother s 
prayers," he was a great favourite, and 
is described as " of an open disposition," 
ardent and impulsive, eager and deter 
mined, generally looking on any under 
taking which he had in hand as being of 
the greatest importance. 


His parents Calvinistic views of ne 
cessity influenced the mind of the child, 
and we find them expressed from time 
to time in his earlier years at Oxford. 

At the age of 1 1 years he had been sent 
to Shrewsbury School, afterwards going 
to Harrow, where he remained till his 
matriculation at Oxford (Balliol) in 1832, 
going into residence in 1833. The 
description given of him at this time 
reads like a page from the life of his 
beloved father St. Philip : " Of pre 
possessing appearance, with great con 
versational gifts, a general favourite, 
and leading a life full of joy, innocence 
and purity," which description may well 
be used for the whole of his life. 

His father died the year of his going to 
Oxford, his mother died four years before. 

Indeed, the life of Faber can almost be 
learned from his poems and hymns, which 
often read like a diary. " I worship 
Thee, Sweet Will of God" was the 
refrain which ran through the whole of 
his short but busy life. His poetical 


instincts early showed themselves. The 
impressions of his childhood and the 
beauty of the scenes in which his early 
years were passed never faded from his 
mind : 

" How wonderful Creation is ! 
The work that Thou didst bless ; 
And, O what then must Thou be like, 
Eternal loveliness." 

Oxford, too, made its deep impression 
on him. The Rev. John Henry Newman 
was then vicar of St. Mary s. Faber soon 
became what he called " an acolyth" to 
the man who was destined to be his Su 
perior in the Congregation of St. Philip. 
In the year 1833 began the great Move 
ment known as the " Tractarian," for 
the revival of High Church principles ; 
and Faber s correspondence shows the 
effect it had on him. On the first day of 
1834 we find him writing : " Transub- 
stantiation has been bothering me, not 
that I lean to it ; but I have seen no 
refutation of it." But still the early 
influences prevailed. He feared that the 


Tractarian Party would be led on to 
extremes, and almost resolved to return 
to the Evangelical tenets he formerly 
held. In a letter to J. B. Morris, he says : 
" I am now never happy unless I am 
thinking, talking and writing respecting 
things eternal " " yet I have had none 
of those miraculous heart awakenings, 
none of those visible interferences of the 
Spirit to pluck me as a brand from the 
burning. However, I suppose the power 
of religion acts in ten thousand different 
ways, and by ten thousand various instru 
ments, according to the constitutions and 
temperaments of those over whom its 
agency is to be exercised. Nevertheless, 
I must likewise confess that when I look 
for the fruits of my faith, I cannot 
find any." 

From now he is continually quoting 
Newman, at first to criticise him : " In 
arranging my thoughts for my Church 
Article, I have been thinking a great deal 
on the merits and tendency of Newman- 
ism and I have become more than ever 


convinced of its falsehood. . . . Am I 
chimerical in anticipating quite as much 
danger from the mysticisms of Newman 
as from the rationalities of Whateley ? I 
can most sincerely say, that after having 
been an unprejudiced acolyth of New 
man s, an attentive reader of his works, 
and a diligent attender at his Church, I 
found the impressive simplicities of the 
Bible irksome to me : all its great consol 
ations were knocked away from under 
me, and vague bodiless Platonic reveries 
were the food my soul craved for. Observe 
I know that this is not the case with 
Newman himself. I believe him to be an 
eminently pious, humble-minded Chris 
tian, but I think that he has sat at the feet 
of the early contemplative philosophers 
with an unscriptural humility and that he 
has imbibed their notions. Of course it 
would be preposterous in me to charge 
upon Newman what was probably in a 
great measure my own fault ; but still 
I think I may argue that the tendency of 
his system is bad." 



In the beginning of 1835 he went into 
residence at University College, having 
been elected Scholar in the autumn, and 
although he set himself to work hard at 
his classics, felt very dubious as to the 
probability of taking honours. He be 
came a member of the Union debating 
society, and spoke often, gaining a place 
in the front rank with men like Tait 
(afterwards Archbishop), " Ideal " Ward 
and Sir Roundell Palmer (afterwards 
Lord Chancellor). He also wrote maga 
zine articles and verses and competed 
for the Newdigate prize poem in 1835, 
the subject being " The Knights of St. 
John." Owing to illness he was unable 
to sit for his Degree examination as he 
had intended ; in Easter Term, 1835, 
having withdrawn he " went down " for 
a short time, and, during his absence 
heard that his poem had gained the 
coveted prize, and that of the thirty- 
seven poems sent in, none came into any 
close rivalry with the winner. The 
recitation took place on June isth, 1836. 


Holiest of Knighthood s gallant sons 

were ye, 

A sainted band, the Knights of Charity ! 
Twas not an earthly guerdon that 

could move 
Your gentle Brotherhood to acts of 



A great change occurred in Faber s 
religious life in the spring of 1836. The 
reaction caused by the fear of the effects 
of the Tractarian Party wore off, and 
he became a close follower of Newman, 
and a strong adherent of Anglican 
principles, in opposition to the claim 
of the Catholic Church, though we find 
him, all the same, quoting Dr. Wiseman 
from time to time. In a letter he writes 
at this time : " I have just come from a 
magnificent lecture (by Newman against 
the Church of Rome) on St. Peter s 
prerogative. He admits the text in its full 
literal completeness, and shows that it 
makes not one iota for the jurisdiction 
of the Bishop of Rome." 

For some four or five years the whole 
atmosphere of England had been full of 
" Reform," not only of the constitution, 
but of Law and the Church, and a general 
attack was expected on the English 
Establishment. One party held that she 


was a political body under the discipline 
of the State, and the other that she was 
the successor of the Church of the 
Apostles. In such a state of chaos, 
earnest-minded men were searching 
diligently for more light, amongst them 
Newman and on the opposing side 
Arnold, whose system was what J. S. 
Mill called " shilly-shally and incon 
sistent." He viewed the Church as an 
essentially Protestant establishment. The 
followers of Newman regarded her as 
part of the Church Catholic. No wonder 
Newman wrote " Lead kindly light " 
since he found himself in such a world 
of mist and gloom. 

Faber s introduction to Newman was 
brought about by the share he took in 
the translation of the works of St. 
Optatus. Henceforth their names were 
to be constantly associated. On August 
6th, 1837, Faber received Deacon s 
orders at St. Wilfrid s Cathedral at 
Ripon, and at once started as an assistant 
at Ambleside, remaining till his return 


to Oxford at the end of "the long." 
On May 26th, 1839 ^ e was ordained by 
the Anglican Bishop Bagot. Soon he 
published some tracts on Church matters 
which had a large circulation, and his 
preaching began to attract attention. 
He still hung back from a too close con 
nection with the " Tractarians " but 
followed closely all that Newman wrote 
and said. " I think you will be delighted 
with Newman s lectures," he writes on 
March 31. "It supplied me with what 
I had long wanted clear and positive 
statements of Anglican principles." 

At Cologne, in the autumn of 1839, 
he and a friend who was with him 
attended the Divine Office almost daily. 
" We both of us got Mechlin Breviaries 
at Mechlin," he says, and he had pre 
vailed upon a priest whose acquaintance 
he had made to " tutorise him in the 

His life was now an extremely busy 
one ; his parochial work was re 
warded by the Church - attendance 


being more than doubled. He also 
published a small collection of poems. 
Towards the end of the year 1840 it was 
rumoured that he was about to marry, 
and he writes to his old friend, the Rev. 
J. B. Morris : " With regard to marriage, 
as one does not like foolish reports to go 
about, I may as well say that I have no 
prospect of it, however remote ; and 
neither have nor have had, any engage 
ment," adding that he honoured celi 
bacy so highly, and regarded it " so 
eminently the fittest way of life for a 
Priest, that if Christ would graciously 
enable me to learn to live alone, I 
should prefer much, even with great self- 
denials to live a virgin life, and to die a 
virgin as God has kept me hitherto." 

The year 1841 was passed in travelling, 
and he was much struck in Dresden by the 
" Lutheran Sunday." After attending 
Mass, he went through the town, and 
declared that he had never in any Roman 
Catholic capital seen Sunday so " fear 
fully profaned." " I never saw a more 

B2 II 


profane scene. No person who has not 
been abroad and heard and seen and 
investigated for himself, would credit the 
extensive system of lying pursued by 
English travel-writers, tract compilers 
and Exeter Hall speechmakers, respecting 
the Roman Catholic abroad. These dull 
seekers scrape the sewers of England to 
roughcast the Church of Rome with 
their plentiful defilements." 



We now enter upon what may be 
called the last phase of Faber s life as a 
Protestant. In the autumn of 1842 he 
was offered the Rectorship of Elton, 
and from then till November 1845 his 
life was one long struggle, ending in his 
reception into the " Fold of Peter " 
by Bishop Waring. It was on his telling 
Wordsworth of his intention of going to 
Elton that he replied, " I do not say 
you are wrong, but England loses a Poet." 

He determined, however, before taking 
up his duties, to go once more through 
some of the Catholic countries and look 
more closely into the methods adopted 
by the Church in matters appertaining 
to the cure of souls. Having obtained 
letters of introduction from Dr. Wise 
man and Cardinal Acton, he started off 
in the early spring, stopping first at 
Rouen, Eastering in Bordeaux, and after 
a stay in Marseilles, reaching Rome on 
May gth. " By moonlight I have prayed 



at the Tomb of the Apostles, almost 
alone in the metropolitan church of the 
whole world." 

His diary and letters of this time reveal 
his drawings to Catholicity. Dr. Baggs, 
who was Rector of the English College, 
soon put him in the way of seeing 
the workings of the various organs of 
chanty and religion in Rome. Referring 
to a visit to the room in which St. Philip 
used to say Mass at the Chiesa Nuova, 
he afterwards wrote : " How little did I, 
a Protestant stranger in that room years 
ago, dream that I should ever be of the 
Saint s family, or that the Oratorian 
Father who showed it to me should in a 
few years be appointed by the Pope the 
novice master of the English Orato- 


On June ijth an audience of the Holy 
Father is thus described : " On entering 
I knelt down, and again when a few yards 
from him, and lastly before him ; he held 
out his hand, but I kissed his foot. He 
spoke of Dr. Pusey s suspension for 



defending the Catholic doctrine of the 
Eucharist, with amazement and disgust ; 
he said to me, * You must not mislead 
yourself in wishing for unity, yet waiting 
for your Church to move ; think of the 
salvation of your own soul. 5 . . . He laid 
his hands on my shoulders and I imme 
diately knelt down ; upon which he laid 
them upon my head, and said, May the 
Grace of God correspond to your good 
wishes, and deliver you from the nets of 
Anglicanism, and bring you to the true 
Holy Church. I left him almost in 
tears ... I shall remember St. Alban s 
Day, 1843, to my life s end." 


From this time Faber was practically 
convinced of the truth of the Church s 
claim, and he was only kept in the 
Anglican Church by what he called " the 
fear of self-will." A friend persuaded him 
into wearing a miraculous medal, which 
he kept as a souvenir of this eventful 
journey. His remaining in the Church of 
England was clearly due more to the 
feelings for his friends, and the influence 
of Newman and others to whom he 
looked as his leaders. 

After the publication of " Tract 90," 
and its subsequent censure, a letter was 
sent to the Univers, dated from Oxford, 
and describing the tendencies of the 
followers of Newman. This letter, which 
was the joint work of Dalgairns and Ward 
caused great excitement, and some 
correspondence ensued. The conversion 
of Sibthorp closely followed, and caused 
a great deal of comment among his 


fellows. Newman, told by Sibthorp that 
he was going to visit Oscott, enjoined : 
" Take care they do not keep you there," 
and afterwards often warned his friends 
of monkeys who had lost their tails and 
wished all the rest to lose theirs. The 
leader mistrusted what he considered un 
due haste in his followers. At Littlemore, 
where Lockhart expressed doubts of 
the claim of the Church of England, he 
replied, " You must agree to stay 
three years or go at once." This un 
doubtedly influenced Faber. 

On his return from the tour already 
mentioned, he spoke of being "very, very, 
very Roman." He at once set to workathis 
church at Elton, determined to banish 
all his doubts, and modelled the work of 
his parish on what he called the spirit of 
St. Philip and St. Alphonsus. The result 
was that the dissenting chapel close to 
the Church became almost empty, young 
men began to communicate frequently, 
even " Confessions " were heard, and 
exercises on the lines of those of the 


" Little Oratory " were established on 
Friday nights. Then, in 1845, came the 
conversion of Newman himself, and 
many of Faber s friends ; and we find him 
writing to the Catholic Bishop Waring, 
asking him how much of abjuration 
would be involved in an Anglican s re 
conciliation with the Roman Church. 
His " Life of St. Wilfrid " had caused 
the greatest irritation, owing to the 
liberality with which the Catholic spirit 
was expressed. 

The time was now at hand when Faber 
was to give up all hope of remaining in 
the Anglican Church ; and, during the 
last week of October, 1845, he again 
wrote to Bishop Waring asking for 
enlightenment on certain points, and was 
only held back by his consideration of 
others and some monetary difficulties in 
connection with his parish. By the 
generosity of a friend, the latter obstacle 
was removed, in spite of the benefactor s 
disapproval of conversions. 

On Nov. 1 2th, the Rector was called 


at night to give Communion to a dying 
man, and in a flash he felt that he was no 
true priest ; and it was only after some 
consideration that he was guided by St. 
Alphonsus to act on what he called a 
probable opinion. 

On Sunday, Nov. i6th, at the evening 
service the final wrench came. After a 
few words by way of introduction, he said 
that he could no longer teach his hearers 
the doctrines of the Church of England, 
and that he felt convinced that he must 
go where truth was to be found. At the 
close of these few words he left the pulpit 
hurriedly, threw his surplice on to the 
ground and went at once into the 

Some of his parishioners begged him 
to remain, but, finding their appeal of 
no avail, bade him a sorrowful farewell. 
The next morning he left Elton, Mr. 
T. F. Knox, two servants and about 
half a dozen of his parishioners, who had 
also decided to be received into the 
Church with him, going too. Among the 


number was Mr. William Pitts, who 
afterwards became organist of the Lon 
don Oratory. Writing to him from 
Rouen in February, 1846, Faber says : 

" What does Elton seem as we look back 
upon it ? Those gettings up at the cold 
midnight, the teasing hair girdles on 
Wednesdays and Fridays, the harsh 
discipline at midnight, the long, long 
vigil of the Saints days, what do you 
think of them now ? To me they seem 
like heaven, although we were not yet 

" God bless you, Mr. Faber where- 
ever you go " was the cry from the 
poor as the party passed through the 
village in the early morning. 

" Free ! the joyous light of Heaven 
Comes with full and fair release." 

Faber and his friends were received 
that night by Bishop Waring and 
Father Kennedy at the church at 
Northampton, and there made their 
First Communion and were confirmed. 


Monsignor Wiseman, then at Oscott, 
was deeply interested in the welfare of 
the Converts, and they felt an attraction 
to be near him. Faber, therefore, being 
as he said, " homeless and unsettled," 
gladly accepted an invitation to stay at 
St. Chad s in Birmingham until his 
affairs were settled. His humility led him 
to refuse the offer made by the Bishop 
to admit him to Priest s Orders and 
start him at work. He lost no opportu 
nity, however, of trying to convert any 
Anglican friends who consulted him. Dr. 
Wiseman decided it would be a good 
thing if he and his little party could be 
formed into a small Community, and, 
just as St. Philip worked as a layman, so 
did Faber. He writes : " I hope by the 
end of next week to get all my dear 
monks around me in a little hovel here ; 
how we are to be supported I do not 
know ; mutual love is next door to vic 
tuals and drink, and it is some comfort 
to me that I shall be simply on a level 
with them, and live like a poor man." 



The house they obtained was a very 
small one, at 77 Charlotte Street, and 
contained scarcely any furniture, the 
chapel, an upstairs room, was absolutely 
bare no altar, only a crucifix on the wall. 
The dormitories had no bedsteads, the 
mattresses resting on the floor. The 
refectory was the best furnished, and 
that contained a chair for each one, and a 
long deal table, some knives, forks and 
pewter spoons (stamped with the tem 
perance pledge) and a mug apiece. On 
the round table stood a crucifix brought 
by Faber from Elton. 

From this it can be seen that the 
view of life was an ascetic one, but 
the community was joyful. The 
strain, however, soon told on the Su 
perior, and brought on headaches which 
prostrated him. 

They could not go on without external 
help ; and Faber decided to go to Rome 
in the hopes of getting someone to 
be interested in the little community. 
The difficulty was how to get there, and 


what was to become of his little family 
during his absence. A gift from a friend 
settled the first trouble, and Father 
Moore promised to take charge of the 
community, the lay-brothers obtaining 
employment in the town during the day 
and returning to the house at night. 


Things being so arranged, Faber 
started for Italy at the beginning of 
February, 1846, accompanied by Mr. 
Hutchison, a convert who afterwards 
joined the Oratory. The Archbishop of 
Lyons had issued a pastoral directing that 
thanksgiving should be made for the con 
versions which had given the Newmans, 
the Oakleys, and the Fabers to the 
Church. This caused the two neophytes 
great amusement to read. Reaching Rome 
just before Holy Week they put up at the 
English College, Father Grant having 
generously offered them hospitality, and 
they made their first Easter Communion 
in the Holy City. Mr. Hutchison now 
asked to be taken into the new Com 
munity. His adherence would have been 
of great help, but Faber would not let 
him so early commit himself. Dr. Grant 
however urged him to accept the offer, 
and finally Mr. Hutchison s proposal was 
accepted, and it was decided he should 
join on their return to England. On 



returning, Faber intended to ask Newman 
to receive him and his followers at Mary- 
vale when he was there, and also to ask 
the Bishop to direct his studies that he 
might be fitted for the priesthood. 

The Protestant Bishop of Gibraltar was 
in Rome at this time for confirmation, 
and a great dispute arose among the 
High and Low Church Party whether 
he should have a cross carried before him. 
Certain Romans were much annoyed, 
but the Pope " chuckled hugely," and 
said that he had only just found out 
that Rome was in the diocese of Gibral 
tar ! ! His Holiness received Faber and 
Hutchison very graciously, and at the end 
of the interview gave them his blessing, 
and told them to go back to England 
and convert as many of their friends as 
they might. Just at this time some copies 
of his pamphlet, "Grounds for remaining 
in the Anglican Communion," reached 
Rome ; and the authorities, naturally 
deceived by the title, suppressed them ; 
a mistake that was soon set right. 



The return to Birmingham was made 
on May loth, 1846. Faber brought with 
him some books of devotion unknown in 
England, at any rate not in use, and also 
introduced the Seven Dolour Rosary 
which, through constant use at the 
Oratory, has since become well known. 

On the Feast of St. Philip, May 26th, 
1846 (it is noteworthy how many events 
of Faber s life occurred on this day, when 
as yet there was no thought of his being 
an Oratorian) the Community moved 
to another home at Colmore Terrace, 
which has been obtained for them by Mr. 
Watts Russell. It consisted at this time 
of four Choir-brothers and nine Lay- 
brothers, all of them " Brothers of the 
Will of God." The rule was an austere 
one. The time for rising was half-past 
five, and at six was followed by Mass at 
St. Chad s, then breakfast taken stand 
ing, dry bread and tea without sugar. 
After breakfast there was another visit 


to the Chapel, then work till half-past 
twelve. After Vespers and Compline 
came dinner, one of the Brothers reading 
some spiritual book the while ; then 
came recreation, when silence was broken 
for the first time. At five in the evening 
Matins and Lauds preceded tea and 
recreation, instruction in chapel, Rosary 
of the Seven Dolours and night prayers. 
The habit worn by the " Wilfridians," 
as they were called, was the black 
Roman cassock with the letters V.D. 
and a cross between, all in red cloth, 
a cape, a leather girdle and a Rosary. 

At the back of the house was a large 
garden, and the Brothers used to invite 
the poor Catholic boys of the neighbour 
hood to come and play there in the 
evening. The day always closed with the 
Litany of Our Lady, sung in procession, 
and a candle continually lit before her 
picture at the Angelus hour. 

The converts at this time had a great 

many difficulties to contend with from 

the Protestants around them. Some of 

c 27 


the Catholics also regarded with suspicion 
the idea of " Oxford Protestants " having 
real Catholic sympathies. They regarded 
them as only " half " Catholic, opposed 
as " new-fangled " all their attempts to 
popularise the devotion they had seen 
in Rome, and in many other ways 
showed their dislike to any idea of what 
might be called " coming out of the 
shell " in which, for two hundred years, 
the Catholics of England had to hide. 
Wiseman saw this, and knew that the 
only way to make things smoother 
would be to get the stamp of authority 
placed on their work. He decided, 
therefore, that Newman and his own 
intimate companions should go to Rome 
and there remain for a time. This they 
did, and took up their abode at the 
College of Propaganda. 

Meanwhile the Wilfridians suffered 
similar annoyances. Although the work 
set them to do went on steadily, mistrust 
of their behaviour resulting almost daily 
in the visit of strange priests who 

f^4 ^,-tf>x^ 4r 1m, 



- JUi- 


treated them with a sort of reserve, 
questioning them on their rule and their 
plans. A layman and so recent a convert, 
Faber naturally felt he would rather 
withdraw from the public view and live 
quietly in retirement with his Brothers. 
But Dr. Wiseman would not have it so. 
While some talked of Faber s " Mario- 
latry," others said of him, who had learned 
to love Our Lady with such child-like and 
St. Philip-like simplicity, that he had 
not " warmed to Mary." His verse, if 
nothing else, is his justification in both 
particulars. At this time about the only 
hymn to Our Lady in English was the 
time honoured " Hail Queen of Heaven "; 
in the collection of Faber s hymns 
published by Richardson in 1832 there 
are twenty-two. 
" And, Oh, how can I love Thy Son 

Sweet Mother, if I love not Thee ? " 

In July, 1846, Lord Shrewsbury offered 

Faber a piece of land next the church at 

Cheadle, together with Cotton Hall as a 

sort of Rest House for the Community. 



Bishop Walsh urged his acceptance 
of this noble gift, as he was afraid that 
the Brothers would break down if too 
soon put into the work of the diocese, 
while, on the other hand, the Birming 
ham clergy were unwilling to lose such 
willing helpers. 

The church of St. Giles at Cheadle, 
also the gift of " the good Lord Shrews 
bury," was solemnly dedicated on Sep 
tember ist. Faber now " Brother Wil 
frid " and two or three of the others 
were asked to stay a^ Alton Towers for 
the ceremony ; and now they removed 
to Cotton Hall and kept their first Feast 
of the Holy Name of Mary in their 
new home. 

On St. Wilfrid s Day Faber received 
Minor Orders from Bishop Walsh and 
afterwards was laid the first stone of 
St. Wilfrid s church, of which Pugin 
(himself its architect) said : " It will be 
the only perfect church in England, with 
an east window I could die for." 

Father Cobb gave a ten days Retreat 



to the Brothers, who were to receive 
Orders ; but the long silence and hours 
of solitary meditation enjoined proved 
too much for Brother Wilfrid himself, 
exhausted as he was by long months of 
anxiety. He had a nervous fever, and, on 
All Saints Day, the sacrament of Extreme 
Unction was administered. He made his 
Profession of Faith, bade farewell to the 
Community and received the last blessing 
and Papal Indulgence, the Brothers, like 
St. Philip s sons, kneeling round his bed 
praying for their Father s life. It pleased 
God to spare him, and in a short time 
he was able to resume with enthusiasm 
the work that came to his hand. 

A school for boys was opened, and, on 
Sundays, Catechism classes were held in 
the Chapel. Again evil thoughts and 
tongues were at work, as in St. Philip s 
time. " I am said to have strangled one 
of my monks." " Mrs. R. came to see me 
at St. Wilfrid s, and glared at me in 
silence like a tigress. She told Lady 
Shrewsbury and Lady Arundell that I 


was just capable of all she heard, and that 
her faith in it was established." He wrote 
to his old college friend, Mr. Watts 
Russell : " And a Scotchman who had 
come to inspect said of me that I was 
an ambitious villain and a hellish 
ruler. " 

On the 1 9th of December, 1846, he 
received the Order of sub-deacon ; on 
the Saturday before Passion Sunday, 1 847, 
he was made deacon, and was ordained 
Priest on the Holy Saturday following, 
at once receiving the sole charge of the 
Mission. On his return he began work in 
the confessional, and he said his first Mass 
that Easter Sunday. His preaching at 
once began, as at Elton, to draw large 
congregations. The Parish Church emp 
tied. " We have converted the pew- 
opener, leaving the parson only, his 
clerk, and two drunken men, as his 
regular communicants." One of his 
brothers in St. Philip, who remembers 
him, speaking of his preaching says : 
" He used but little gesture, satisfied 



with inflections of a voice which was 
most beautiful, clear and musical and 
in its silver tone like the voice of 
Pius IX." 

Father Faber used to preach in his 
habit, and always wore his crucifix, even 
while preaching in the street. This, of 
course, met with great opposition. He 
used to tell how, on one occasion, a 
minister forced his way into a sick room 
when he was about to hear a man s 
confession, and refused to leave, until 
the penitent implored him repeatedly to 
do so. He, however, wished even then to 
enter into an argument on points of 
doctrine, and challenged Father Faber 
to a formal discussion, insisting on using 
the English version of the Bible only. 
Father Faber decided that, to prevent 
any question as to the translation, 
it would be best to use the original 
Greek ! This the combatant was not pre 
pared for ; and, after some insulting re 
marks retired from the discussion. Several 
conversions followed the controversy. 



Next he gave a mission in the pot 
teries near Wolverhampton, " where 
I may have a chance of martyrdom," he 
wrote to Watts Russell. 



The idea of founding an Oratory in 
England was suggested to the Holy 
Father in February, 1847. He was 
delighted at the idea, and at once gave 
Newman and his companions in Rome a 
house and an Oratorian Father to 
instruct them in the rule, suggesting that 
they should serve a short novitiate and 
then all return home together at the end 
of the year. Wiseman went to Rome in 
July, and had an interview with Newman 
respecting the scheme. They were now 
settled at Santa Croce as novices. New 
man was appointed by the Pope as the 
first Superior, and Bishop Wiseman, who 
was now Administrator of the London 
District, was desirous that the Oratory 
should be started in London and invited 
Newman to make his foundation here. 
Birmingham, however, was named in the 
Papal brief, and to Birmingham he went, 
taking a house in Alcester Street. 
At once on Father Newman s return, 



Faber again offered himself and his Com 
munity to him as novices. The offer, 
however, was not made without a great 
struggle. " Elton was to come over again ; 
the will of God was to hunt me out of 
my new home, to snap all ties." 

Father Faber and Father Hutchison 
were called to London by Bishop Wise 
man to consider their position. They ar 
rived just after Father Stanton, the first 
Oratorian to land in England, who was 
wearing his habit. Faber talked over his 
idea of joining the Oratory with the 
Bishop, who solemnly approved, and 
pronounced that it was to be so. This, 
of course, entailed his giving up the 
position of Superior, which he had 
held since the foundation of the Com 
munity, and becoming a novice. It also 
meant the giving up of St. Wilfrid s, 
which he describes as " uprooting one 
altogether from the earth." Speaking of 
going to Maryvale, he says : " So away 
goes home, church, flock, Eltonian 
children and all. . . . Certainly the 



Oratory has been a bloody husband to me, 
but I trust that it will also bring with it 
a fresh covenant of grace." His spirits had 
returned by the time he wrote of himself 
and his fellows, " all in our Philippine 
habits, with turn-down collars, like so 
many good boys." 

In July, 1848, Bishop Wiseman assisted 
at the opening of St. George s Cathedral 
and there were present the Oratorians 
as well as 240 other priests, Regulars 
and Seculars, and fourteen Bishops. In 
the procession were also Benedictines, 
Cistercians, Dominicans, Franciscans and 
Passionists. The sermon was preached 
by Wiseman, Monsignor Stonor was an 

We, in these days, can hardly realise 
the difficulties the " new blood " had to 
contend with from some of the Catholics. 
They objected to the bringing back of 
images to the churches, new devotions 
were looked upon as Romanising, extra 
devotions to the Blessed Virgin and 
Blessed Sacrament were innovations and 



novelties, and were opposed. At that 
time there existed but one statue of Our 
Blessed Lady in London. Faber s Life of 
St. Philip, like other lives in theOratorian 
series, was severely criticised. To all, 
was added the outburst of Protestant 
indignation at the restoration of the 
Hierarchy and the appointment of 
Cardinal Wiseman as Archbishop of 
Westminster. The Times printed a leader 
full of such phrases as " Roman bondage, 
daring assumption of power, acts which 
the laws of this country will never 

The converts who had joined the 
Oratory had now increased to such 
numbers that it was decided to open a 
house in London, and it was eventually 
settled that Father Newman should 
remain in Birmingham and Father Faber 
be Rector of the London house. The first 
Mass in the London Oratory he said on 
the feast of the Patronage of St. Joseph 
in 1849. The chapel consisted of a large 
room at the back of Nos. 24 and 25 





King William Street, Strand ; the altar, 
which was for about forty years in use 
at the Little Oratory and is now in 
S. Philip s Church, Sydenham, had been 
procured from the old Portuguese 
Chapel. The day appointed for the 
opening was May 3ist, and as, a month 
earlier, there was practically no furniture 
for the chapel, the amount of work to 
be got through may be easily imagined. 
In fact, chaos appeared to reign on 
May 3Oth, porters hurrying here and 
there with benches and chairs ; organ- 
builders and tuners hard at work, with 
organ pipes all round them, the altar 
being fitted up by some of the Fathers. 
But, by the time appointed, next day, 
all was ready. Bishop Wiseman ponti 
ficated and preached, also assisting at 
Vespers, when Father Newman preached. 
The Community then consisted of 
Fathers Faber, Dalgairns, Stanton (who 
as already stated was the first Oratorian 
to land in England) Hutchison, Knox 
and Alban Wells. With these were two 



novices, Father Gordon, who was after 
wards Superior for many years, and 
Father John Bowden, to whose Life of 
Faber the present writer is indebted for 
most of the facts here set forth. Soon 
after, there came among them, to com 
plete his education, a youth who had 
lived with them at Maryvale, Charles 
Henry Bowden, who never left them, 
becoming a priest, well beloved of the 
poor and destitute, and well remem 
bered by all frequenters of the Oratory 
for his fine voice and his happy coun 
tenance. Bishop Wiseman, who was a 
brother of the little Oratory in Rome, 
was delighted to have his scheme brought 
to fulfilment, and the Fathers always 
found in him a kind friend and protector. 
That they were the first Religious 
Community to serve a church in London 
was again a cause of grievance to some of 
the more old-fashioned among the 
Secular clergy. The Oratorians from the 
first wore the habit publicly, and this 
too was looked upon with suspicion, as 



also were the devotions, which were 
called methodistical. Yet the evening 
services soon became a favourite form 
of devotion ; good numbers attended 
them, and shortly other priests used 
Faber s hymns, which had mostly been 
set to music by Father Wells. 

4 1 


St. Philip had come to England, and 
was doing his work as he had done it in 
Rome. Converts were " pouring pell- 
mell into the church." Men of nearly all 
professions and of none came to the 
Oratory for instruction ; doctors, law 
yers and soldiers were being received 
weekly ; the Communions reached five 
hundred a week, which, for a London 
church so lately established, was a very 
large number in those days. 

With September came a call for priests 
to go to the hop-fields to help the poor 
sufferers from the cholera, and at once 
Father Faber and two of his Fathers 
went to Farleigh, where Henry Wilber- 
force, the Rector, was to be the witness 
of a charity that brought him and his 
family into the Church. 

On October the gth, 1850, the Oratory 
in London was made independent of 
Birmingham, this being St. Philip s 

A Ragged Congregation at the schools in Dunn s 

Passage, Holborn 
(From a water colour drawing) 


rule, and on St. Wilfrid s Day, Father 
Faber was elected its Provost. 

When, owing to the re-establishment 
of the Hierarchy in England, the greatest 
agitation prevailed, disputes arose upon 
various subjects, among them the zeal 
displayed by the new Cardinal Wiseman, 
which was called by the old-fashioned 
party " love of power." The Cardinal 
felt that the Religious Orders in a country 
like ours, ought to take an active part 
in the missionary work. This, they pleaded 
was not allowed by their rule, and on 
October zyth, 1852, he wrote to Father 
Faber stating the case and almost appealed 
for help. Faber at once offered the 
services of his church and Fathers for 
missionary work, an offer at first de 
clined. However, Father Faber applied 
to Rome for such dispensations of the 
rule as would permit of this plan. The 
Cardinal was deeply grateful for this, 
and, about a year later, the London Ora 
tory undertook the regular mission which 
has been carried on ever since. On St. 

ca 43 


Philip s Day, 1856, Wiseman preached 
in the London Oratory a panegyric of the 
Saint, in which he compared the work 
of St. Philip at Chiesa Nuova with that 
at Brompton. 

In 1851 Father Faber and Father 
Hutchison opened a school for poor 
boys and girls in Rose Street, Covent 
Garden, which a few months after 
wards, was moved to Dunn s Passage, 
Holborn. More than one thousand 
children attended these schools, before 
they were moved later to Charles 
Street, Drury Lane, where, in spite of 
the great distance from Brompton, and 
increased work occasioned by the mission 
work, they were maintained by the 
Fathers till 1863, when they were made 
over to the diocese. 

In the winter of 1851, Father Faber s 
health again broke down. He was ordered 
to travel and, in Rome once more, he 
obtained an audience of Pius IX., and 
then obtained the daily Plenary Indul 
gence for the Church of the Oratory. 



In June, 1852, came the proclamation 
forbidding Catholic priests to wear the 
habit of their Order, and the Fathers 
therefore discontinued the practice. 
During the next month, St. Mary s, 
Sydenham, a house of rest for the 
community, was finished, and on August 
2nd, the Blessed Sacrament was reserved 
there for the first time, and on the loth 
a visit was paid by Prince Massimi of 
the family mentioned in the Life of our 
Holy Father St. Philip in connection with 
the miracle worked on Paolo de Massimi. 

In the March of 1853, work was 
begun for the building of the Oratory on 
the site of the present one and completed 
within the year. Meantime, the work 
was going on at King William Street and 
Dunn s Passage, the people being called 
together by the ringing of a hand bell 
and gathered into " Rosary rooms " 
which had been hired in the lowest 
slums of Drury Lane, where instructions 
were given, hymns sung and the Rosary 
said. The indifference of the people once 



wrung from Father Faber the following 
speech. Falling on his knees in the 
pulpit he cried : " How can I touch 
your hearts ? I have prayed to Jesus ; 
I have prayed to Mary ; whom shall I 
pray to next ? I will pray to you, my dear 
Irish children, to have mercy on your 
own souls." The effect was truly won 
derful, the whole congregation knelt and 
for a time no sound could be heard but 
their sobs and prayers. 

He was very like St. Philip in 
others of his sayings. One of the 
Fathers remarking the neatness of 
his room, he replied, " You know, 
my son, the napkin was folded in the 
sepulchre." Again someone remarked 
the talent displayed in getting through 
so much literary work. " Talent," he said 
" Nonsense, my son, it is the fear of God." 

One can well imagine the sort of tale 
St. Philip would have told young Paolo 
de Massimi had he asked him for a 
fairy tale ; in response to a similar 
request from the daughter of a noble 


English house Faber wrote " Ethel s 
Tales of the Angels.* 

The life led at Brompton was as busy 
as it had been at King William Street, 
and modelled so closely on the lines of 
St. Philip, that one has only to alter 
names, and the account of St. Philip s 
day at the Chiesa Nuova would read like 
a day with " The Father at the London 
Oratory " : early Mass in private 
chapel, work at one or other of his books 
till breakfast, visits from the Fathers 
for advice on the day s work in their 
several departments, sermons, corres 
pondence, which was enormous, and the 
thousand and one things which fall to the 
Superior of a Religious Community, 
who for years fulfilled also the office of 
Novice Master, and all this in spite of 
repeated attacks of most painful illness. 
In five years alone he wrote the following 
among his famous books : " All for Jesus," 
" Growth in Holiness," " The Blessed 
Sacrament," " The Creator and the 

* London : Burns & Gates. 



Creature," " The Foot of the Cross," 
" Bethlehem," " Spiritual Conferences," 
" Poems and Hymns," and a part of 
" The Precious Blood," and a second 
volume of " Spiritual Exercises." 

One of his favourite recreations was to 
see the children at St. Wilfrid s Convent 
whom he called his " grandchildren," 
and to whom his visits were always a 
source of joy remembered now by 
some who still talk of him with full 
hearts, as a saint. 

Father Faber would allow of nothing 
but the best for the service of the Altar, 
and the decorum observed by even the 
small boys who sometimes assist at Bene 
diction is remarked even to this day. 

It was not till the year 1861 that 
the Father s work was seriously inter 
fered with by his long and complicated 
illness. He preached sermons on All Souls 
Day and on the Feast of St. Charles 
at Bayswater ; and, shortly after, 
had a severe attack of bronchitis and 
inflammation of the lungs. For a time 


great anxiety was felt, for his heart also 
was affected. By the 8th of December, 
however, he had returned from Arundel 
where he had been recruiting. The 
Fathers prevailed upon him to refrain 
from some of his labours, and he spent 
most of the summer at St. Mary s, 
Sydenham, where he had frequent 
attacks. He used to say that pain was a 
precious gift of God. 


During the Lent of 1863 Father Faber 
decided to preach on the Sundays, and 
actually did so on the first four ; but 
illness prevented him completing the 
course. His last sermon was preached on 
Passion Sunday, and in a very few days 
it was found necessary to call in special 
medical advice, as his illness was assuming 
a much more serious aspect, and he 
himself declared : " I do not see how I 

can recover now." 

The community, however, were still 
hopeful, and could not bring themselves 
to realise that they were soon to lose 
their Father. At this time they consisted 
of twenty-seven members, of whom all 
save four had been guided by him to 
S. Philip s House. When the news of his 
serious condition got abroad, letters of 
inquiry and condolence came from all 
quarters, and prayers, Masses and 
Novenas were everywhere offered for 
him. He said his own last Mass on the 




anniversary of the foundation of the 
first London Oratory, the Feast of 
the Patronage of St. Joseph. 

He grew rapidly worse, and on June 
the 1 6th, the Holy Viaticum was carried 
to him in solemn procession. Extreme 
Unction was afterwards administered. 
To the questions put he answered clearly 
and firmly, even adding a few words to 
them. To the question, Do you for 
God s sake forgive your enemies ? " Yes, 
I do; I never had any." Again: " Do you 
now from your heart ask pardon of every 
one, &c. ? " he answered : " I do, especially 
of every member of the Community : 
I have been proud, uncharitable, un 
observant, and I ask pardon of all. I 
wish I had been more kind." Although 
there were no hopes of his recovery, he 
lingered on for some weeks, and was able 
to receive Cardinal Wiseman, his old 
and faithful friend. His sufferings were 
now very great and it sometimes hap 
pened he could not find words to express 
his meaning, although his mind was 



perfectly clear, so great was the pain he 
endured. A visit from Father Newman 
towards the end of July cheered him 

Matters remained much the same, 
with occasional signs of improvement, 
till September, when he had grown 
terribly weak and had some delirium. 
On the 1 5th a change appeared ; he 
was in bed, and his eyes fixed on a large 
crucifix at the foot of the bed. He was 
told that the end was near, and 
he replied most fervently, " God be 
praised ! " At midnight the Community 
was assembled, and the commendation 
of his soul was made. He seemed to get a 
little better and the Fathers went back 
to their rooms. At half-past six the next 
morning Father Rowe came into his room 
and told him he was just going to say 
Mass for him. He looked his thanks, being 
unable to speak ; and, just as the Mass 
was finished, he turned slightly and, 
with a clear bright look, gave his soul 
back to its Creator. 

S 2 


Almost his last words were, " If ever 
I am able to obtain it for you, I will pray 
that all of you may have easy deaths" 

This was fifty years ago, "I have 
lived," says the Father who has been 
infirmarian for most of the time, " to 
see the prayer answered." 

The body was placed in the Little 
Oratory that the people might make 
their last visit ; and crowds came and 
went, bringing their Rosaries to be 
placed on the coffin. On the Tuesday 
following the body was taken in solemn 
procession into the church, the Fathers 
chanting the Miserere. Vespers of the 
Dead were sung, and, next day, came 
the Requiem. The church was thronged, 
there being more than a hundred 
priests and members of the Religious 
Communities. Father Newman and 
Father St. John came from Birmingham. 
The Mass was sung by Father Richard 
Stanton ; and after the Absolutions 
the well-beloved Father was taken to the 
burial place of St. Mary s, Sydenham, 



whither, only two months before, his 
great friend and follower, Father Anthony 
Hutchison had preceded him. 

Large numbers followed on foot and 
saw the body of the man who had been to 
many of them the guide into the ways 
of peace, and to the fold of Peter, laid 
at the foot of the consecration Cross. 
Here lies his dust, waiting till the final 
call shall unite it to the soul, which we 
trust is before the throne of God, not far 
from the feet of his " Dear and Blessed 
Lady " whom he so dearly loved on earth. 
Eeati mortui qui in Domino moriuntur. 


Father Faber s Grave 
In the Cemetery of the Oratorians at Sydenham 

By Father K. D. BEST. 

Vixit Annos XLIX. In Congr. XV. 

Thousands who mourned at Faber s death 

Ask for his resting place ; 
Even poor strangers to the faith 

Come, as if drawn by grace. 

Where is he buried ? We are come 

Not to the Poet or Sage, 
But to the Priest of God whose tomb 

Merits our pilgrimage. 

Where is he buried ? He who wrote 
Hymns that he might have heard 

Chanted in heaven, whose echoed note 
Sounds in each holy word. 

Where is he buried ? He so true, 

True to his God and creed, 
True to the c treasure old and new, 

True to the Church in need. 



Where is he buried ? Have ye made 

Room for your noble dead 
Here, in the church where he preached 
and prayed, 

Here, where his Mass was said ? 

Under that altar he should be, 
Faithful and watchful found 

Sailors are buried near their sea, 
Soldiers on battle ground. 

Where is he buried ? Thus they ask 

Eagerly day by day. 
Piety shrinks not from its task, 

Well does love know the way . . . 

Here is he buried ! look around, 

All is just as he planned 
Garden, lawns, and Burial Ground, 

Drawn by his own dear hand. 

Here is he buried ! see the trees 

Then, only nursling plants, 
Now, they make dirges in the breeze 

During the robin s chants. 



Here is he buried ! skylarks sing 

Up in the clear blue sky, 
Ere they descend on loving wing 

Down to the nest hard by. 

Here is he buried ! cypress trees, 

Roses in endless bloom, 
Lead the heart s faithful memories 

Back to Christ s garden tomb. 

Forty-nine years from birth till death, 

Death in the Autumn days, 
Fifteen with Philip the grave-stone saith ; 

No other word of praise. 

Here is he buried ! others too 
Sleep here God s will be done ! 

Some of the graves are green, some new 
Ranged round this central one. 

Hark to yon City s ceaseless roar, 

Reaching these quiet graves ! 
Life calls death But the silent shore 

Heeds not the senseless waves. 



There they fulfilled their priestly life, 
There bravely fought the fight, 

Finding here, after toil and strife, 
Rest and the longed-for night. 

Asking assistance to be brave, 

Help to endure each loss, 
Often we come to our Father s grave 

Close to the holy Cross. 

Sweet is it ever to see that Sign 
Shedding by day and night 

Beautiful blessings, peace divine, 
Shadows more loved than light. 

Tis not the De Profundis Bell, 
Tis not the Requiem Mass, 

But it is Heaven s sacred spell 
Laid on the dewy grass. 

Here is he buried ! see the mound, 

Lowly yet ever blest ; 
Thus, in St. Mary s holy ground, 

Father and Brethren rest. 


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